For the past four years, I have been preparing myself for May 21. I know I’m not alone when I say that.

Being a senior has opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. I mean, I knew it was there, but I never knew what it looked it or how it’d make me feel. For the past eight months I’ve grown from a scared, young girl into the woman that’s ready for the next big step – graduating college.

The reason, I feel, that graduating is so scary is because life after college is a mystery. For the first time in our entire lives, there isn’t a set path. Though college isn’t for most people, it has more or less become the “thing to do” after you get your high school diploma.

After college, there is no “thing to do.” There’s no right or wrong answer. Some people might suggest graduate school – get it over with while you still have the drive to learn in you – while others suggest going straight to the work force – get a job while you can. Either option is as good as the other, but the fact that we have to decide which to choose is overwhelming and somewhat terrifying. (Don’t get me wrong, though. I have friends that are choosing none of those paths.

Some people choose to travel the world or do the one thing they’ve always wanted to do before settling down to any sort of commitment. That option, which is probably the ballsy-est one, is just another of the infinite paths we can take.)

Fortunately, I’m one of the lucky ones who figured out what they are doing after college – well, almost. I chose to continue my education. In August I’ll be starting graduate school. But, what I’m doing between graduating and then is beyond me.

You would think I had it all figured out, but after last Wednesday, I realized that as graduation gets closer, I get more terrified.

On that day, which was the graduation salute for all seniors, it finally hit me that I’m graduating. I knew it this whole time. We all did. But, this was the first time that it really hit me.

Wearing the cap and gown, taking my portrait, talking about senior weekend and just being in that atmosphere does something to you when you’re a senior. Looking back, the atmosphere was pretty ironic – tons of seniors, the oldest and wisest students on campus (at least, we’re expected to be), scrambling from table-to-table being told what to do, which table to go to or what medal we are supposed to wear. We, the know-it-alls, knew nothing… but, just for a moment. And, quite frankly, that moment was all it took for me.

For four years I’ve been looking forward to graduating. Hell, ever since I became part of the graduating class of ’09, I was counting down the days to when that changed to the graduating class of ’13.

As soon as the ball dropped on New Year’s, as it did in 2009, I thought to myself, “This is our year.” We are the class of 2013 and we’ve known that for almost our whole lives. Yet, the graduate salute, which was meant to prepare me for graduation, made me realize I have no idea what I’m doing.

On that day, thoughts flooded through my mind: “Am I seriously graduating;” “Holy crap, I forgot how much I hated these caps;” “What if I trip walking to get my diploma;” “Do we even walk to our diploma;” “What if my portraits suck;” “Of, course my portraits are going to suck;” “I wonder who I’m going to sit next to at graduation;” “Where’s the post-graduation party;” “I should book a room in AC, ASAP;” “Wait… I’m really graduating.” Needless to say, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.
But, you know, feeling this way is completely normal. I bet every senior reading this agrees with me – May 21 is a day we can’t wait for but are, at the same time, terrified of.

Though the graduation salute got my nerves going, it also got me excited.

In one month this will all be over. Though sad, it’s what we came here to do, right? To graduate. All of the hard work we put into the past four years will finally be recognized in front of our friends and families. And, for me, this will be in my hometown of East Rutherford, just minutes away from where I received my diploma four years ago.
This is what we’ve all been waiting for.

Yes, it’s scary. But it’s supposed to be.

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