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Sentiment, schmentiment

January 23rd, 2014

Here it is. The beginning of the end for the class of 2014. I can see the tears in your eyes and everybody is standing poised with their tissues as we make our way through this final semester of our undergraduate career, overwhelmed with fear, sadness, excitement and, in my case, a deadly case of un-sentimentality (I know that’s not a word, but the English language is moldable, read Faulkner … or Dr. Seuss).

It’s not that I don’t care that I’m graduating in the spring. I do care. I care a lot. It’s a major step to take. But I refuse to get sentimental about it, because that’s not me. My mom tries to tell me what a good daughter and student I am and I squirm in my boots and make a hasty retreat to my bedroom where I can re-watch episodes of “30 Rock” in peace. Sentimentality isn’t my thing. It makes me uncomfortable and a little queasy and sometimes my palms start sweating.

But I digress. I have good reason for not being sentimental about the end of my undergraduate education. It’s not that I did not value or enjoy my time at John Carroll. I absolutely loved it. I met new people, I had great experiences, I got to spend four months in Ireland. I have had the opportunity to attend poetry readings and lectures and form my own opinions and develop a world view based on what I did (or sometimes didn’t) learn in class.

But the important thing to remember about college is that it is four years of your life. And it is four great years, but it is not the real world. We get sentimental about leaving the friends that we made here, and that I can understand. We get attached to people and places and it makes our hearts hurt when we have to leave them. But don’t get too wrapped up in the “I’m leaving all my friends” aspect that you forget that college is cool, but it’s not life.

Graduating college isn’t like graduating from high school when the hardest decision you have to make is which school you are going to choose, and while that can be a difficult task, choosing the right career, or graduate school or service opportunity is a whole lot more intimidating. There is a lot more uncertainty when you graduate college, and that can be scary, but it’s also really awesome because uncertainty breeds opportunity. If you’re not tied down to anything, you can do anything. And yeah, you always run the risk of rejection, but that’s life, cookie.

The danger of sentimentality upon graduating from college is that it makes you lose focus of how awesome it is that you have a whole life to lead now that you’re done with college. Don’t get too wrapped up in the “Oh, I’m going to miss people and the clock tower and the quad” that you forget to realize the “Oh, my whole entire life is ahead of me.”

I see the fear in your eyes upon reading that sentence. “What if I don’t do the right thing?” “What if I’m not happy in my job?” “What if I’m an English major and I’m never going to be employed?” Okay. Valid fears. All fairly understandable. But you can choose to look at your future with either fear or excitement. Granted, I was afraid (and still am, to be honest) of my future for the longest time. I’m very afraid that I am going to make the wrong career choice, or never find a career, because I had to decide on one when I was 22 years old and didn’t know much about life, but I’m also really excited, and that excitement overshadows any sentimentality that I might have about leaving in the spring. Because the prospect of doing something new with my life overshadows the sadness I might feel by completing a part of it.

In his book “The Painted Veil,” William Somerset Maugham talks about living a beautiful life, and how it is the perfect work of art and that is how men are able to look upon the world without complete disgust. At John Carroll, we are taught not only to analyze literature, compute equations and pith frogs, we are also taught to be men and women for others and in this way, many of us are already living beautiful lives. By completing your undergraduate education, graduating and becoming a part of the real world, we have even more of an opportunity to live beautiful lives. Lives that are works of art.

So, seniors, instead of spending this semester looking back on all the great times you had in college and bemoaning the fact that you only have one more semester of parties and late night T-Bell runs and Coventry and West 25th and these wonderful peers and professors, consider the fact that in four months you are going to be a part of the real world. You are going to have your whole life ahead of you and the possibilities are endless, even if it doesn’t seem like they are.