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No one prepared me for life pre-grad

On a rainy August morning, the arrival of my senior year brought me a perpetually-ticking internal clock counting down the minutes until I graduate from Miami. 

It’s like a New Year’s Eve countdown in slow motion, except I’m the only one in Times Square, and I’m chained to a lamppost and waiting for the ball to drop.

And when it drops, there’s a strong likelihood that it’s going to drop on me.

There’s a never-ending pressure to not only do everything I want to do, but to do everything I actually have to do, which includes making sure my DAR looks perfect so I can apply for graduation and figure out my post-college plans. 

And, to be fully honest, I’m shoving those responsibilities into the backseat as I try to navigate my emotional vehicle through what feels like more traffic than ever before.

And every traffic sign is alerting me that I am, in fact, graduating in less than a year. 

Watching “Legally Blonde” a couple weeks ago was unnerving. I love Elle Woods’ journey as much as anyone, but it shook me in the beginning when Elle killed the LSAT and suddenly knew what she wanted to do with her life, and then again in the film’s final moments as she graduates from law school. 

If I want to watch “Legally Blonde,” I have to watch a character metaphorically have two tassel turns. That’s wild. I can’t even process the inevitability of one. My fragile mind can’t take it right now.

Don’t even get me started on “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” — all I want to do is relive what was regarded as the peak of fifth-grade pop culture, but I know I’ll have to process some deep-seated fear of change afterwards.

And it’s not just movies. For better or for worse, music most effortlessly invades my psyche more than possibly anything. So, when I’m listening to Charli XCX tell her partner to “focus … like you tryna’ [sic] earn that diploma, do it over and over,” I feel this impending sense of urgency. 

I, too, am tryna earn that diploma. Will I fail if I’m not doing something over and over?

Obviously, it’s probably a throwaway line (albeit a creative one) in a fairly straightforward pop song. But it’s moments like Swae Lee announcing he “didn’t go to college” in Ellie Goulding & Diplo’s “Close to Me” that snap me out of any trance just by invoking the concept of higher education.

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These worries, while not debilitating, really occupied my headspace with much more power than I’d like to admit through September. But I’m a firm believer that everything happens when it’s supposed to — so it makes sense that one of my favorite artists from the past year was the force that would shock me out of my excessive anxiety.

On a hot September Saturday, two of my roommates and I drove up to Columbus to see Maggie Rogers.

Because of that trip, I was occupied for most of the weekend — I didn’t really have time or energy to get things done and fell behind on some assignments the following week.

But it was worth the hassle. 

I love music. I love the outdoors. I love seeing live music while I’m outdoors. And when it’s recent college grad Maggie Rogers telling 6,000 fans about all the moments of doubt she had in the first couple of years following her college graduation, it’s incredible.

It gets even better, in context, when literal one-with-the-Earth angel Maggie Rogers plays “Dog Years,” an incredibly well-written and sentimental track she wrote in response to her own graduation woes.

She told the sold-out crowd that the song was written while wrapping up her senior year at New York University and (despite its poignant similarities to a love song) that “Dog Years” itself is about friendship.

You bet I was having existential thoughts. You better believe every neuron was firing in my brain and resonating within the confines of my consciousness.

I already knew the song was about her college graduation, but some of the messages just didn’t hit the same until I found myself face to face with “the afterlife,” as the song puts it.

“Dog Years” details the minutiae of life in our most intimate relationships — friendships, romantic partnerships, self-focused moments of introspection — and how key it is to remember these moments and savor them before it’s too late.

It resonated hard that night. You’d think after likely over 100 listens to a song, a listener might have absorbed all of its content and messaging. 

But, I guess I should have known that true art like “Dog Years” is rife with meaning. 

The song ends with the repetition of the phrase “we will be alright.” Platitude or not, something in my gut tells me it’s not a bad idea to carry around optimistic messages to focus on when I’m losing my mind over something I can’t control.

I’ll be counting my time in dog years from here on out — and I can only hope this is the last anyone has to hear of me being overly neurotic about this.