When I envisioned my final year of college at the start of it all, I didn’t picture I would take a semester off, ultimately graduating a full semester passed my desired May 2019 graduation date. It was comforting for me to know that I’d be done with college by the summertime. I’ve come to realize this a concern related to a societal belief that everyone endures eight continuous college semesters, without any breaks or intersession classes and that we will all end up in a sorority or frat, chugging along to classic ‘80s through 2000s jams on our final night before the anxiety-inducing, bittersweet morning ceremony.
Now, while I’ll still technically be able to put 2019 as a graduation date on my resume, I’m going to have to move back to my childhood home and wait four more months before I can actually walk across that stage.
Also, graduation parties usually aren’t held in below-freezing temperatures, or so I’ve heard. Icy roads and heavy snow are not meant to replace ice cream and chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting. I honestly don’t even know if most college students have these, but my point is that I haven’t been on track with the typical college routine ever since I transferred to SUNY New Paltz from SUNY Adirondack.
In my mind’s grand plan, the one that has been trained to rush these moments instead of taking time to smell the peonies and study the clouds, I expected to be living off-campus by now. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my suitemates, but I can’t help feeling out of place at times. For example: during a mandatory floor meeting with our RA on the first night, no other resident said that they were a senior. I was the only one.
However, with every passing day, I am learning that this is nothing to be ashamed of. I was the only one in a couple dozen students to be a senior, but I’m not the only fourth-year who still lives on campus. I didn’t live on campus at my previous college, and I lived in a house off campus this past spring when I studied abroad –– so I guess you could say that this is all still a somewhat new experience for me. And that’s okay.
I was busy making new friends and exploring the local culture when everyone else was discussing their living situations in the spring –– but at least I don’t have to pay for that 12-month lease. I also don’t have to worry about finding time to cook a meal in-between my three jobs and four classes. There’s usually a bright side to the situations that we find negative.
Just because we think everyone else is doing something, doesn’t mean we need to ourselves. Sure, I thought that I’d be buying my own groceries at Tops by now, instead of paying for a plan that costs twice as much as what I’d spent on food in Ireland. And that I would have a solid friend group sharing a cozy home with me, all of us gathering to watch the latest Netflix-original series together and pair them with a bottle of pink moscato, fuzzy socks and inside jokes. But I didn’t need to move off campus in order to do this. I just spent last weekend watching “No Strings Attached” and “Hustlers” with my suitemates, and I loved every minute of it.
Honestly, as someone who is still getting to know New Paltz and that on-campus life, even though I sadly have to leave it soon, I’ve found that I should be more grateful for this situation than upset about it. We all walk down our own paths; therefore, instead of seriously questioning our strides, we need to allow ourselves to live more in the moments that make life what it is: unexpected, and also beautiful. Sure, I’m a senior who still lives on campus, but I’m also someone who has become much happier with this life than when my college journey began.
There’s no shame in your reality differing from your former dreams. I also thought I’d be married by 18 as a little girl, but I also didn’t think I’d actually be able to live in Ireland. Regardless, we all still walk across that same stage, no matter our timing or experiences. Sometimes, what we don’t expect or desire turns out to create the best memories and lessons for us. And that’s a part of life that I’m growing to love more with every passing year.