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“What are you doing next year?”

As graduation looms over the graduating class of 2016, we are confronted with this question asked by friends and family. For some, the answer is straightforward — I’m going to graduate school or I have a job lined up. But for many the answer is barely known, and the future consists of silhouettes you can scarcely make out. Throughout our lives and especially in our time at McMaster, we’ve all gone through momentous periods of change, where we’ve matured and begun the process of becoming a functioning adult. But now it seems like none of it compares to what’s coming next after we throw our graduation caps into the air.

For many, graduation will be the first time that our lives are not following a linear narrative, where we’ll be tossed out into the job market with our student debt, where we have to look for a place to rent and where we have to finally learn to do our own taxes. I’ve been told that it’s not easy, and as someone going through this same process, I don’t have comforting words to say, except that we should approach it with optimism and excitement. If we have to go through this period of transition, we might as well try to make it fun.

Haven’t spoken at length about graduation with quite a few of my friends, one thing I noticed was that some jaded people approach graduation with disappointment and cynicism. I’ve heard many variations of the “I’m going to graduate and wipe my ass with my Bachelor of Arts because that’s all it’ll be good for.” To these folks I want to say that you shouldn’t discredit everything you’ve learned in your years at McMaster. It may not have been the key to a job and adulthood as promised, but it was not for naught. Beyond your academic growth, think of the relationships you’ve made, all the things about the world that you’ve learned. Without my time at McMaster, I would be blissfully unaware of what intersectionality means, and still subscribe to an overly simplistic and insufficient understanding of oppression. University made you a better person.

Was university what I expected? Not really. I was told that I’d make lifelong relationships here, and while there are a few people I love dearly, the truth is that I probably won’t talk to a majority of the people I met at Mac once we go our separate ways back to where we’re from. In the first year after graduation, visiting Facebook and LinkedIn will be difficult as you see where all your friends are going and you feel the need to compare yourself and see how you stack up on an arbitrary scale. You won’t be in the same place anymore, all working towards the exams in April.

On top of all of this, there’s the usual deluge of assignments and tests due in March, as well as the realization that you’re going through a lot of lasts: last midterm, last formal, last coffeehouse. It’s a difficult time, but you’ve already made it this far.

There’s no two ways about it; we’re leaving a community that was probably the most understanding and accepting. You’ll never experience this again. But like Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

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