Back in high school, I used to count down the days until summer vacation, much like a prisoner making tally marks on the cinder blocks of his cell.
When the bell rang on the final day, I had a yearly tradition of racing home and blaring “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper at an appropriate wall-shaking decibel level.
Summer was kind of like a work-release program; a time when it was possible to make some meager money by flipping burgers or stocking shelves. I knew I’d only have a few months of freedom before the school bus would start showing up again at zero-dark-thirty every morning, but that made sleeping until noon all the more enjoyable.
I don’t count down the days until summer anymore, though.
In fact, every time I look at a calendar and see the dwindling number of days left in the semester, I feel a certain sense of dread.
I’ve spent 19 of my 24 years as a “student.” Now, I’m about to graduate and be let loose into the “real world.” Sometimes, I wonder if I should just get another degree.
A Ph.D. would guarantee me a five-year stretch at another institution, and Uncle Sam would continue to lend me money to cover my room and board.
As much as I complain about college life, there’s a certain level of predictability and security that comes with it. Professors tell you what to do, and you do it. Advisers tell you which classes to take, and you take them.
I hear the “real world” moves pretty fast nowadays, and that terrifies me.
By the time the summer ends, people will expect me to find a real job. Eventually, they’ll expect me to buy a real house, find a real wife and have some real children. If I don’t succeed, I’ll be doomed to wander the streets as a vagrant or, worst-case scenario, work at Wal-Mart.
I’ve made a lot of great friends and connections while in college, but I know I’ll never see most of them again after I take that long, lonely walk from Anspach Hall to Lot 22 for the last time on May 2.
Maybe that’s what I’m dreading most; I guess I’ll just miss my friends.
But, time marches forward, and I guess it’s time for me to accept that I will no longer be Central Michigan University Student ID #369**8.
My release from academia has been looming for a long time, and I don’t want to be a lifer who dies while pursuing his 11th doctorate degree.
I’ll soon be a free man, even if my destiny is uncertain. If all else fails, maybe I’ll hop a Megabus and head down to Zihuatanejo.