Finals week is a time of extremes. Many students are stressed to the max as they reluctantly sacrifice their social lives to manage final papers and exams. On the other extreme, there are the students that just turned in their last paper at which point they crank their music, open their favorite beverage and embrace their new found freedom. During finals week, these two extremes exist side by side; some are at the pinnacle of exhaustion and struggle while others are at the pinnacle of excitement and jubilation. It is often only a couple days or hours that separate the two groups of people, yet they rarely possess the ability to empathize.
Graduation is also a time of extremes, but for different reasons. The difference between those done and not done with finals is no longer the cause for the division, because seniors would have to care about finals in order for finals to have any affect on their attitude or behavior. The division among seniors is between those who know what they are doing next year and those who don’t. The chasm between the two is probably wider than that between those who are or are not done with finals. When having the conversation about the million dollar question (probably more accurately named the negative $30,00 dollar question) “What are you going to do next year?” those with a plan and those without a plan differ drastically.
Those with a plan enthusiastically talk about it. Those with jobs lined up find a way to sneak the details of their benefits package into the conversation. Those with volunteer plans make sure to explain how exciting and powerful their experience is going to be. On the other hand, those without specific plans tell an awkward joke or change the subject as others observe with pity. Saying “I don’t know” is like admitting to having the plague. Those listening don’t know if they should quarantine you due to fear of contagion or just run away.
As with the finals situation, the difference between those with plans and those without plans is often just a couple days. One phone call carries a person from one group to the other, at which point that person becomes the one in charge of managing the quarantine. The absurdity of the large chasm between these two groups of people is highlighted by how quickly a person can move from one group to the other.
We probably place too much emphasis on what people are going to do. The more important question should be, “Who are you going to be and how are you going to treat people?” Your quality of life is determined by the quality of your interactions with other people. Regardless of if you know what you will be doing next year, you should have a plan about what kind of person you want to be and how you are going to treat people. As we move forward, treating people well and having meaning in your life will serve as the true divider.