Today, my mom asked me if I wanted to tune into the graduation ceremony. I said, “Not really.”
At 7 PM today, the college graduation ceremony began. Most of my friends described their graduation ceremonies as bittersweet. I think graduation ceremonies are tedious. Thankfully, virtual attendance at mine is optional.
It is an ending, I suppose. I called a friend today, and he felt as if a large chapter in his life had ended. I nodded along, but I don’t really share his sentiment. In A Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes, a retired man reflects on a college friendship and felt regretful about some actions he took while in a state of anger. I don’t find this relatable at all. I don’t ever remember being really angry during college. All I remember was feeling very sad and empty. That was most of what the past four years were to me.
My therapist said that he doesn’t remember what his college experience was like, and I hope it will be the same for me. For some reason, I am doubtful. I still remember details from when I was less than two years old. In fact, I have an abundance of those memories. In that sense, my memory is quite good at remembering details about my life. Sometimes, this is good. I am able to recall random details from conversations I had years ago. But, most of the time, this means I am stuck wallowing in negative memories, wishing my memory wasn’t as good as it was. I heard heavy drinking is good at erasing memories. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to do that in college.
I hope in a year or two, I’ll forget all about what happened in the past four years. At least, that’s what I hope. It is the only thing that’ll allow me to move forward with my life. I’ll remember it all at once in the next month or two when I am writing down my memories to redeem my college experiences, and then I’ll try to forget about it for the rest of my life.
Gratitude. A lot of people are feeling it. But the things is, I don’t feel the same gratitude that they do. They feel grateful for their experiences in college. They feel grateful for the friends that they have made and the conversations they have had and the memories they will cherish. I feel a different gratitude. I feel grateful for college to be cut so short. I feel grateful that I didn’t have to spend the last couple months of college trying to fit in the experiences I did not have for the past four years. I know that I probably won’t be able to finish college strongly, so it’s more peaceful for me not to even have that opportunity. As people lament about all the experiences that they didn’t have in college, I am grateful that I will never have the opportunity to know.
My friend described it as “leaving everything in the race.” College is like a 5k run, and COVID-19 is like stopping the race when you are 100 meters from the finish line.
I remember when I did cross-country in high school, that last couple of meters was the stretch where I could no longer control my legs. They seemed to move on their own, and the only thing that constrained me was my balance and breathing. But this is different. I am not into this race. I do not care about winning or finishing for that matter. I just want to stop running. I have wanted to stop running for a long time.
It was fairly late in my college experience where I made this realization. I entered college with a sprint, as everyone else does at the beginning of long-distance running. I went in with the mentality that I wanted to accomplish as much as possible while redeeming the shitty experience I’ve had in middle and high schools with a vibrant social life. Yet, even in the beginning, everyone raced ahead of me. It wasn’t that I got left behind; it was I entered a race in which I did not know how to run. And, similar to going to a party where you don’t know anyone, it becomes abundantly clear in the first couple of minutes whether you will thrive or not. If you make good conversation, then the rest of the night will be good. If you do not, then all are doing is waiting for the first opportunity to quietly. exit. Guess whether or not I enjoyed this party.
When I ascertain the value of my college experience, I can’t help but genuinely believe that it was not a good experience.
In The Geneology of Morals, Nietzsche assigned value as a function of comparison. When I think about my college experience, I compare it to the college experiences of others. And, when I am constantly exposed to others who have had great college experiences — who did not want college to end the way they did — I cannot help but value my college experiences as lesser than theirs. I simply did not generate the same vitality out of it. Their experiences are full of happiness and novelty. Their experiences were true to themselves. Mine was not.
For sure, I tend to surround myself with friends who have had good college experiences. I don’t know why I do that. I tend to date a lot of sad people, so maybe I just end up dating everyone sad I meet. The happy people are just people I enjoy spending time with but don’t really relate to. But, with these happy friends, they always talk about how they are going to miss the people they have met and the communities they have formed. I nod along because I am not dumb enough to contradict them and let loose my negative feelings. But, inside, I feel profoundly alienated from this sentiment. Unlike them, I have nothing to leave behind. At any point in my undergraduate experience, I could have died, and I wouldn’t think too much about it.
Once, in the past, my friend told me that he thought a lot about death and time. When I asked them why he thought about that, he told me that he found it fascinating how in one moment you can be in existence, and then in another moment you can be out of existence.
It is a cool thought. I never thought that much about death. Even though a lot of philosophers think about death, I think it’s the one concept that I have actually dedicated no thought towards understanding. It does not scare me that at any moment, I can get a brain aneurysm and fall out of existence. I spent most of my life fantasizing about my death. Falling out of existence is basically all that I want to do in life. I just want to disappear and never come back. I mean that quite literally. I think it was the worst in high school, when I would devise methods (for fun) of how to commit suicide. But, since I have life instincts as well, it takes the fun out of dying. You can’t have sex when you are dead.
I’m sure this will be the last reminder of my college experience in quite a while. There are no graduations left in the future that will remind me of my time as an undergraduate. Assuming there aren’t any reminders that I cannot filter out with my defense mechanisms, this is probably the last time I’ll be sad about my lackluster college experience. I hope that’s true.
Guess I’ll die.