I can't believe it's been this long, but four years ago I graduated college. FOUR YEARS. I've now been out of college for as long as I was actually in college. It's weird.
Despite the amount of time that has passed though, I remember graduation day like it was yesterday. I woke up, put on my cute flowered dress, threw the ugly recyclable black gown over it, and headed downstairs to take pictures with my roommates outside. It was early, and I was hungover. I was about to say goodbye to a college campus full of people that I would probably never see again. I was about to say goodbye to a life full of school and knowing what was going to happen in my future. After that day, I knew my life would be completely unplanned, and I wasn't looking forward to it.
When I got to campus that dreary Sunday morning, I sat around with some friends eating bagels and staring at the fruit and yogurt parfaits in the refrigerator that I ate every single day from "the pub." BTW, when you get teary eyed saying goodbye to food, that's when you know you have a problem.
Other than our friends, we didn't really see many people pass by... You know, the people we were friendly with, stalked on Facebook, saw at the bar every Wednesday through Saturday, and/or had classes with. In fact, we didn't really see many people worth glancing at one last time during the entire ceremony. We saw random people. As in people we didn't even know.
If you haven't graduated yet, you have no idea how many people you are going to see on graduation day that you've never seen before. It's mind blowing to know that there were so many people in your graduating class who never went to Blackout Wednesday at the local bar every week. Like, what were they doing? I honestly thought I knew (or at least knew of) my entire graduating class, except for maybe three fourths of the theater school because they only hung out with each other... and maybe half of the music school because most of them spent their time locked in rooms with pianos (I only know this because I was a tour guide, and I know every "practice room" in the music school had pianos... Oh boy, it's all coming back to me).
When we got in our "lines" for graduation -- a.k.a. large herds of people organized by school -- we got to say our last awkward goodbyes to the people in our major... and we got to witness a bunch of professors and admin people dressed as wizards (Graduation is a time where everyone embraces Harry Potter -- even me... and I hate Harry Potter). It truly is the Wizarding World of Graduation.
The ceremony went by pretty quickly (granted they didn't call our names and we didn't walk). And with a brief statement of someone asking us for money (didn't we just pay you like 200 grand for an education?) and a quick turn of the tassel... we stood up and we were graduates. It was effed. We were entering the world of the unknown. And all I wanted to do was drink.
For the rest of that day, I never saw those people I was friendly with that weren't in my major. In fact, I didn't even see a lot of my friends. After the families cleared out, so did a lot of my fellow graduates. They just got up and left after they were done. But how? How did they do it? My friends and I decided to stick around for a few days until our landlord ripped the keys out of our hands. We had no interest in going home. We had no interest in jump starting the real world.
Those few days were long, short, sad and awesome all at the same time. We drank. We cried. We laughed. We watched a college campus go from thousands upon thousands of people to maybe hundreds... to barely any. Every day more and more people left to begin their new adventures. The bars became deserted. The restaurants became empty. The roads became bare. It was the weirdest thing ever. But I still didn't want to leave.
I had created four years of memories at that place. And by four years, I mean a span of time that felt like forever. Friends came and friends went. Boys came (literally and figuratively) and boys went. I made mistakes. Boy, did I made mistakes. But those mistakes are what shaped me into the person I am today. Break ups with friends, boyfriends and boys who were never really my boyfriends... cheating... lying... crying... drinking far too much to the point where I missed a fire drill at 2 a.m. because I was passed out in a pool of my own throw up... Setting the fire alarm off at 10 a.m. on my school's first snow day in 14 years because I put a bagel in the microwave for 10 minutes (yes, that was me)... Making my dad drive six hours to pick me up from school to go home for two nights and then drive six hours back because I missed my friends from home freshman year. Going after an ex (who broke up with me via text for another girl when I was locked out of my car in a Starbucks parking lot) because I couldn't handle someone not wanting me. Getting in an Escalade with random men when studying abroad in L.A. (we could have died, nbd). And finally, breaking up with my (current) boyfriend (who I got back together with right after) partly for someone else, but mostly because I was freaking out about what was to come after college. I didn't want to retire crazy, single, young, college Sam... But little did I know, she was already gone -- and gone for good reason.
I grew up. And if it wasn't for those four amazing years I spent at Ithaca College, I wouldn't be writing this article you are reading now. I wouldn't be able to give you advice. I would never have started my website, Forever Twenty Somethings. I wouldn't have a job. I wouldn't have my amazing friends. I wouldn't have the memories.
It wasn't the classes I took that shaped me. It was the dorms. The dining hall. The roommates (good and bad). The ex-boyfriends. The hookups. The hangovers. They boys-who-texted-at-2am. The boys who didn't text at all. The friends. The ex-friends. The parties. The bars. The mistakes. They all shaped me into the person I am today, and I have to admit - that person is pretty, pretty, pretty cool (said in my best Larry David voice).
So don't be sad college is over. Smile because it happened. You might be four years older, but you're 100 years wiser. And life after college -- it's not so bad.