Graduation season brings a plethora of feelings and memories. Bouts of nostalgia are always bittersweet. You’ve spent so much time in an institution, made friends, made memories, and now things are about to change. Another batch is about to leave.
But maybe you’re not part of it.
It’s difficult when you watch the people you entered college with move on before you do. Maybe you were delayed, maybe you took on a few more classes or another major, or maybe you had to transfer. Whatever it is, watching the people you started out with step out of school and move forward to a new chapter stings a little. Sure, you’re happy for them but being stuck there while your friends move on hurts a little.
But that’s okay.
As someone who stayed an extra year in college, I was terrified of being there without the people I grew up with. Seeing their faces on the first day and hearing them talk about how we were all going to graduate together made me hopeful. And when I watched them move on while I stayed behind, I thought things would change.
It’s okay, it will. It would have anyway. But it’s up to you to keep in touch and keep fighting for that friendship to go strong. Don’t let it become those friendships hinged on convenience, that you’re friends only because you always see each other. Make sure they know, they’re aware of how much you treasure them. You will see who will be friends for life.
And your college journey isn’t solely about making friends. Sure, it’s a part of it. But it’s not the core of it. It’s about you, about bettering yourself. It’s about learning and building your own life, one you will share with others. One you will share with many people–including those who you think might have gone ahead of you.
Don’t allow those friendships to stagnate. Don’t be the one waiting for the message or text. Be the one to reach out, too. Don’t allow things to fall through your fingers because you want to be looked for and asked about. That’s only going to make those lonely feelings come true. Put in the effort not because you want to be loved but because those people, the people you love, are worth it.
It’s okay not to graduate with them. Because they’ll still be with you. Because you go at your own pace. It’s not some kind of race. Some people cross the line at the same time, others might take a little longer to pick up some other things on the way. That isn’t a crime. It’s also you making it meaningful in your own way just like they did. And maybe, for you, you need to linger for a little longer, try to revisit things, try to re-learn things you didn’t understand at first.
You will be fine.
Allow yourself to feel sad, sure, but never at the expense of your friends’ own joy and pride. They’re moving on but that doesn’t mean they’re leaving you behind. Not at all. What’s important is that you were part of their journey and they were part of yours, but their presence with you doesn’t make or break it all. It’s still yours, still your path to walk and move forward in.
Just as you cheered them on as they ran their course, they will likely be proud of you and be at the end when you arrive, too. Because it doesn’t end there. There’s an entire life still ahead of you with the people you met and the people you still have yet to meet. New challenges, new joys, new treasures.
And you will get there, too.
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