I Just Completed College during Quarantine. What do I do now?

By: Talia Spiegel

It’s a confusing feeling, turning in your last final, alone in your bedroom, and the only person to high five is yourself. There’s no other students, huffing as they exit the classroom after being screwed, brutally may I add, by that final to commiserate with you. There’s no sunny campus to remind you of why you worked so hard to get here, no feeling of an empty backpack after you return your books, no margarita waiting for you at the nearby bar with your friends. There is my childhood bedroom. The bedroom that I lived in when I graduated high school four years ago. I slept in that bed that night, and tonight I will sleep in it again. It’s like coming full circle, but something is wrong.

I’m not supposed to be here.

I should be in my overpriced apartment, pretending like I know how to make it on my own, with the worries of my parents thousands of miles away. But instead of drinking cheap wine with my best friends, I am drinking alcohol that I couldn’t afford on my own, clinking glasses with my parents, reminding me that yes, this is nice, but no, this isn’t how it should be. I’m grateful to have a home to live in, parents who care for me, and also buy nice alcohol, but my college experience was about fending for myself, learning to be an adult, and if drinking 5-dollar wine with your friends doesn’t teach you resilience and gratitude, then what does?

I turned in my last final and then I cried. Not because I’m old, without a job, and utterly terrified, but because I just put in four years of hard work to sit in my bedroom and stare at the wall, dismissing everything I went through to not end up here. I traveled across the country to attend college, to distance myself from what was comfortable and indulge in the unknown. Yes, my anxiety had a definite impact on my spontaneity, but thousands of miles away from home, I was able to create a version of myself that was the same when I was alone and when I was with others. I was able to go to work, make my own money, and impulsively spend it, only having myself to hold accountable. I learned how to think in a way that I wouldn’t have. I was able to put my big kid hat on, and leave it on, only taking it off when I used Capri Sun as a chaser because a little nostalgia is okay.

But now I’m home. And my big kid hat has been lost in the mess of my childhood bedroom, filled to the brim with things I used to live for, but now forget why they were so important. And I try to put that hat back on, I try to be that adult I want to be around my parents, but when I’m thrown back into an environment that resembles childhood, it’s hard for me be that way, and it’s hard for my parents to see me that way. When I’m thousands of miles away, my parents have to trust me with my decisions, without seeing me make them. But here, as my parents are the only people I have seen in two months, no decision is purely my own. I find it hard to be the big kid hat-wearing, adult, woman, person that I want to be when the environment I’m in is screaming for me not to be.

I used to stumble into my apartment at 2 in the morning, laughing, sometimes crying, over the night, and leaning on a box of mac and cheese for emotional support. But now, now I lie awake in the bed once slept in for 18 years, staring at the ceiling as Netflix plays in the background, missing how easy it was to fall asleep and how much I took it for granted.

I just finished college. I just got my degree in a major that I am still not confident was the right one. But alas, it’s done. And now, I graduate. And on a day that I would have spent with my family regardless, I’m grateful to be with them, but I wish we weren’t here.

I wonder what it would feel like if things happened the way they were supposed to.