By Dylan Smith
The first opinion article I ever wrote for The Nevada Sagebrush was published in last year’s summer issue. In essence, it was a satirical guide to dealing with existential crises during summer vacation, purposefully abstaining from any tangible or legitimate offering of guidance. It was more of a long, drawn out, nihilistic joke that poked fun at a serious problem, rather than a legitimate attempt at discovering some form of a solution.
However, now that summer is approaching again and I will be graduating in May, I feel the need to revisit the topic, perhaps with a bit more seriousness and much more hipsterian pretentiousness.
Right now, everyone is caught up in the chaos of the semester, and it seems as though no one realizes the desert of mundanity that is dawning with the rebirth of summer. It has been the same way for me at the end of every collegiate year, with the cacophony of projects and papers that have clouded reality coming to a dead stop, as if the plug to our social and psychological lifeline has been pulled out of the academic wall without our knowledge or consent.
However, as I wrote my first opinion piece, I knew that another two semesters of abstraction would curb the inevitable, allowing for a disjointed and, admittedly, uncommitted article of fluff and fun. Now, though, that I’ve seen firsthand the causes, symptoms and consequences of a sickness that I will call Graduation Blues within the lives of my peers, an impending sense of doom has begun to creep up on me. I now realize that what I thought to be an existential crisis last summer was, in reality, a foreshadowing symptom of an untamable cerebral beast.
I first saw the effects of the Graduation Blues in a good friend of mine two years ago. He was, against all advice and counseling, a photography major, making the effects of this condition stronger. He started feeling the symptoms in the beginning of April, when he realized that he had no opportunities awaiting him at the end of the symbolic graduation tunnel. I spent many hours with him, traveling from one dark bar to another, as he lamented missed opportunities and professional decisions, regretting his inability to take part in the revelry most people experience in leaving university. Seeing this sickness in an otherwise blissful friend acted as a catalyst to my own knowledge, bringing the malady into view.
But, as I would later find, the Graduation Blues is not a specific condition. It doesn’t just show in liberal arts majors, but fans out through all majors and degrees like a psychological plague. I recently saw it in a friend of mine who majored in physics.
Although he left school with a job at a startup company, making enough money to sustain and give himself promise, the transition out of the traditional academic world annihilated him in a fundamental way. It is, then, less a matter of hope or promise that causes Graduation Blues, but a trauma brought on by a shift in habits, illustrating a dependency on the collegiate lifestyle.
I have also seen the effects of this illness in people I do not know on a personal level: I’ve seen it in the 28-year-old car salesman who still vomits behind The Wal on Thursday nights, in the graduate clinging to those last few credits years after walking toward the diploma or in the decade-and-a-half-super-senior who, against all odds, is still jaunting through campus, successfully integrating himself into social circles of people nearly half his age.
To that end, there are people who, in groups of thousands, flock to the academic pedestal that has been built for them. These people will never see the darkness brought on by the Graduation Blues, and will be very comfortable sitting down at an expensive desk with their diplomas, never truly realizing the weight that is being held by their long-lost peers. These are the lucky ones, the majority that will fit within the strong statistics of a national promise, executing the transition from student to professional with relative ease.
The whole thing makes more sense to me now, as graduation approaches. In my five years of college, I have successfully worked for three separate student-run publications, believing myself to be deeply embedded within legitimate constructs of journalism and literature. I have, albeit in delusion, become comfortable living the lifestyle provided to me by these opportunities and have yet to come to terms with life in their impending absence. Although my resume is strong because of these opportunities, it will be the drastic, unrelenting movement away from academic life that will leave me hanging in a noose of unimportance and crisis.
Now, if this article has seemed hyperbolic and hidden behind pseudo-intellectual phrasing, it is because it very much has been. This piece has most likely been my first real sign of the Graduation Blues. I do not have a call to action. I do not have some insightful, rallying declaration that is meant to bring people together. There is no hope in my platitude. All I ask, as I step out of the campus life sunlight with the class of 2015, is for the young students who are free from these jarring symptoms to pat our shadows on the back. It won’t be long until you hear the cyclical call, too.
Dylan Smith studies marketing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.