What Am I Doing After Graduation? I'm Living

March 19, 2019
Two lane road on a light blue background
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

In a few short months, after years and years of stress, I will be graduating from college. I know, I’m not supposed to say ‘graduating’ because I go to UVA and we like to be elitist and use exclusionary language, and learning is supposed to be forever, but I’m sorry TJ. Once I get that diploma, this girl is done learning for a while.

I think I’ve earned a break after spending my whole life in school. It’s exhausting to think about. For the last ten plus years I’ve just been worrying over grades, applications, majors, jobs, and internships. I’m excited to kick my feet up, throw my backpack in the closet, shove my number two pencils deep in a drawer full of junk, and do nothing.

It seems to me like nowadays we are taught to fear doing nothing. We always have to be ‘on’. Always striving for the next diploma or degree, always fighting for the best job, always trying to move a step up on the predetermined path of life. Six years ago when I was in high school, the only path I saw for myself was going to college. I was so insanely stressed out about getting one C that I cried for an hour in one of my teacher’s classrooms. I thought one C in AP American History (my teacher loved Alexander Hamilton so much that I developed a very strong dislike for him, so much so that I am having a very hard time giving the musical phenomenon Hamilton a proper chance) would completely prevent me from going to college and ruin my life forever. Now, here I am, graduating from college with a transcript that’s got every letter of the alphabet on it, A, B, C, D, and yes, F. Now, I look back and think, “Really? That’s what you were so worried about? Your grades?”

I was so worried about my grades because I was so worried about taking one wrong step and ruining everything forever. But there’s no correct path, therefore there can be no wrong steps. One of my best friends decided not to go to college, and she’s currently traveling all over the world living her best life. My sister went to two schools her first year of college, then transferred to UVA for her second after UVA admissions counselors told her she would never get in because she’d already transferred once. I am about to graduate from college and embark on a few years of doing nothing.

But it’s not really nothing. I’ll be spending my time working on myself, healing myself, getting to know myself better. I’ll be working at a job that might not look the best on my resume, but makes me happy. I’ll spend time with people I care about, and I’ll just enjoy living and being.

So when people ask me what I’m doing after college from now on, I’m not going to say “taking a gap year or two.” Gap year to me implies that you are taking a break from the education machine and stepping briefly outside the correct path. It implies you must get back on that path. I’m not taking a gap from anything. What am I doing after college? I’m living.

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