My quarter-life crisis

Michelle Johnson,

After five and half years of taking classes, I will finally graduate from college in June. I’m excited, and I can see the finish line as I complete this chapter in my life. However, despite my excitement, I’m also stressed, anxious and uncertain of what’s to come for me.

On June 10, I will join other graduates onstage on the track field, where the graduation ceremony takes place every year at Cal State East Bay. I’ll wear my cap and gown, stand and wait for my name to be called and cross that stage proudly. I’ll join my fellow grads in a separate Educational Opportunity Program graduation with other first-generation and low-income students. I’ll also take part in “Black Grad,” a celebration of African American graduates here. After all official ceremonies are over, I will celebrate this occasion with family and friends.

But first, I have to make it through these last five months. I made it this far with the hope that my last two quarters would be smooth and fly by fairly quickly, but that’s not the case. Trying to complete these last courses coupled with the anxieties of life is driving me nuts.

This winter quarter started off a little rough when a death in the family derailed my back-to-school flow and marked the beginning of a stressful road toward graduation.

I’m also stuck with a terrible schedule that makes the balance between school and work barely tolerable. As a BART commuter from Richmond, normally I would try to take classes only two or three days a week to reduce transportation costs. But since I only have a few classes left, I can’t be picky on the days and times a course is offered, so I’m on campus four days a week. That extra day and extra $10 to commute makes a big difference physically and financially.

I’m a communications major and we write… a lot. Many of my writing courses are lumped into this current quarter. Sounds simple enough, but writing and editing papers every week is challenging when combined with my 25-hour work week. There’s no day that I’m doing nothing and I have no downtime. It has me pulling my hair out and I’m not alone. Over the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of college students have worked while attending school and the number of working students has grown, according to a new study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

I am not a first-generation college student, but come from a humble background where the value of success is not placed on becoming CEO or making millions of dollars. As the youngest of my two older siblings who have seen graduated from universities, I value not only doing work to support myself but doing what I love.

I’m anxious about my journey after graduation. I’m not one hundred percent certain as to what I want to do or where I want to go and that’s a little unnerving. What is the job market like for a young African-American woman fresh out of a state university?

Black women still face a stark wage gap and are less likely to work in higher-paid occupations, according to The U.S Department of Labor.  

But despite the odds I’m optimistic. I can see myself working at a museum or media company in communications, publications, social media or something related.

I’m stressed, anxious and full of uncertainty, but I am graduating in June. I’m full of bittersweet feelings as I reflect on how and why I managed to make it through these years here at Cal State East Bay. I’m going to miss it here, but I’m ready to go.