I fear the era of ripped jeans and men’s sweatpants is passing.
I’m graduating from university, but it means far more than the discontinuation of lectures. I’ll be celebrating my achievement, but at the same time, my identity is being redefined, and it is simply a weird process.
Student has been my label for the last nineteen years, and I have virtually no recollection of my own existence before then. If I am not a student, who am I? What am I? Being a student has lumped me into a social group marked by generalizations, some of which are convenient, and some decently insulting. Aside from the discounts and the lowered standards for professional dress, it is assumed that most students are impoverished, binge-drinking, promiscuous, practically starving, right-wing, stressed-out night owls who retain the right to loiter in any location offering coffee and WiFi. Glorious.
While I am excited to shed this label and its implications in favour of being recognized as an autonomous young adult, I am apprehensive about what being a non-student will really mean. I recognize that some of these fears are petty, but I can’t help but feel disconcerted when I ask myself the following questions:
1. Will I still be allowed to wear ripped jeans or men’s sweat pants in public?
2. Can I go to Admiral’s at 3am if I just really need some french fries?
3. How am I supposed to maintain my impressive procrastination skills if I don’t have assignments?
4. What will replace the group homework dates that have speckled my schedule throughout the past five years?
5. How will I cope with the drastic decrease in places I can access WiFi for free?
Labels are powerful. When I was volunteering in a Maasai village in Embakasi, Kenya this past summer, some of the village leaders approached me and said, “We think your name should be Nashipae. It means: person who is happy all the time.” A number of my Kenyan friends made a point of calling me Nashipae for the next few months. It was great because there were numerous times when I was dealing with discouragement, homesickness, and fatigue, all of which had the
power to bring me down. However, as soon as someone would call my name, I would remember to enjoy the moment and smile. Being Nashipae was a legitimate contributor to my day-to-day disposition.
One thing that has crossed my mind is that I’ll always be Becca, even if my label changes. I wonder if I’m right about that. During my student teaching placements, I’ m not Becca. I’ m Miss V. (I like peace, and peace makes a V, and that’s how you can remember). There’s a whole lot of Becca underneath that professionalism, but she’s not really allowed out all the way. My Miss V. label clothes me in dress pants and flats and forces me to keep students from telling inappropriate jokes as I inform them through various means about things like mechanical advantage and theoretical probability.
Being a student makes me feel intelligent, that I am going somewhere, and that I am excused and/or assisted in a number of different areas. This whole graduating thing is scary because I am not just graduating from a school, but from an identity. How will being a [fill in the blank] affect me?
The title of my personal blog is Little Lady in a Big World. That’s what I’ll become on April 14th: just a little lady in a big world trying to figure out how to support herself and pursue her goals.
Transition is tough. What I did not expect out of this identity shift is to empathize with recent divorcees, new parents, people who have been laid off, or folks who suddenly face a debilitating illness or injury. When these things happen, we adjust, but are we still the same people? If your label changes from husband to bachelor, girl to mom, factory worker to unemployed, healthy to dependent, or student to adult, what happens?
In January, I wrote about creating changes in our own lives as comparable to the changes that are inflicted upon us. In the end, we adjust. We make things work. It’s time to swallow my words. I can do this. (Hoo hoo hee, hoo hoo hee)
Telling you that shedding my student label doesn’t freak me out would be a lie, but like it or not, the moment is coming, and quickly at that! Non- studenthood, here I come!