Reflections of a graduate

06 December 2004

Where are the crowds: Bryony McCormick ponders on graduation.

You've finished exams and framed that graduation picture for your grandmother in time for Christmas. And then the bubble bursts. Reality. Job. Responsibility. Alumnus Bryony McCormick reflects on how it feels to be caught in the middle between the halcyon days of varsity and the big, wide world.

Jammie Hall. Large, vast, romantic, cold, its interior packed to capacity with 400 concentrating students. Heads down, brains burning, hands cramping. Every now and again a head lifts... Then it's back to the exam. Back to the statistics that have caused several panic attacks. Back to the exam that's the decider; the exam that will earn them a degree. Time passes and the coldness has become comfortable. The panic has turned into human reflex and brains are churning out answers. No-one quite knows how it all works, but it does. Before anyone is ready, a stiff and unpleasant voice cuts through the silence. Twenty minutes, then five, then it's all over.

Over. Varsity is over. What now? Ever since I had capacity to think, to comprehend the world, well, my world, I have wanted to live this day. I relived it time and again. I have changed the plot, the career, the setting, the weather and the company...

And there I was at the end of an era, the end of Part One. As I walked out of the hall I expected something - a rush of emotions, balloons, streamers, maybe a band. There was nothing. I was emotionless, in a void.

I walked down the stairs, found a crowd and stopped. People, faces, noises, voices - everything was happening around me. Champagne, open it - get excited. You've finished, wow, what are you going to do now? I laughed and acted excited. But inside a vast emptiness of nothing. I didn't have the capacity to handle the feeling, the thought. Not just yet. I had finished a part of my life that I had known for 21 and a half years, a part that was comfortable, a part with direction. I could dream about my future and all the things I wanted to achieve. I could change my mind, I could be carefree, I could dance and I could laugh at the world. But I wasn't just finished varsity, I was finished being a child. Instead of asking: what am I going to do today, I had to ask: what am I going to do with my life?.

First, I had to want to be something. Panic, heart attack, ummmmmm, don't know.

I walked. I also cried. I got excited. I talked to my parents and my boyfriend. I looked in magazines. I thought and I got serious. I got my hopes up, I got my hopes crushed. I got sad and fell into a whirlpool with no direction, I thought, but down. And then after a heavy chat with my mom - my best friend - and my boyfriend, I got proactive. I phoned a couple of people, got forwarded to someone and I'm now sitting and writing this story off my own work computer at my own desk on my very own swivel chair at a design company, with an opportunity to write for them, get my stuff printed, like a copywriter. I can wear funky clothes; I can put my cereal in the fridge. I can meet people for lunch.

Just like that, my foot is in. Just like that, I'm starting the transition. And most importantly, just like that, I'm back on my feet and happy.

And - it feels good.

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