On Watching My Friends Graduate Without Me

This past May marked the end of my friends and I’s fourth year of college. Four years of studying, partying, and excessive consumption of ramen were coming to an end. Caps and gowns were ordered, hotel reservations for out of town family were made, and final assignments had been turned in. There was a calendar on our fridge that counted down the days until graduation. It seemed that all my friends could talk about was the upcoming step into the “real world”. The only problem was, I wouldn’t be graduating with them.

It’s an odd feeling, I’ll tell you that. When you think about all of your friends standing in their caps and gowns, taking pictures with their parents, crying about leaving the college that had been their home for the past four years, you tend to picture yourself in the mix along side everyone, not sitting in your packed up bedroom watching a live-feed of proud smiles being posted to Facebook.

Why couldn’t I do it in the traditional four years, you ask? Well, it turns out that reoccurring mono, family tragedies, uncertainty about my career path, and lovely bouts of depression aren’t exactly the most conducive combination for academic achievement. Who knew?

I always looked at people who took victory laps and commented on how the system doesn’t work for everyone, how times have change in the past decade or so, how there’s no shame in taking extra time to finish a degree. And yet, coming to the realization that last semester wasn’t going to be my last semester, I couldn’t help but feel defeated. I felt like I had let down my parents and that I hadn’t lived up to my full potential. I just sat on my bed and cried until I gave myself a headache.

I think the hardest part is seeing all of my friends move on without me. It’s like going to an amusement park where you don’t meet any of the height requirements, but your friends decided to drag you along anyway, promising it’s going to be fun, and you end up waiting next to the rollercoasters. alone. with a sunburn. and then someone pukes on you. Or like standing outside of the bar that all of your friends are in because you don’t turn 21 until next month and all of your friends turned 21 two months ago, and they wave at you and give you sad eyebrows and mouth how much they wish you were in there too. and then someone pukes on you. Or like being a 13 year old girl and no matter how many kegals you do, you are still the only one in your group of friends who hasn’t gotten their period yet and you have to fake having cramps and knowing how to use a tampon. and then…I don’t know, you step in puke or something.

As a fairly insecure person, I am quite susceptible to fear of missing out (or FOMO as the kids are calling it). This just seems like a big milestone that I’m missing. And even though I know I’m going to complete my degree soon, it feels like it’s too little too late, like by taking the extra time, it’s not an accomplishment that I should get to be proud of. I did it, but I didn’t do it as well as everyone else.

Sorry this was kind of depressing. I really wanted to write something inspiring about how I was upset about this at first, but then I thought about A and now I feel B and I learned C. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet. I don’t know. I’m trying not to let it get to me. I still wonder who I’m going to hang out with on Saturday nights, and I imagine graduation photos of me with my parents but none with any of my friends. I think I just need to focus on finishing and do it for myself. I guess that’s who it’s all for in the long run, anyway, right?



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