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Opinion

As commencement draws closer, questions raised about future happiness

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November 30, 2016

Is life better after college graduation? It’s a question that has been kicking around in my head lately, and I feel the need to discuss it with myself through the medium of a college newspaper column.

It’s a difficult column to write, and frankly, a challenging question to answer. On the surface, the question can be taken in an endless amount of directions, including questions of financially stability, personal health and even racial difficulties. For the purposes of this column, I’ll stick to the basic hopes and, more importantly, fears of a student nearing the almighty “light at of the tunnel.”

I asked a friend this question recently and, with one part defeat and one part sarcasm, he replied, “One can only hope.” I think hopeful is a more than fair way to describe how most college seniors feel right now, even if that hope is, at times, unfounded.

It’s no secret to anyone in my friend group or in my family that I have a countdown on my phone. With a black background and white lettering, numbers tick down closer and closer to zero under a heading that practically shouts “GRADUATION.” At the time of this writing, I have about 165 days, 18 hours and 16 minutes left until I can walk across that stage and officially be declared a “well educated man with a bright future.” So what does that bright future entail, and does it actually mean a better experience after four of the most stressful years of my admittedly not-so-stressful life?

Maybe I’ll actually have a few more pennies in the piggy bank, and I’ll have more time to finish that series on Netflix. I might actually be able to exercise and maybe even get a few more matches on the old Tinder machine. But will I be happier than I am right now? Honestly, I’m not that happy right now, and nearly every bit of me wants to believe that will change the moment this is all over. All of my post-graduation friends look so happy on their Facebook photos. But I’m beginning to wonder if they’re any happier now than they were two years ago. My friends still don’t have a lot of money, they still live busy lives and they most likely have many of the same fears as they did while in school.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last semester wondering how life will be come spring commencement and dreaming about how perfect my life and my mindset will be once I take the big jump. Through all of this wishful thinking however, I realized that right now, I might just be as happy as I’ll ever be. When I’m an alumnus of this university, I’ll be the same amount of happy I am as now.

I was happy to some degree in high school, but near the end of my senior year, I couldn’t wait to experience the wonderful joys of college. Four years later, I’m unsatisfied and looking for something new. The goal after college shouldn’t be to live happily ever after but instead to realize that there’s plenty to be happy about right now so embrace it.

Or maybe it will get better and my pessimism is overshadowed by the opportunities and successes that wait. If life does get better after graduation and success finds me, I hope I remember that rainy day in late November where the next step felt hours away.

Matthew Clark is a junior journalism student. Besides being the music director at WRFW and the circulation manager at the Student Voice, Clark has become an accomplished musician, performing with the likes of Chicago and Daughtry. He has also contributed to a few movie soundtracks.