It’s time to celebrate, kids: the semester is over, and for some of us that means we are graduating from this grand university of creative careers and taking our first steps into what is apparently known as “the real world.”
I myself am among the upcoming graduates who are to walk across that stage and leave with my very, very expensive diploma, and I can tell you, I’m excited.
But not only am I excited, I’m relieved that this long journey is finally coming to an end (barring my last online course this summer). Yes, we’ve all toiled and worked hard over these few years – but for some of us, it’s been a little longer than the standard four.
I’m 25 years old, and I am only just now graduating. I’ve been out of high school for seven years (which is weird to think about, even now). The majority of my peers at this school are closer to the ages of 21 or 22. Those who are closer to my age are usually graduate students, or have already graduated. Meaning that, according to some people, I might be considered “old.”
It’s true that, years ago, I dropped out for a good solid year and a half. It’s also true that I changed my major, and had some medical issues along the way. And while I do not consider the age of 25 to be “old” by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t think that my case is such an unusual story.
Ask yourself this: when you graduated high school, did you know what you wanted to do with your life? And if you did, is it the same thing you ended up doing now? Chances are, the answer to that is “No, are you kidding me? I was just a dumb kid who liked to draw or take pictures when I wasn’t sneaking out to parties or whatever.”
In our society, there is an enormous amount of pressure to thrust ourselves into higher education right after high school, where at such a young point in our development as human beings, we have to choose a path that will dictate how we live for most of our lives.
Yet, the rate of freshmen and sophomores who drop out of college and never return is alarmingly high. Some people know what they want early on, and others need time to figure it out. And why shouldn’t they? The greater lot of us are usually students in some capacity for a quarter of a century or longer – you aren’t supposed to know what you want to do. Even now, graduating, most of us will end up in a job that is not the one we are entering (or hoping to enter) when we leave here.
Taking time off was one of the smartest things I ever did. My freshmen year, I was, by my own admission, a total tool. I partied way too hard, skipped way too many classes and was barely able to pull myself out of academic probation. Realizing that I was not ready, or mature enough, or focused enough for the demands that college thrust upon me (or the expense), I left and got a job back home, taking time to sort out my feelings about my future.
Ultimately, I came back after some time passed. Many of my initial friends had left; most of my classmates were unable to go out with me when I turned 21. Meanwhile on Facebook, I’d see other people who I grew up with graduating on time, slightly bumming me out.
Today though, I realize that taking that time out to reflect and consider my future is what helped me become the successful and driven student and professional I am now. I also quickly learned that I was not alone. Many other people had taken time off, went to school part-time, transferred and lost some credits, or any variation of not being able to graduate “on time.”
And what does that mean? While I’m ecstatic to know I’ll never have to deal with an 8 a.m. class at SCAD ever again, the point is that I made it and am all the wiser for it.
I may not have been “on time,” but at least I did it on “my time.”Contact Daniel Alvarez.