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Learning to be an Alumna
By Erynn Porter
Monday August 29th was my first day of not having to go back to school. It was only in the evening I realized some of my friends went to classes. They bought textbooks and moved into dorms. They met up with professors and classmates. Monday was the first day I didn’t have to suffer through the awkward standing to get my photo taken by my mom. No more smiling stiffly while my parents’ eyes were trained on me. After going to school constantly from kindergarten to getting my BFA in Creative Writing, I had no school left.
You know what everyone doesn’t tell you about graduating? They don’t tell you how much lose. It’s always about the possibilities. Also they don’t tell you how you don’t notice it at first. How you are just so happy to have made it through that you don’t see anything but your accomplishments.
Then the first week after graduating ends. Then I realized all my friends are gone. They were ones I bonded with over stress and extreme emotions. The ones that held me up and I held up. My best friends. My support was gone. Some friends are still in the state but maybe an hour or two away. Some are in Connecticut. Or Florida. There was no longer a home base to which we all met up. We’d have to reach across that distance ourselves. Then I realized the entire community I thrived in is gone. The school might remain but I’m no longer part of it.
I wish someone had warned me amount of time you suddenly have. If you were a high achieving student like me, all your time went to classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and internships. Oh yeah, and squeezing in a bit of a social life. But suddenly that all stopped and I had time to think about what to do next. I knew about the responsibilities; I knew I had to get a job but nothing prepared me for a seemingly endless stretch of free time.
Maybe I short-circuited. It was so hard to put into words what I was feeling. What was the point of getting straight As if I couldn’t get a job? Like was all that effort worth it in the end? If I did talk about it, would people think I was ungrateful or deliberately slacking? I believe everyone expects to hit the ground running, after all that’s what we see on TV and in movies. But I feel like I just hit the ground. Face first.
Suddenly without my support system I was so unsure.
It took me a few months but I figured out the first few steps. I figured out who I was outside of school and I liked the new me. I liked the freedom. I liked that I got to choose what path to take.
Then I was asked to read at Alumni Night. I got nervous. This would be the first time I saw everyone since I graduated. The word 'alumni' feels more important and adult than I think I am at the moment. I picture alumni as rich people who have money to spare to give to their school. They are successful. They are set for life. They have amazing opportunities happening to them. I pictured being at the reading and everyone staring at me with expectations. Then I would be asked the dreaded question, “What have you done since you graduated?”
I was also afraid of everything I built up during the summer would fall away the second I was in those doors. Reverting back to who I was in that familiar place. I had chosen to read a piece that wasn’t really complete and was so different from anything I had written and was afraid to debut it. It was so unlike the me they knew, the one that had everything polished and maybe even tame. Even worse, most of friends wouldn’t be there in the audience to cheer me on.
But I went and I smiled and I read my piece.
I did shock the audience, in a good way.
#Real #Essay #BackToSchool #College #Alumni
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