With only 16 days until graduation and a mere 30 days standing between me and my flight to Morocco, I have found myself quite preoccupied with the concept of commencement. This reflection was really inevitable, as I prepare to put my 17 years of education to use out in the ever-elusive real world. However, this idea of commencement does not only apply to those wearing graduation robes this May: It recurs through many different seasons of life, which is what makes the concept of commencement altogether worth further exploration.
The certain uncertainty of new beginnings always sounds so exciting at first. Though we as people are creatures of habit, there is something indescribably alluring about turning our world upside down and pursuing something new and previously unexplored. But just as we prepare to take the leap, a hefty dose of reality sets in. Am I ready for this change? Is this a good decision? How will I know?
The onslaught of doubt is not ill-founded: a major life change is occurring, and the transition will most assuredly be difficult at times. As a recent graduate, I am escaping the familiar, defined structure of college and am instead finding myself left entirely to my own devices. What I do in the fall is no longer determined by ClassFinder or the registrar, but by me. The friends I hold dear will scatter throughout the world, introducing new responsibilities in maintaining these friendships to overcome the perpetual distance. The tyranny of choice will set in as I continue to ponder: What comes next?
There is a great deal of beauty in the deeply unsettling nature of commencement. For as much as we may wear ourselves thin in trying to decide “What comes next?”, at the end of the day we ourselves have the power to determine not only what comes next, but how effectively we manage whatever it is that comes next. It is not fortune, be it good or bad, that makes or breaks a person: it is their attitude in coping, reflecting, and addressing the consequences of the choices they make that, in turn, make all the difference. In a world dictated by factors we cannot control, it is all the more important to harness our abilities over what we can control: ourselves.
How fitting then that our commencement ceremonies are held in the springtime, a season just as characterized by rain as it is by sunshine. As I prepare to begin my journey to Morocco, I am doing my best to embrace the hardships I know I will face. Spending three months alone in a foreign land is truly daunting. Add to it the harsh reality of having to rely solely on a second language to communicate, being absent for major milestones of friends back home, and the mounting pressure of committing to a professional next step upon returning to the States, and it becomes nearly paralyzing. But there can be sunshine amidst this rain, so long as I do not allow a poor attitude to cloud my judgment and prevent me from seeing the good that accompanies these omnipresent challenges. I am about to embark on an incredible journey of self-discovery, one that will forever taint the way I perceive the world around me.
And for that reason, with every day that passes, I will choose to be positive. I will choose to have faith. I will choose to always get back up and keep fighting when obstacles knock me down.
Commencement is a scary, beautiful thing. But even scarier and even more beautiful is the choice we have to make of commencement what we will. And with that being said I hope you, in whatever capacity of commencement you find yourself, will join me in rejecting the anxiety and embracing the adrenaline…It is time to leap!