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Feeling In Control When Graduating

Posted by Alexandra Van Rijn on

Written by Mariana Paz-Soldan 


I think it has become a theme in my writing to discussion transitions that I am facing…I’ve talked about letting go, break-ups, and my imperfections. This blog is going to be no different—and I am going to talk about a transition that I have been struggling to conceptualize for the past 3 months especially, and that is: 



I am a fourth year student at Queen’s University. I have amazing friends, an amazing job, and I am ultimately so blessed to love my school as much as I do. It has given me a home, people to love, and unforgettable experiences. It is where I have found my voice and my passions. It is so good, that the thought of losing it is so hard for me to think about. 


However, recently I have been viewing graduation as a loss, and I am not sure why that is. Graduation is a celebration of accomplishments; it is a milestone of all the hard work that you did to get to where you are. A university degree is by all means, something to be proud of. On the other hand, graduation means stepping outside of my comfort zone again. It means attempting to find a new home, more friends. I am again forced to make decisions on what to do in my life…and honestly, I’m not really sure what I really want my life to look like yet. Graduation is uncomfortable, and if you are someone like me, who loves perfection, planning and organization, then you might understand why what I am about to tell you next, is hard. 


I am taking a year(s) off from doing more school. This was a super hard decision to make, but ultimately one that I am learning to be more excited about. I didn’t feel ready to jump into more school. I wanted to focus on my own personal development and myself by developing more self-love, compassion and kindness. This means, that I am currently planning what I want the next year(s) to look like. 


I think the reason graduation is so scary is because there are usually so many unknowns associated with it.  So, I think the essential question to ask is this: 

 How can we reframe graduation to feel like it is more in our control? 

I think the answer to this is going to look a little differently for everyone. I am going to share my example of how I am making graduation feel better for me. It is something that I recently came up with, but as soon as I did, I knew it was the right thing to do. 


I have decided to make a bucket list of all the things I want to do and all the people I want to see before I leave Kingston. The list isn’t very long, but the items on the list will hopefully give me the closure that I am desperately seeking to feel okay to leave my university home. I have also decided to make a list of all the things I want to do in my year off, I think it is important to share because it is what is getting me excited for the next year. Making both is important, one gives me closure and the other shows me that I can still be me without my university. That may be a weird thing to say, but that is my biggest insecurity about leaving: losing who I have become and my fire for who I want to continue to be. I’m scared it will affect my mental health. 


So this is my bucket list and my future list: 


Operation Bucket List 2017: Leaving Queen’s Edition 

1. Take one HUGE photo with all of your friends in front of the Queen’s Sign to take with you wherever you go 

2. Wake up to see the sunrise at the pier with close friends 

3. Take time seeing friends that you might not regularly cross paths with in the next couple years (go on coffee dates, ice cream, etc.) These conversations will mean everything to you 

4. Walk around campus and reflect on memories that happened—write them down so you don’t forget 

5. Laugh about the things that you still feel upset about—it is really time to leave them behind 

6. Go to all your favorite places in Kingston, take a new friend every time you go to a new place (This will help you complete #2) 



Operation Personal Development: What I have always wanted to do and now am going to commit to doing it!!!!! 

1. Go to Australia (to work and visit my family) 

2. Learn to play the guitar 

3. Research what programs I would like to study to eventually work in the social services industry 

4. Write everyday (write that book idea that you have always wanted to) 

5. Get your SafeTALK Training—continue to make an impact on something you find so important 

6. Practice Yoga every. damn. day. 

7. Take a positive psychology course 

8. Relish in your time, learn new things and connect with new people through kindness and empathy 


So, that’s that.

I will keep you updated on how this bucket list goes, but remember if you are in the same boat as me, you are not alone. Yes, graduation is so scary, but there are people around you who want to talk to you about it. Reach out to them. We are entering the next chapter of our lives, and that chapter is adventure. 


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