I just turned in my last college assignment. I haven’t seen my friends or professors in person for almost two months, and my day-to-day no longer revolves around spending time on campus. It is closed, as most things are. Graduating college with no ceremony or celebration, in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal, and individuals have it way worse than I do right now (or ever have). Hell, I got to go to college! But this is not about the world of the awareness of my privilege. It is about endings and seeing things through to the end when you have no idea what the fuck will come after.
Two months ago I expected to graduate into a well-paying job at the company I was interning at, to walk across the stage with my friends, and to cry, laugh, and drink with everyone upon finishing college. It is a big deal! Or we are told it is a big deal and that it is some vast stepping stone in life. I don’t know about that. For-profit education, like most for-profit endeavors, is based off of the semblance of haves and have nots, and how from birth we are indoctrinated into that western capitalist mindset. Yet, I am still sad — I wanted to walk across that stage and I wanted to celebrate with my friends and family. Instead, I got let go when my internship (and many other jobs) were “made redundant”. My graduation fees were never refunded to me and at some later date I’ll go check the mail like I do every day only to find an extra piece of paper in my mailbox that has been prescribed so much meaning that it might as well be its own religious text — my diploma. A BFA in film/media production. It sounds nice, but it doesn’t mean all that much.
The classes — some meaningless and some life-changing — were always grounding for me. When my internal existence was torn in the chaos of eating disorders, anxiety, and severe depression, I always had my classes and my assignments. Yes, my friends were often there. But I failed them on occasion. So lost in wading through the thick black ooze of my own suffering, I forgot I had a support system of brilliant, loving individuals. And so I moved. Two years into college and I was at a new university in a different state. But I still had my classes and my assignments, and they grounded me in such a emotionally violent transitional period. For months, I figured that me finishing college was a pipe dream. Eventually, I made new friends who I could still see my old friends in. That is selfish, probably. But I missed those that I left, I still do, and I still wrestle with that Rubik’s Cube of regret. So, I let my various syllabuses dictate my existence for a bit. If an assignment was due on Friday, then I had to live until then and, oh shit, a project was also due on Monday — just push on. And so it went. Until now.
I’m done. College is over. Most folks probably expect to start a full-time job, but living through a pandemic has changed things. Yes, I am grateful enough to have contract gigs and another internship, but the life highway that I built in my mind has been torn apart. It is being repaved, I’ll be okay. But I expected joy. All of my friends who finished college before me seemed to have it. I saw the smiles and the pictures, the drunken Instagram stories and tears streaming down youthful faces that now looked down the barrel of adulthood. My friends and I will celebrate over the phone, on Zoom, over Xbox Live — digital infrastructures sutured together into some facsimile of social normalcy. It is the end.
My life is not over. Everyone has been telling me that it is only getting started, but I can’t help but think that some form of me is no more. The Cole of now, the senior in college whose eyes run wide and energetic with opportunity, will give way to the Cole who graduates into a pandemic and an economic crisis fueled by government inadequacy on every level. Those who graduated in 2008 understand the feeling — they keep offering me sage wisdom and advice. I don’t want to listen to it right now. Not yet. Let me be sad, let me yearn for the college experience that I once had, and let me look forward to a better future. The socioeconomic and structural now does not have to extend to tomorrow — the frailty of capitalism in this current moment shows that. There is more. We can do better, we need better, and those who cling to the status quo need to be stripped of power at every level. I finished college. A part of my life is over, but I’ve always expected to be dead by now. I’ll keep living — my mind is at a far better place than it was when those darkest, most immolating thoughts held residency in my mind. I’ll continue to be, and while the rain outside cannot wash away the current state of things, this is not forever; it doesn’t have to be.