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I’ve recently had a major obsession with cherry Pepsi. I like to pour it in a glass, over ice, with a straw. I swear, it tastes so much better when you drink it with a straw. Today, like all days, I went down to the garage to grab myself a cherry Pepsi. I came back up, took a glass out of the cabinet, some ice from our freezer, and poured. The crack of the can mixed with the sound of carbonation settling into my cup continues to bring me joy every time. It was exactly the thing that I needed in order to sit down and jump into some homework. 

At the kitchen island, I took my laptop out of its sleeve and booted up Blackboard. I starred at the pages of syllabi from each of my classes and pondered over some of the assignments. The smile I got from my first sip slowly faded while reading through requirements. Back to school. Again. 

This is my final semester of undergrad— supposed to be. Before winter break, I met with my advisor to make my spring schedule. 

“I’m looking at your credits, Maria, and it seems like you’re actually six short of finishing this May.” 

I started to dig my nails into my thighs, hard, trying to wake myself up from some crazy hallucination. Six credits? How the in the world am I missing six credits? 

“Well, isn’t there some sort of winter class I can take to fill the spot?” I pleaded, “Or one in the Spring?” The denim began to seep under my fingernails. I knew I was no longer dreaming; I was having a nightmare. 

“Unfortunately, those six credits need to be filled by two more writing workshops. There are no workshops held over the winter semester, nor do I suggest putting another workshop class into your spring schedule,” he explained. “Maybe, we could investigate a summer course and an independent study? That way you wouldn’t need to come back in the fall for undergrad. You’d probably be able to start your masters.” 

Guess that’s better than graduating next winter, I thought, trying to hide the look of disappointment beating off my cheeks. 

After starring at Blackboard for about twenty minutes, I decided to check my inbox. Sure, there was homework I could be doing, projects I could be starting and unfinished projects that were desperately awaiting an ending, but procrastination was my only friend now. 

I pulled one of my legs up to my chest, a stander position I take while sitting on the kitchen stool. A position of focus. It’d been weeks since I’ve checked out my school inbox, not since before break. I scrolled through endless university alert now messages, notifications from Blackboard, and countless LinkedIn requests before stopping at one particular email from the registrar’s office. 

You have been approved to walk at the Commencement Ceremony on May 12th.

I adjusted my glasses and rubbed my eyes, the same way they do in the movies or silly cartoons. I’ve heard about students walking at graduation before finishing all their credits. I knew I would probably be one of those people, but before this email, it never actually felt real.

Congratulations on achieving this milestone in your academic career! 

There it was, in print. I’m going to walk in May. I’m going to graduate in August. This is all finally happening. I would soon be finished with my degree, finished with undergrad, finished with it all. And then what?

Fear began to set in as I let my mind wander through the possibilities of the next few months. May feels so far away but I know it will come quicker than I anticipate. Grad school, internships, a real job. Where was everything going? Where was I going? My biggest fear is what is unknown. Failure professionally. Personally. Fear that all of this would someday be for nothing. 

Soon, I will be onto a new chapter in my life. Soon, I will be embarking on a new step. Like we all often do. No matter what the milestone may be, there is fear that lies deep within it. There is fear that things may not go the way we intend. The way we planned. 

I starred at the email for a little while longer, before feeling a brush up against my left leg followed by a soft meow. I got off my stool to attend to the needy feline circling around my feet. I walked over to the snack cabinet to grab him a little treat. 

“We’re graduating Blu. Soon.”