I have always been well-prepared for graduation day. I’d known almost exactly what I wanted to wear a year in advance. I practically knew the entire ceremony by heart – proceedings and the Chancellor’s jokes included. I knew what colour the stripe of my robe, and colour for every other course, would be. I knew to prepare safety pins and hairpins. I even knew roughly how fast I needed to walk when my name was called. I guess being in the choir that sings for ever degree ceremony allows you special access to  privileged information.

Therefore, I knew everything, except  – how I would feel when my turn actually came.

So the Wednesday before last I got my chance to find out. For the longest time, I settled with ‘Words cannot describe the feeling’. I was aware that there was a hugely conflicted emotion there – half was it was pure unadulterated joy at being able to sing at my own graduation (which, by the way, is beyond special, and is highly recommended!). The other half was cast in shadow – a kind of doubtful, disturbing undercurrent I couldn’t explain.

At first I thought it was simply my being sad about having to leave the UK, because I was to leave so many things I love behind. The music. The people I’ve met. The nuances in culture that I’ve gotten used to and am quite fond of, like the you alrights and the pleases and thank yous and Christmas roasts. The ever-ready supply of quaint little vintage trinkets. The overwhelmingly impressive range of online retail ( 😛 ). Cream tea. Oh, all the little things you can imagine, really.

Today it struck me what that troubling little undercurrent was, and I think I can finally articulate why I’m so reluctant to let go.

As a university student you get some special privileges with regard to the way you lead your life.

One. Independence, but with room for error. You are left to your own devices – but it is still mildly acceptable to run into trouble every once in a while. It is okay to be whining about being broke. It is okay to sleep in and be late for things. It is okay to be immature and drunk (within limits…haha). You can make mistakes without worrying about the consequences (again, within limits) because you know you still have that one last chance to wipe that slate clean and start anew, i.e. when you graduate and move on with life.

Two. Freedom, but with the safety net of a ready-made daily routine and a standard list of short-term goals.  There is a comfort in having a timetable laid out for you to follow, and in knowing that being a student means you are generally only expected to figure out your grades and your career within the next three years. There is no responsibility, no need to plan your own life. You aren’t forced to sit down and deal with all the hard questions like what you want in life or what kind of person you are or are you a success or a failure because everybody accepts that university is only a transitory, not a definitive phase of life.

But once graduation passes over, once you become a working adult – you run out of chances. Life becomes a one-shot game. You have all the independence and freedom now, but at a cost – you actually need to know how to manage it.

University was only a dip in the shallow end. You could at anytime stick your head over the surface and gasp for air if you feel like you are about to drown. Life however throws you right into the deep end; and you are expected to know how to swim.

And it is the fear of not being able to swim that scares me.

So now I know. The ironic thing about this, funnily enough, is that I actually cannot swim in the literal sense. Haha.

But well.

The sun has set. The boat has sailed. Time to move on, grow up, and most of all – be brave.

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