Graduation is a bittersweet time

Liz Trueblood

I’m sitting in the living room of the first apartment I’ve ever lived in, in my favorite chair, surrounded by a home that I’ve started to dismantle. Even as a single, mostly-broke college student, I’ve amassed a lot in this home. Furniture, artwork, knickknacks, kitchen utensils—to this day I question the wisdom in purchasing a donut maker (basically a glorified waffle iron) but it’s found a home in my cupboard these two years all the same. The water pressure sucks and the heat doesn’t work well, but in the end I’m going to miss this apartment.

NMU’s class of 2017 graduation ceremony is about a month away. I’ve picked up my cap and gown, my honors cord and my commemorative NMU alumni license plate. I am basically ready to move on to the next stage of my life, along with countless other NMU near-graduates. I wonder if we’re all feeling the same mix of terror and excitement.

If I can say one thing about myself it’s that I have always been fairly single-minded; since I was in seventh grade I’ve known that I wanted to major in English, and though my career goals have evolved somewhat, I’ve never strayed too far from my original path. I’m graduating with a BA in English and minors in theatre and writing, and though I’ve given up on the idea of being a high school teacher, I’m interested in the possibility of teaching at the collegiate level or working in the private sector. Yet I’m still faced with that burning question: “What do I do now?”

I’ve reached a fork in the road. I know that I’ll be attending graduate school next fall, but I’ve yet to decide where I’m going to attend. I’ve been accepted into two programs, and there are pros and cons to both; the biggest conflict I find myself having with the choice is based on the locations of the two schools. One is in Minnesota and the other is in New Hampshire. It’s a weird situation to be in, with one university being even closer to home than NMU is and one so far-flung that I would be isolated from everything I know.

Both possibilities are exciting and terrifying and there are moments when I feel so scared of the future that I don’t know what to do. The Midwest is a comfortable place for me; I know what to expect from the weather, the people and life in general.

However, I’ve got a wandering soul—there’s so much outside of my comfort zone that I want to experience and I fear that if I don’t leave now, I never will. There’s something almost exotic about the East Coast; everything out there seems like it would be so different from what I know, and that prospect is definitely exciting. The fear of homesickness, though, holds me back.

On top of that fork-in-the-road choice, I’ve built a life in Marquette—I’ve forged relationships that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and sometimes I’m scared that leaving will make me lose the people I’ve grown to love so much during my time here. How can I let go of a place that has been so instrumental in making me who I am?

Intermingled with these worries is a strong sense of excitement. I’ll get to live in a new place. Being closer to my family would make me happy and living across the country in a place that’s entirely new would be exhilarating. That mix of fear and excitement has brought with it a sense of balance—when beginning a new chapter in life, it’s normal to feel anxious and excited. Change is scary but it’s also necessary and, in many ways, a very good thing.

I try hard not to be naïve. There’s no way for me to account for every detail of my future and in it there might be things to be afraid of. However, there’s bound to be a lot to be excited for too.

To my fellow NMU almost-grads: congratulations. We did it. We’re scared, we’re excited, and whatever comes next, we can handle it. Change is good, after all.