The time until graduation is better measured in days than weeks, and I am scrambling. I started envisioning these last days of senior year before I even got to college. I grew up watching movies and television that portrayed the end of college with limitless parties, landing a dream job, getting seduced by an attractive professor and the sense that everything from here on out is simple. These end-of-college stereotypes have some truth to them, but a distorted one. What everybody failed to tell me about is the anxiety that goes along with graduating. My anxiety is not the common social anxiety or the nervous feeling of being unprepared for a test — it is both more elusive, and there is no clear relief.
Not long from now, graduation commences a part of my life that I am afraid will leave me vulnerable as a result of the banality of routine. I plotted ways to distract myself from real-world sensibility. My personal distractions include drunken party nights, weeknights spent at Kip’s, last-minute trips to Las Vegas, potluck events with people I have not talked to since sophomore year and excursions to San Francisco to check out the same park for the fourth time. It is not as if I have never done any of these before — I am just fitting all of these projects into a tight window, justifying my actions with phrases such as: “This might be the last time I …,” or “I am going to regret if …” and, of course, the most cliche justification of them all, “We got to go out with a bang!” It is all in an effort to avoid any feelings of apology I may experience in months or years to come. I fear I will look back at these last months in regret, telling myself I could have done more.
I observe some of my friends taking shelter in the form of their senior bucket list, a catalog of mostly drinking events and “lasts” that put them outside their comfort zone. I am not completely innocent of employing a bucket list to amuse myself, but safer asylum for me lies in an activity that is not as sexy as a naked run through Main Stacks. I found myself outside my comfort zone, standing on a small patch grass next to Doe Library with my back to the Campanile and facing a small group of speakers and listeners alike. I had written an outlandishly eccentric story that I thought would come across as humorous to read aloud. The lines I wrote were less comical than I had anticipated, my delivery was far from explosive, and there was no laugh track following punchlines. It was a less-than-great performance, but my friends in the audience didn’t show any signs of boredom or disappointment; they patted me on the back and were encouraging. I wasn’t embarrassed; the opportunity to be exposed was cleansing. It was an experience that I had never previously had during my time in college, and it was something that would never show up on a bucket list. Reading to a small group of people is much less cathartic-sounding than a shotgun beer tour of campus landmarks, but the support from my friends made it a more constructive endeavor than chugging 12 ounces of light beer at Sather Gate.
I have found myself dealing with the impending doom through these human relationships. Cue the classic senior scramble, driven by fear of the approaching real world, I go through feeble attempts to find a new hook-up and finally decide to go for that girl in Chi Omega whom I have wanted to ask out for the last two years. The thought of meeting people to date outside of having the common ground of school is alarming, so I find myself scrambling to make connections with people in the hope that it will spill over into our post-college lives. I try to avoid the extreme cases, such as getting into a committed relationship to avoid the future ambiguity of being alone or running around looking to experience as many one-night stands possible before graduation. The fact that I could be alone in a few weeks does not only affect my physical relationships but my platonic ones, too. This fear of not being able to meet people after college has caused me to reach out to old roommates, friends and lovers, pursuing the impression of broader connection. Diving deeper into the concrete relationships I already hold has been an effective remedy for my graduation anxiety. Our conversations seem more genuine — chatting about family, love and religion are more frequent than ever before. It is blasting music with my buddy Aaron, battling sports trivia with Jimmy, doing something sporadic with Matt and doing amateur psychoanalysis with Adam that are the moments I find medicinal for my graduation jitters. Suspicion of losing my close friends in a short amount of time motivates me to be more irreplaceable than before, to be more than just a memory of college, to not leave a lasting memory but to have the ability to generate more memories. These ambitions reveal themselves in the form of late-night talks about philosophy, last-minute brunches at Sunny Side Cafe and sporadic day trips to the headlands. The desire to have relationships that hold more weight has sharply elevated for me in these last weeks. With graduation looming, I have come to the realization that I cannot keep all the friends I have made in my time here but that it is my job to make sure I retain the best ones.
When my parents call and inquire about plans for graduation weekend, I close down and abandon the conversation. I recognize myself running further away from the idea of graduating than most of my friends. A group of my close peers asked me if I wanted to take formal senior portraits at Sather Gate a couple of days ago; I came up with a copious number of excuses to not participate. I told them, “I just don’t get it”, and at the time, I honestly did not. Reflecting more on my declined invitation to take senior portraits, I realized it was just another mechanism for me to run away from the conditional truth of graduation. Maybe it is because I am one out of my few friends who has not captured my first post-college job, or because of the strong bond I have developed with Berkeley. Graduation has turned into a dilemma for me that I desperately wish I didn’t have to deal with. That’s not to say I’m not optimistic — just terrified of what the future holds.
Alex Gonzalez is a contributor to The Weekender. Contact him at [email protected]