Besides graduation on Saturday, I spent my last time on campus today. And for the first time in my life, I felt as though I had truly reached a sort of end. Not because of the final I blew through in 20 minutes but the time after. I've spent the last year and half as an assistant in a Psychology Lab and today I ran the last participant I would ever run and the last for that particular study; two ends then. I saved my last file, sent my last End of Shift email. I tidied up, wrote a goodbye poem on the whiteboard and walked to my car with an empty feeling in my chest. I was at the end of an era.
Graduating High School never felt that way. It was an escape, a beginning. And many things stayed very much the same. I think a lot of it had to do with staying in the same house and commuting to school. Life didn't really change except for the better. I still had my old friends except now I had even more freedom since my parents had moved out. For that matter, we all went to college together, we shared that experience. It's different now. Out of the 10 or so people in our group, less than half are graduating and things are really starting to change. I guess they have been for a while now but this was the hit to the head for me to notice. We're all changing little by little. We don't hang out as much. We have less time and more responsibilities. We're growing up.
For me, college was something like a never ending four year summer vacation. I was smart enough to coast through classes and lucky enough in financial aid to not have to wring out my hands. I mean, sure, for me school isn't ending but already Graduate School feels different in my head. I guess that's a good thing. I hear my current attitude won't cut it on that level. And it's certainly true that even I'm trying to make grownup plans. I even have a real-ish job interview on Thursday. Heck, I even need it to pan out.
I think another part of it is that the Lab I worked in was special to me. I'm already more socially awkward than I'd like. Combined with a 30 minute commute and I just never spent any time on campus. I said as much in a speech I made at a dinner we had for all our Lab mates but almost all of my college memories worth remembering are from the lab. Everyone I met in college whom I can confidently call a friend I met through the lab. And any effort or investment of time worth mentioning went into the lab. And now that it's over, it's really over. This isn't high school. I'm not going to see them over the summer or walk down the street and knock on their doors. After graduation, I probably won't see any of them ever again.
I mentioned it earlier but we had a final lab event for everyone. Dinner at Yardhouse and an after party hosted by one of us. It was a glow party and fluorescent paint abounded. By sheer coincidence I wore a white shirt to that party. I might not ever wash that shirt again.
I was a legal adult at 18 but only now do I feel any pressure to grow up. I still want to be a kid but it almost feels stupid and naive to want that. It feels as though not growing up means being left behind. But at the same time, I can barely imagine a grownup Intentions and I don't particularly like the pieces I can imagine.
But I won't be saying goodbye to my youth just yet. I know people in their 30's who swear that life doesn't change that much so I guess we'll see. Still, as of 10:30 this morning till now, the feeling feels real. But onward the wheel turns.
Whatever happens, whoever I become, I will still be me and that will have to be enough.