Senior Thesis

Senior Thesis

Kim Salac
Media Staff

“How does it feel?” Everyone asks me. I clutch the crinkled plastic bag with my cap and gown and tassel in it. I want to say anticlimactic. I want to say anxiety-inducing. I want to say like a freight train is speeding at me, and I just discovered I’m tied to the tracks. “Exciting,” I say, smiling at my friend. My aunt. The faceless stranger on the street. Because that’s what everyone wants to hear: fun, exciting, finally. Internally, I wish for three more years.

“How does it feel?” Everyone asks me.


I didn’t get to have much of a college experience. I spent my first year at VCU, and transferred to UVA during my second year. The next eight months were spent adjusting to the University, with barely any friends and practically no support system. When I finally began to get a handle on things, boom—spring 2020 was cut short by the pandemic. I went home a second year, came back to campus a fourth year. The span between sophomore and senior feels like the distance between Earth and the moon—it appears to be close, but is actually thousands of miles away.

And that would be okay, mostly, if I had an inkling of what was going on. It’s okay to do things fast if you know where you’re going. But if I had to put “how it’s going” in terms of percentages, I would say this: when I started college, I had hoped that by the end of it, I would have at least 50% of myself figured out. As it is, I’m not even close. After all this time, as I prepare to graduate, I feel like I’ve only gotten a mere 15% of myself figured out. And that’s 15% combined: maybe 4% is self-discovery, 5% is career, 3% is the kind of life I want to live, and 3% is me taking pity on myself and rounding up.

The end of college, we’re told, is the “greatest time of your life.” The world opens! The possibilities are endless! Taylor Swift even wrote a song about the magic of being 22! I glance at my Stan Smith Adidas that grew out of style in high school, the laces a stark white against the old fabric of the sneaker, bleached too well when I was washing them for this semester. That’s what I feel like too—my “senior” label—a too-bright neon sign glaring over my head to distract from my tired face.

No one prepares you for post-college anxiety.


No one prepares you for post-college anxiety. Your friends all have jobs or internships lined up, others are applying to grad school, some are already in grad school, and you’re just wearing a Spiderman hoodie and Spiderman socks and drinking milk out of a Spiderman flask and wondering why the heck you’re alive. I feel like a weary soldier returning from battle. Thank you for the diploma. My mom will hang it up in the living room (it’s better that way, or it’ll end up in some decrepit, dusty corner of my closet). I will continue to compare myself to my peers, go to bed at 2am and wake up noon, you know the drill. What does adulthood even mean, anyway? Apparently I’m supposed to “set the stage for my life,” and “take on new challenges.” I just really, really want to sleep.

Okay, let me rattle my brain a bit. What have I gained from the last four years? I know a bunch more big words. I have a better idea of where my passions and interests lie (thank you, Iris!). I can drive long distances. I’ve come to know some people I really care about. I’ve developed my own personal taste in fashion (hoodie days don’t count). I’ve broadened my knowledge of the world around me and am able to think critically, especially through a sociocultural lens (see, big word!). I’ve…grown a bit more into myself?

That’s definitely more things than I thought I would list.

In one of my favorite books, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel, there’s a line that says: “I think that’s the difference between 25 and 50…the sheer volume of regret.” I graduated high school with a lot of regrets. I remember standing in the stadium thinking, is this it…? I don’t think I’m approaching my college graduation regret-free, but I do feel I have the courage to pursue more opportunities—in friends, jobs, and self-discovery—than I did in high school. It’s that subtle difference between 15% and 50% percent.

I don’t think I’m approaching my college graduation regret-free, but I do feel I have the courage to pursue more opportunities...


Even though I don’t know even half of who I am or where I’m going, I’m still 15% better off than where I started. I rehearse less when I order food. I fiddle with my outfit less before I leave the house. I don’t prepare (as much) for a conversation when meeting someone new. Some things stay unfailingly constant: I still like to sit by windows, I still like to write, and I still wear a Spiderman hoodie and Spiderman socks and drink milk out of a Spiderman flask and wonder why the heck we’re all alive. But with this degree propelling me maybe I’ll be able to say this a little more surely: figuring it out as you go, taking it at your own pace - that is what life is all about. As Rilke said to a struggling young poet, long ago: “Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

With a little bit of Rilke, and a lot of Spiderman – I’m certain I’ll be able to find my way, eventually. 100%.