Look to Your Left, Look to Your Right
As I matriculate through academia, I’m finding that many of the people I started with, for one reason or another, are no longer by my side and I must admit, I am shook. Four years ago, I could not have predicted the ways in which my circle would evolve. I came into undergrad with a small tribe of friends. I thought the bond that we had forged in high school would sustain us through the years to come but I was mistaken. Circumstance bred discord and division and for others, we simply grew apart. Aside from the stress of trying to get a degree, undergraduate life played out in ways that I could not have accounted for. Then, one day I looked around and noticed how much time had changed not only the people around me but myself as well.
In a moment of reflection, I recalled some words of wisdom.
“Look to your left, now, look to your right. The folks you see sitting there might not be there at the end of these four years.”
I first heard this in my high school auditorium. The principal called for a freshman assembly and he began his speech with this line. Someone has probably said this to us at some point in our collegiate careers and in hindsight, this might have been a bit morbid for a group of ninth graders, but it was a realization that we would all come to experience at some point in the future.
Academia has a way of weeding people out in a most cut throat fashion. Sometimes it's the personal investment that academia requires of its participants that is too much, sometimes it’s financial, but a lot of times, life comes very fast, and some people don’t have the wherewithal to sustain. People come and they go. Sometimes they miss you on the first ride and find you five to ten years down the line. Sometimes you never see them again. Morbid as it was, my high school principal was right and I can apply his words to graduating high school, the first day of college, college graduation, graduate studies and beyond. The conditions of life in and outside of academia will cause people to enter and leave our lives at a moment’s notice. For someone for whom change is new, it is also a bit frightening.
Every person I’ve lost contact and connection was not a total loss, however. I can acknowledge that life removed some people from my life for the better. Undergrad grew and changed me in ways that some of those people could not comprehend - and that was okay. Everybody’s on a journey.
I’ve come to accept that pursuing graduate studies is sure to bring another round of social rapture. Not only is this a new frontier for me in academia, but in life. In moving away from home, to New York City, I’m already cutting my social circle down significantly - not that it was ever particularly big - and essentially starting from square one. And that is a scary place to be.
This has been a large part of the emotional toll of entering graduate studies. Remembering people you thought you would build with once upon a time and then looking up and finding they are no longer there is disheartening. However, with time the realization then comes that life takes people in different directions and that is okay. But if this transition into grad school has shown me anything, it's that as sure as relationships fade, others can be strengthened or found anew altogether. It just takes time.
About the Author
Victoria Collins is a first year graduate student at The New School studying non fiction writing. Originally from the deep South, they use their writing to reflect on the trials and triumphs of adulthood and academia.