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Friday, February 03, 2023

Graduation should be a time of celebration, not self-deprecation

It’s that time of the year again: graduation season. Our social-media timelines are flooded with photos of painted square caps and statuses from friends raving about what an incredible journey the last four years have been.

Now that commencement is in full swing, Gator graduates and current students alike are being forced to face a rather harsh reality: Life beyond college is real, and it’s imminent.

I’ll let you in on a secret, the future is a scary place for everyone, and anyone who says otherwise is lying. A number of opportune scholars recently walked across the stage knowing full well that the diploma they were being handed would soon be hanging on the wall of a cushy office, or at least a well decorated cubicle, in just a few weeks. Other graduates ambled across the threshold of commencement, unsure what the future would hold for them.

Although the graduates are the ones getting ready to face the harsh reality of life after UF, onlooking students, such as myself, develop their own anxieties during this time.

Society administers an unspoken division between graduates around this time. At high-school graduation, we were taught to think that the students who were accepted to college were the successful ones, while those who were planning on staying at home or continuing a job in their hometown were meant to be seen as failures.

As college comes to a close, we are programed to have a similar mindset. There are those who are successful and have jobs lined up months before they are even handed their diplomas. There are those who have failed because they have no idea what they are doing past their Midtown bar crawl after the ceremony.

As a bystander in the grandeur of graduation, we subconsciously determined and judged how successful our fleeting friends are, or were going to be. As we did this, we all began to measure the level of our own success. Am I doing enough to ensure my future? Will I have a job when I graduate? Is it really that bad to graduate and still be on the hunt for a job? These are the types of questions that ran through current students’ minds as we watched our friends leave and become Gator graduates.

After plenty of contemplation and stressful thinking about my own future, it occurred to me that it does not and should not matter whether you have a plan.

As members of the Gator Nation, we work our butts off. We go to one of the best schools in the nation, and getting accepted, let alone graduating, is a huge honor in itself. We have a lot to be proud of whether we know what our future holds.

It is apparent to me that people have lost the sense of celebration that should accompany a momentous time such as graduation. We have instead begun to judge ourselves and self-deprecate to an unhealthy level.

It is completely normal to not know what you are going to do the minute you are handed your diploma. Sure, some people do, and that is great for them. However, not knowing is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not make you a failure or mean that you should be any less proud of yourself during this incredible time in your life.

There are a lot of factors that go into finding a job. The amount of time it takes you to get hired varies between career fields and is nothing to be ashamed of or worried about.

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I hope those graduating and those creeping closer to their own final days are able to enjoy their accomplishments and reject the societal pressure to group themselves into categories of success and failure. We all have a great deal to be proud of and a great deal to look forward to in our futures.


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