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Monday, March 27, 2023

Life is in flux.

I mean that on a general level and also personal.

Life is always in motion, but for me in particular, graduation looms in less than two weeks. Graduation, as many of you are probably experiencing, will come with a lot of changes.

Apart from the "I'll never take a class again, but I feel like kindergarten was yesterday" shock, graduation for me will soon mean moving to a new city for a job. It'll mean leaving the office of the Alligator, where I've worked for a year and a half, for a position in another (much larger) newsroom. It'll mean having to live in a world where not everything is orange and blue.

And when contemplating the future of life after graduation, I found so much has happened in the past few years that I'm only realizing now.

These past few years have been about discovering that learning is more than memorizing the contents of a book. The years have been filled with lots of laughs, plenty of exciting characters (including several at the Alligator), and the struggle between parents' expectations and personal dreams that don't match up.

And sometimes - especially right now during finals week - college is just nothing but continuous stress.

But then there's the fact that college is the perfect limbo status. Being in college means growing up and taking responsibilities, but it's also a time when you still get to be a goofy kid at heart. The real world of full-time jobs and bills, bills, bills - none of which Bright Futures can help you with - is still, for most, lingering in the distance.

From the time I was a high school freshman, I had my college career planned to a "T." And I've executed that plan. The time spent executing that plan was supposed to be the time where I made my next plan - a plan for the rest of my life after college.

But it didn't happen. I hit this last semester and realized I had no real plans for life after graduation. The things I had wanted not so long ago - like a master's degree in creative writing - were things I didn't want anymore.

I remember thinking a couple of years ago that after college, I'd have all of the answers. Graduating with a probable job already in hand, I may have more security than most. But do I have all of the answers? No. If anything, I have more questions.

College has been something of a redefining time for me, as it is for many others. It's a time when people who thought they knew who they were, what made them happy and what they wanted discover they may not really know at all.

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And that's a bonding experience. You make friends with those around you because in the short term, your lives all have the same immediate goal: graduation. But the world is bigger than college, and life after graduation means confronting the fact that anyone could, and will, go anywhere and everywhere.

As a character in one of my favorite Indian films, "Dil Chahta Hai" (What the Heart Wants), expresses to his friends after graduation, "We'll soon set sail for our destinations. Our destinations might not coincide." We're friends for life, he says, but we don't know where life will take us.

Some of us have an idea where we're going and with whom; some of us have none. And that's OK.

Because, in the end, life is a series of moments, and even the best of us can't plan everything because everything inevitably changes.

To the freshmen, let me share a bit of outgoing senior knowledge: Life isn't actually something you figure out in college.

If anything, college has taught me that I can't figure out life - and that I shouldn't try.

Caitlin E. O'Conner is a journalism senior at UF. She is also copy desk chief and a blogger for the Alligator.

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