Recently, Eastern University celebrated 100 days until tassels turn (regarding the spring graduation of the class of 2019). For many seniors, they will be starting one of the first of many jobs they will have in their lifetime. For others, either due to a love of learning or professional aspirations, they will be applying to or attending graduate programs.
There are also a few (although more than we might like to admit) of us who aren’t quite sure where we are headed. The future is quite daunting, and at times like these, it is good to pull back and reflect on it all: Did I do what I set out to do? Were my grades good enough? Was this a good use of four years of my life? Was it all worth it?
Many of us were here nearly four years ago, and have spent our college career entirely on this campus, and yet many of our closest friends and brightest peers found Eastern a little later. Some of those who were walking with us won’t be graduating with the people they arrived with. Be it family reasons, academic woes, or just needing a break, a lot of students have braved the cultural stigma and taken time off at one point in time.
Some of your friends from four years ago might be completely different or have left Eastern altogether. They really meant it when they told you freshman year “Look to your left. Look to your right. Many of these people sitting next to you will not be here in four years,” and whether figuratively or literally, they were right. Many people we knew are off somewhere on an entirely different path, and the people still here barely resemble the innocence of their undergraduate selves. Like watchful guardians, our favorite professors have most likely only had to blink to nearly miss the change. Another generation of students on their way.
The graduation ceremony, whether we choose to walk or not, takes on a symbolic rite of passage, but underneath all the pomp, it is a piece of paper that is the ultimate prize. Not to diminish its importance, as that paper represents every stressful test, every late night and every sigh of relief after clicking “submit” on a term paper.
Many people say a college degree isn’t all that worth it, and if you’re treating its value entirely as simply job credentials, you might buy into that idea. However, anyone who’s ever worked to get one knows it has never really been about that. The hope in places like Eastern University (and ideally every university) is that the people walking across that stage in May are more noble, more capable and constitute the kind of character that makes you a little more optimistic about the future of the world.
Eastern University offers young people a chance to engage with all manner of higher questions. What does it mean to have faith? What is the essence of reason? How can I pursue justice? Myself and many others have chosen to study in the realm of the social sciences and humanities, motivated by a desire to understand others and make good on our promise to be good stewards and good neighbors.
My peers in the sciences will stay curious, and their continuing ability to see wonder in the natural world will drive our species ever forward out of darkness, into light. In addition, our University will produce athletic trainers, nurses, educators, musicians and so many other individuals with unique purpose. It is in this diverse array of people that the world will be made more whole, and all our lives enriched for having known them.
Still, that is all 100 days away. Lofty ambition and anxiety over future uncertainty will take hold in the coming months for us all, but it is important to remember the value in right now. We only have a few short months, and there are still many discoveries to be had and friends to be made. At the turning of one chapter into the next, we will always wonder about what is both behind us and ahead. With faith in God and love for one another, the way will be made clear.