Ann Arbor is thawing. Any hint of spring-time is usually enough to send me skipping since I have been cold and bundled for too long. But this year with the rays of sunshine comes the sinking realization of the inevitable: Graduation.
Sure, the fact that I don”t have a job yet is a source of my graduation anxieties. I also don”t know where I am going to live and with whom. I am not used to this type of blindness because as students here we are forced to find housing in October for the following year. It”s February and all I know is to which city I want to move.
This lack of knowledge is actually invading my dreams. Almost every night I find myself on a different fast-moving vehicle I”ve been in a car, train, boat and plane. I”ve been on a motorcycle and a roller coaster. Each time I feel like I”m going to crash, so I have to calm myself through the ride. I assume this represents my future, which seems to be coming too fast for me to handle. I had the motorcycle dream first. I was riding late at night, and the full moon illuminated the sky and the pine trees on the side of the road. I decided it would be fun to let go of the handlebars and lean back, so I could look up at my surroundings. As soon as I let go I realized the danger I was in, and I felt sincere panic.
This panic usually does not surface in my waking hours, but I have had a couple of minor breakdowns. I think most seniors have. Of course the panic has to do in part with the who, what, when, where, why of next year, but I think it runs a little deeper than that. I”ve been thinking a lot about my potential. Isn”t that what college is, a measure of one”s potential? It”s a meter of sorts that takes into consideration grades, concentration, extra-curriculars and internships. And then, after one is used to performing in the realm of education, one is supposed to take this potential and turn it into something tangible outside of our safe Ann Arbor box. That is pressure.
Years ago, two college lads headed opposing papers, The Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Lampoon, and have lived up to their college potential. Jeff Zucker, formerly of the Crimson, was recently named NBC”s president of entertainment, presiding over his former nemesis and Lampoon president, talk show host Conan O”Brien. These two guys didn”t let their success end with Harvard.
It isn”t always so. Over winter break I ran into a number of high school friends who are graduated and living with their parents, simply waiting for an opportunity to come along. I am terrified that will be me. I read a book over break that confirmed this fear, John Kennedy Toole”s Pulitzer-prize winning “A Confederacy of Dunces.” The main character received a master”s degree only to find himself years later in his underwear, writing a manifesto riddled with complicated allusions that will never be read. He finally picks up a job as a hot dog vendor, sneering at all his undereducated customers. This book depicts what can happen when potential goes rotten.
All of these worries are enough to give a person senioritis. The average senior goes out maybe four nights a week, reasoning it”s her last time in Ann Arbor with all her college friends. But senioritis is also a deterrent to senior madness. If she wasn”t socializing, she might be spending her time dwelling on the anxieties that come with senior year. My predominant anxiety is this: What if Ann Arbor is the climax of my life?
Michigan Student Assembly President Hideki Tsutsumi has some advice on the topic. He believes himself successful at the University less because of his position than because he ran again after being defeated in 1999. He is confident this perserverant attitude will make him successful after graduation.
I find that to be a good way to measure your potential. Maybe the fact that I received a poor grade freshman year and vowed to never get one again and succeeded (well, so far) is a better indication of my potential than my actual GPA.
Until the future gets here all I have are my nightly dreams. When I finally got the courage to let go of the bike”s handlebars and lean back, my torso parallel to the ground, I looked up to fast whizzing midnight sky and tall trees and breathed deep because I wasn”t going to crash. I instinctively knew where to go.
Gina Hamadey”s column runs every other Tuesday. Give her feedback at www.michigandaily.com/forum/ or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.