Capacity for change already lies within
I always kind of assumed that at the end of my college career, I’d miraculously transform into an adult. Maybe when I graduated and got a job, or when I ate salads voluntarily and my laundry actually made it in the hamper. I had a vague image of a grown-up version of myself wearing a neatly pressed skirt and blazer, coffee in hand, striding down the street in heels like she had somewhere to be. I had my college years to figure it all out, I thought, and this magical metamorphosis was bound to happen sometime afterward.
But after only one semester, I was already frustrated with the college experience. I felt like I was trapped in limbo, going through the motions to build a decent resume along with thousands of other students, most of whom seemed to prefer spending lecture napping behind their sunglasses to taking notes. And why not? It felt like no one cared, and no one had to care. Maybe we could start giving a shit in four years, when we were all grown up, when we entered the real world.
Even when I began working at the Daily Wildcat as a copy editor my freshman year, I just thought it would be an easy way to pick up a few extra bucks to fund my new and all-consuming caffeine addiction. I came in to the office for every shift, popped my ear buds in and kept my head down as I worked away under the gloomy fluorescent lights.
But before too long, I realized that my job wasn’t just a matter of correcting a verb tense here and there and Googling a few facts — a careless mistake on my part could actually hurt someone’s reputation and livelihood, and a sharp eye could make a world of difference in how professional a piece sounded. What I was doing mattered.
As the semesters passed, I found I was surrounded by people as wholly and completely committed to the paper as I was. We attended school full-time and worked full-time, taking home an embarrassingly small paycheck, sacrificing sleep, relationships and sanity — not for a few folded pages black with newsprint, not for a line on a resume, but because we believed our work mattered. We believed we were living in the real world, then and now, and that we didn’t need to have a degree in hand to do important things.
As I head to an out-of-state law school, it feels almost wrong that I’m not overwhelmed with sadness at leaving college or terrified to face what’s next. But I think that’s because I know I’m not going out into some alien world populated with strange, responsible, grown-up creatures. Having a diploma doesn’t mean I should know how to do it all. I don’t even own an iron, to be totally honest, and I’m still not all that fond of salad. But that isn’t what makes me an adult (or not). It’s not what makes me ready for life after college.
I’m ready because I’ve learned I can take risks, make mistakes and get up again — the last part always the hardest and most important. I’ve learned I can be brave. I’ve learned anyone can be brave. And I’ve learned that all the years we have, at the UA and outside of it, are nothing more or less than what we make of them.