I'm graduating Saturday. That's exciting. I somehow managed to get my thesis finished and complete all my courses. I'm done.
So of course, I'm sitting around frantically planning the next stages of my life. Applying for jobs, looking for housemates so I can have a place to live, et cetera.
But this is also a time of reflection. Four years of ups and downs, ins and outs and sometimes a few loop de loops. My time at Shimer has been an adventure, both academically and personally.
IIT folk who find out I'm graduating keep asking me what I'm going to do with my life, what kind of job I'll get with a degree from Shimer. My family keeps wondering if I've even learned anything useful.
But besides all the philosophy, the critical and analytical thinking skills, and the increased ability to articulate myself (though I've admittedly still got a long way to go), I've learned something so unexpected and so incredibly important. Something that I don't think anyone expects to get out of college.
I learned how to be happy.
Somewhere between the terror and struggle of my first semester and the chaotic, desperate last stretch of my final year, I learned how to be happy. And not just how to be cheerful. I had that down from the start. I'm talking about real, deep-down happiness, an ability to take whatever Life, the Universe, and Everything decides to throw at you next and just run with it. How to make the best of it. How to not get too caught up in what might have been, in how things aren't going the way I want them to, and to just smile, accept the way things are, and keep chugging along. I've learned how to take a step back, decide what's truly important, and chase that instead of what I've always been told I ought to be chasing.
I've learned to be my own person, and I've learned to love that person.
I've learned how to never, ever give up. How to face each day with determination, and how to turn obstacles into opportunities. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or says anymore. I'm not here for them. I'm here for me.
Happiness. It's simultaneously simple and the most complicated achievement. I've worked hard for it, without ever realizing that's what I was working towards.
When I tell people the most important thing I learned at college, they are often surprised. I have to laugh. Maybe if more people tackled college as a means for personal growth, they'd get something similar out of the time and effort spent. For me, college was never about preparing for a career or a shiny diploma. It was about growing as a human being. And that's exactly what I did. Happiness was just a part of that, but in the end, I think it was the most important.
After all, a life well lived is one in which happiness takes an active role. At least, that's what I think.
This is Sara, signing out for the last time on the Shimer blog. It's time for me to embark on the next Great Life Adventure.