Michaels: Reflect on who college has helped you become

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My high school graduation photos taken on my back deck, following a Zoom graduation. - Photo via Sylent Michaels

Ah, the spring semester of 2024 is upon us. I am a senior in college, possibly taking my last semester in school. I say possibly because who knows if I’ll get my masters after this, but that’s to be worried about later. 

Let me preface this by saying sorry, I am about to bring up the overwritten and over-discussed pandemic we all suffered through in the year 2020. Yes, the damn Covid-19 Pandemic.  I know. It’s in the past and we’re over it (even though it’s still around and we’ll all probably get sick at least once this semester, whether it be “frat flu” or COVID). 

It genuinely feels like just yesterday I was sitting on my couch adorned in my cap, gown, and fuzzy blanket at 8 a.m. with my family and childhood best friend, who was also my neighbor, watching a Zoom and waiting for my name to be called to “graduate.” 

But that was four years ago. I am 22 years old now and about to have a real graduation which my family can actually attend, to see me walk the stage in person, to accept a diploma. 

If you are a senior this year or will be a senior within the next few years, I hope this reaches you. Personally, graduating from college is a huge deal for me, as I am a first-generation college student and I love school. I am beyond proud of myself for how far I have come, but even if you trudged your way through school because your parents forced you to go, this is still a message to you. To everyone who made it through the pandemic as a student, and to every student in general. 

College passes us by so fast, filled with immense amounts of reading, research papers, meeting new friends, attending parties and clubs, and silly homework assignments to pass the time. Four years sounds like a long time in theory, but when enveloped in the bulk of semesters it passes by in the blink of an eye. Semesters start and flow by easily, until suddenly we are pulling all-nighters to study, and stressing to get our finals in on time. 

It is so easy to forget to take the time to reflect on all that you are learning as the years pass by. Your time at college is imperative to your growth as a human being. We learn how to navigate through the world, through friendships, and how to survive in our job fields.

Many of us have fought through seasonal depression, anxiety, mental health struggles, lack of time management skills that slowly developed into actually having some, and what the hell to do about stress. Not to mention the added navigation of true friendship and the occasional heartbreaks.   

So, as we reach the end of our college years, do your best to take time to remember all that these four years did for you. Recount your struggles and remember the good times you had in class, with the best and worst of professors you met and learned from, and all the memories you made with your friends, roommates, and even enemies. Every interaction, every internship, every conversation has changed you. From hardships to happy moments, they have shaped you into who you are today. 

Simply put, college isn’t always the easiest, but whether you’ve made it or are in the process of making it, you’ve put in the work, growing along the way. That in itself is prideworthy. To all the journeys to be endured after this, I bid you good luck. Apply for your master’s, start that job, take that leap, and push yourself to do great things. Get out of your comfort zone, allow rejection to be your lesson, and continue to learn and grow in all that you do– but always remember to count your blessings and appreciate the growth that’s gotten you to where you are. As you reach graduation, reflect on it all and be proud of who you are. I am so proud of myself, and I am so proud of you.

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