Today is a special day. This morning, I took my last final exam of my undergraduate career. I am now officially done with my degree, a task I’ve been working on for the past 5 years. Though I took some time off over that period of time, it was always in the back of my mind that I would be returning, that I had something to complete. And now, I finally have.
It may be the end of an era, but it’s an era that I mentally checked out of a few months ago. I’ve been ready to be done nearly all semester. Don’t get me wrong, my college experience has been, for the most part, fabulous. I met a lot of great people—professors and classmates—most of whom I don’t talk to anymore (that’s life), but some of whom have proved to be lasting friendships. I fell in love—and then experienced loss in a way I never thought I would, forcing me to learn painful, yet necessary, lessons that have, in the end, caused me to grow in ways I never could have otherwise. I got to travel—a two-week class in Austria, nearly a year of living abroad in Germany and backpacking all over Europe, and that internship in Denali National Park, Alaska, undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life.
But lately, I’ve been ready to move on, my mind a jumble of thoughts about what to do next. The last few weeks of this semester have been nearly tortuous, as I was forced to put the time into my classes in order to finish, but my inspirations were elsewhere. My impending graduation spurred a thought process that began a few months ago. For the first time in my life, I can do anything.
So, what am I going to do? The months of May and June will be filled with adventures and time spent with my favorite people, moving and getting rid of stuff, trying to cram as much fun as I can into every day, and relishing the feeling of being free. At the end of June, I get on a plane bound for Japan, where I will be spending the rest of the summer coring trees, hiking in the mountains, and probably experiencing a more extreme culture shock than I ever have before.
Then I come back to the States, and thus begins the unknown. I have a lot of ideas, a lot of projects I’d like to pursue. I’d like to work on my writing and take it from a side hobby to perhaps something more. Same goes for photography. I’d like to use the skills I’ve gained in my years of college to start my own mapping project, something that may turn into a business venture. Most importantly, I am going to make it a priority to do the things I love, and hope that if I do them often enough and well enough, I’ll find a way for them to pay the bills as well.
A couple years ago, I would have been terrified to not know what is next. To not know if I will have a job, or a place to live, or any money at all to survive on. But right now, I am not terrified at all. I’m excited. I’m excited to spend more time in the woods and on the water. I’m excited to be creative again, to focus on what I want to do. I’m excited to take chances. I’m excited to see what the future brings.