“Are you graduating this year?”

“Um, no, actually . . .”

“Oh. Well, then, what year are you?”

“Well, I’ve been here for about three years now, so technically I’m a junior, but

“So are you going to graduate next year?”

“Hmm, well, about that, ya see . . . ”

With the approaching graduation ceremony coming up, THIS is the conversation I’ve been experiencing frequently.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be only a handful of credits away from my associate degree, and yet the majority of them are math credits that are going to take me a couple semesters to attempt with my lack of math prowess. Everyone else around me seems to be getting at least their standard “two-year degrees” in record time, and I’m lagging behind because elementary arithmetic has decided it likes me a bit too much to let me go.

I’ve been lucky to qualify for financial aid to help my college education, and as much as I am grateful for it, I fear the day I actually do get a diploma. After all the time I’ve had to spend here going through general education courses before my actual area of expertise, I’m going to be getting that pretty little letter in mail that says, “Congratulations on that degree. You now owe $XXXXXXXX.00 in student loans and what not. Time to pay up, Einstein.”

Sometimes my thoughts wander to regrets that may have built up to the cause of my current predicament. Why didn’t I keep my GPA high enough in high school to qualify for credits for concurrent enrollment classes? Why didn’t I take more advanced placement classes or at least attempt a few more of the AP tests?

In the end, continuously reprimanding myself with “what could have been” only succeeds in making me more miserable. I try to stay logical and inform myself that crying over my previous lack of potential is the least productive thing I could possibly do. Also, I try to stay positive by taking a look at everything that I HAVE accomplished in my ongoing years since becoming a Wildcat.

I was never successfully involved on campus in my high school career. At Weber, I can now say I am an active member of the community service-based sorority that continuously tries to assimilate itself into the student body. I had a game plan for my major by the end of my freshman year, and I immediately started throwing myself into places that would support that. I’ve written for the newspaper and acquired other staff positions within the communications department that apply directly to field, and I’ve excelled academically onto an education path that is going to hold my future. Yet I still have a long way to go.

I’ve realized that Weber is the place where I first began to discover myself, and since the beginning of my freshman year on this campus, I’ve felt an amazing sense of self-fulfillment, more than I had ever fathomed as a high school student.

With every class I take, every opportunity I seize hold of here now, every year I “waste” running back and forth across this campus and up enough stairs to qualify for a “Rocky” training montage . . . I’ve realized how capable I truly am, and also how many skills I still need to stop being afraid to master so I won’t be as petrified of paying back the debts I owe for the opportunities I’ve been given.

Graduation isn’t just a piece of paper with a random certification of expertise stamped across the page to prove to the outside world how valuable you’ll be in the work force. Graduation is a state of mind. It’s a mental shift of complete independent reliance on yourself, your abilities and your potential to succeed at any given task thrown to you on the crossroads of your life. Whether this mindset takes you two, four or 20 years to achieve, it is not something that should be measured by the population of the alumni-bound individuals around you. The world is a harsh and unforgiving place to those who aren’t 100 percent ready to tackle it head-on, so I am personally still preparing myself.

Congratulations, spring class of 2013! I admire you, though not particularly envy you, since I know my own cap-and-gown time for the associate’s, the bachelor’s, the master’s and all my other graduate levels of nirvana are going to eventually show up too quickly and at their own time.

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