The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Diving headfirst into the real world

Like roughly 5,000 of the rest of you, I am a senior about to jump off the pier of graduation on May 13.

And yes, with that opening line, I can hear the groans of professors and grad students (and possibly precocious underclassmen) as they think, “Great. Another painfully introspective senior, cowering in the glare of the real world.”

Well, I know we seniors come along every year. I know that I am only one of millions across the United States, and I know that eventually I will see that there are greater terrors than leaving the cozy bubble of college.

But on behalf of the class of 2012, I’m claiming this short 15-inch space for some pre-graduation catharsis.

The post-graduation future is a difficult thing to keep out of conversation these days. Despite my lack of concrete plans, I find myself telling my friends, family, peers and professors how excited I am.

For the first time in my life, I say, I have time and real possibility. I can do what I want, where I want, when I want. I find that those with firm plans and jobs smile with me.

Whether that’s a smile of agreement or a polite cover for, “You crazy person, wait till reality hits you like a wet fish in the face. Get it together!” I can’t be sure, but we’re both smiling a little unnaturally.

I’m smiling unnaturally because, despite my genuine excitement, my feelings are of course tinged with nostalgia and fear.

Like the sap that I am, I’m preemptively nostalgic for college days and UNC. (What can I say, on my fourth birthday I cried because I feared getting old.)

I’m fearful because with the exhilaration of choice comes the weight of how much my choices now matter. It was one thing to master the classroom and boost that GPA, but now I need a means of boosting my 401k.

And who’s to say I ever “mastered” the classroom? Just last week, a professor returned an essay in which I used the word “liminality,” with the word circled, indicating that I had used it incorrectly.

As a journalism and English double-major, incorrect word usage is more than an error, it’s a pinch to my pride. So I immediately went and looked up the word to see where I had gone wrong.

Liminality, according to Google, is a state of mind in which the subject feels on a threshold between two different existential planes. Oh, heavens. That I managed to misuse this word is woefully ironic considering I kind of personify it.

So, here we are, seniors. We’re standing on a threshold, on the pier-jump of graduation. We’re preparing to look at college as a past, not a lifestyle. We’re gazing at a future of unknown breadth.

The expanse beyond these first few months and years is frustratingly impossible to map.

But here’s the thing: the people skipping this article are people who’ve taken the dive already — and kept swimming.

This isn’t the only threshold. I’m sure there will be times when reverting to a dogged doggy-paddle is necessary, but there will also be plenty of exotic and unknown rest stops, and places where we’ll stay.

Surely that prospect of adventure truly is exciting. So I say, in all sincerity, don’t let the emotional weight pull you under; dive in and relish the plunge. (And yes, I’ll see you at the bars tonight. And yes, it is a Monday.)

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