Opinion: Mixed Feelings That Come With Graduating From College

Graduating college can be a scary, yet exhilarating time in ones life.

Kainoa Enos

Graduating college can be a scary, yet exhilarating time in one’s life.

On Monday, Dec. 6, my academic career of 17 years will be officially over.

For some, graduating from college could be considered the best time of their lives. But for others, it could be terrifying. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little anxious for this drastic change. But I feel like I’m ready for this new chapter in my life. I’m greeting it with a beaming smile and open arms. I’m ready to step out into the real adult world.

I’ve always enjoyed school, but once I hit my final year of college, I couldn’t stop thinking about life after graduation, particularly about getting my first “big girl” job and being independent. But it hasn’t been all rainbows and roses as I’ve prepared for this moment. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to reach this goal. I put my social life and personal goals on the back burner to be successful in the classroom and on the softball field. It was hard work, emotionally and mentally exhausting at times, but so well worth it. I graduated from Chaminade in May 2021 cum laude with my bachelor’s degree in Communications with an emphasis in Mass Media (I had to return to the university after graduating to complete three more classes during the Fall 2021 semester to finish my degree).

Graduating college has been my number one goal in life as a student-athlete, but now that I have attained that goal, I was surprised with how hard I got hit with feelings of loss and grief. I thought that I would be jumping for joy when I went to meet my parents after the graduation ceremony, but I couldn’t help but feel emotional and sad. I’ll be leaving behind friends and the familiarity of a structured college life. I’ve never known anything different. 

I am not alone in regards to these feelings.

“I was just like ‘hey, well, this is it,’ and I’ll go on with my life,” said Kainoa Enos in an interview six months after his graduation from Chaminade. “It didn’t really hit until maybe after a couple weeks afterwards where you would usually be getting ready for the next semester and I wasn’t. So it’s a weird experience that nothing ever really prepares you for and when it happens, it just happens and it’s unsettling, but it’s definitely an experience for sure.”

I’m comfortable moving forward from this chapter of my life because I made sure to stay grounded in gratitude and in the present moment while in college because I knew I would never get this special time in my life back. When I attended a community college in California for my first two years of college, I made sure to participate in everything and anything that was going on on campus. I went to sporting events, joined an honor society, and completed community service projects with friends. I wanted to soak in those two years and leave with no regrets.

That’s how I approached my time at Chaminade, maybe with a little less vigor due to “senioritis” kicking in a little early. Attending Chaminade and living in Hawaii with my sister (who also attends CUH) has been a dream. I almost feel attached to the campus and island. The thought of leaving a place I have loved and cherished for three years brings tears to my eyes. 

I know that change is inevitable and that it is the only constant in life, so this transition was coming whether I was ready for it or not. I’ve used this fall semester as a cushion for my feelings and emotions and to mentally prepare myself for the end. I feel blessed to have been able to receive an education and play softball for four years. The lessons I’ve learned through this unique experience has shaped me into who I am today. My future holds so much potential. And that’s what excites me and eradicates my negative feelings. There are so many possibilities, so many new people to meet, and so many thrilling adventures to go on.

“Don’t skip out on job interviews even before you graduate,” said Dominique Marshall, 2021 graduate from Chaminade. “Even though the excitement is like ‘oh you’re graduating,’ there’s still the aftermath, and I feel like a lot of people forget about that. … There’s a balance between enjoying your time and focusing on your future.”

My tips for anyone who is approaching the end of their academic journey is to expect a range of emotions to surface — not all of these will be happy feelings and that is completely normal. Second, tell someone else how you’re feeling. Talk to a friend, a parent, a sibling, or someone else in your life who can understand what you’re going through. Last but not least, remind yourself of your achievements and celebrate the goals you’ve reached for yourself because you’ve earned the right to be proud.