“Alright, now on the count of 3, everyone move your tassels from the right to the left,” he spoke, “Congrats class of 2015 and welcome to the UMass Alumni family!”
I went along with the motions, placing my tassel on the other side of my cap, careful not to ruin the decorations that sat on top of it. I was supposed to feel something in that moment. I felt like I was supposed to cry, or maybe even feel a sense of relief, anger, sadness, or happiness.
But I didn’t really feel anything.
Today was the second day of graduation, with just people in the Social and Behavioral Sciences college. It was more personal, with our faces being flashed on the jumbo-tron as we walked across the stage and shook hands with the Dean of our college. Today was supposed to be the day a sea of emotions would roll over me.
As I walked across the stage, I looked out into the sea of black caps decorated with golden tassels and thought maybe I’d feel a sense of nostalgia, panic, or pride. I thought I’d fight to hold back tears, that my palms would sweat; I thought I would feel something. I had built up this moment for so many years but it sort of fell short of my expectations.
We are expected to feel a certain way when we experience certain milestones, such as graduation. It’s supposed to be a rite of passage, a coming-of-age type of feeling. But, I’d have to disagree.
Milestones shouldn’t be forced, they should be created.
Nostalgia isn’t something we feel when we go through the motions. It’s not something we can add to our Snap stories or pick an Instagram filter for. Nostalgia hits us when we least expect it. It happens when you are walking past the campus pond, noticing the beauty of it when you have limited time left to notice it. It happens when you run into your freshman year hallmates and have random memory of them holding back your hair in the bathroom stall that random Friday night. Nostalgia is timeless. It’s unexpected.
I’ll miss looking forward to getting off at exit 8 on the Pike after driving 60 long miles. I’ll miss going out to the bar, seeing that cute guy from my Communication class and struggling to find the words to say. I’ll miss the “USA” chants, the run-down college houses, and the long lines at the Pub on a Thursday night. I’ll miss being able to find the beauty in one of the “most unattractive campuses” in the United states.
I’ll miss being able to call UMass my home.
I don’t know when it’ll hit me. When I’ll have that moment where a sea of emotions roll over me and the feeling of nostalgia hits me like a ton of bricks. I wish I did, but I don’t.
I want to tell you that I’ll forever hold onto the moment of flipping my tassel over to the left side. I want to tell you that I feel different, that shaking the hand of my Dean made me feel grown up and ready to tackle the real world. I want to tell you that the words “Congratulations class of 2015, we did it!” made my stomach turn. But it didn’t.
It’s not the anticipated moments that define our time here, it’s moments that you can’t quite explain why they latched onto you the way they did. It’s impossible to take 4 years of memories, ignored texts, and drunken pizza nights and attempt to shrink it down to a weekend of cliche-filled speeches and obligatory graduation selfies.
I’m not going to define my time at UMass by flipping my tassel to the other side of my cap, and neither should you. Define it by the moments that make you feel indescribably nostaglic. By running into that nice guy who took you on a date that one time sophomore year, by attacking a giant slice of cake with 4 forks after a night at Stacker’s (shoutout to my roomies). College isn’t about graduation, it’s about little moments that turn into so much more.
For me, college is about realizing that my life is so much more than anticipated milestones; it’s about discovering the best version of myself. It’s about realizing who to surround myself with, what guys are worth my time, and why I turned out the way I did. It’s about creating my own milestones.
I graduated college, but I don’t feel any different