College graduation is a milestone some of us knew, almost since birth, was bound to happen. As we added notches to our belts -- driver’s license, prom, high school graduation, etc. -- graduation seemed as far away as our 30th birthdays.
During the first three years of school, graduation was not the pink elephant in the room, but the weird girl from orientation you completely forgot about until the day you literally ran right into her senior year.
The fact that I would one day graduate from college did not cross my mind until the day I woke up, boarded a plane and walked into my apartment for the first time as a college senior. All of a sudden, people actually expected me to know what I wanted to do with my life.
For the next nine months, I anxiously looked toward graduation day, not-so-secretly hoping it would never come.
Two months later, as I sat at home on a Tuesday night, binge-watching "House of Cards," instead of partaking in two-for-one Tuesdays, I found myself deep in the throws of the five stages of post-grad grief:
Stage one can set in as early as the first day of senior year. It may involve various activities, ranging from overloading one’s Instagram captions with #FourMoreYears and #NeverLeaving, snapping at the girl who constantly reminds everyone that this is the "last" anything, completely removing the word graduation from your vocabulary and pretending DFMOs are still socially acceptable.
Tears don’t accompany denial. Instead, this stage is filled with that one last shot you told yourself you needed as you shouted, "YOLO."
The nine months of denial are over; graduation has come and gone. You walked across the stage, tossed your perfectly decorated cap in the air and probably shed a few (hundred) tears.
The anger phase hits you smack in the face during the time you chose to forgo reality for as long as possible and spend a few extra lazy days, or weeks, enjoying your college life.
It comes on suddenly at your favorite bar on a Wednesday night when a newcomer asks you what year you are in school and you realize you are an alumnus.
For a second, you hate everything about your alma mater: You hate that you fell so in love with it, you hate the 2 am Chinese food deliveryman, the library where you spent 12 consecutive hours and the Friday mornings reserved for bagels and gossip.
You hate how happy you were; that’s where the anger comes from.
This one’s simple: It's the nights you sit at home in your parents' house, backstalking your Facebook photos until you can’t see straight anymore. You tell yourself you would legitimately trade a limb to be back at school.
Bargaining is usually followed by frantically checking all modes of transportation to see the quickest and cheapest way to get back to school -- tomorrow.
If there’s anything you want out of the summer after graduation (besides a job, an apartment and maybe a significant other), it’s to make it through the depression stage before all your younger friends start heading back to campus in August.
Stage four is marked by seeing how may days in a row you can wear some sort of college apparel before your mom starts to get concerned, watching your graduation montage on repeat until you know the exact order of the pictures and changing the background of each electronic device to a different shot of your beautiful campus.
This is the metaphorical pizza at the end of a long Thursday night. Acceptance is easy to define but hard to obtain; it's realizing that no, you will never be as young, happy and carefree as you were during your college years, but that’s okay. You’ll never be the person you were in college, but you’re the person you are today because of college.
You’ll find other things that make you happy in ways you never imagined, but you will always have your memories. Yes, college may seem like the best years of your life, but they don’t have to be.
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