The Tension of Flying

Back in the day, my high school English teacher used to describe graduation as jumping off a cliff. “You’re either going to have a cushion you’ve built up for yourself, or you’re going to have a rough landing!” she’d always conclude dramatically.

I never gave much thought to the metaphor then, probably because I could very clearly see the giant mass of pillows I’d made for myself at the bottom of my cliff. This time around, it feels foggier.

With graduation a month a way, it feels like I’ve hurtled myself confidently into the abyss and am falling with style through the clouds. I know I’ve done at least a decent enough job of preparing myself for “the real world” during the last four years, but I still don’t know where I’m landing. It’s the strangest tension of being both cheerful – things are going to be great! – and entirely clueless to what I’m actually going to find when I hit the ground. By some miracle I’m not anxious (yet?), but feel almost illogically naïve and hopeful. Like, because nearly everyone I know and their mother feels stressed about graduation, so should I.

If nothing else, I feel at least somewhat confident that my capstone project isn’t an anchor around my ankle speeding my descent to the ground. It might be, like, a bag of sand, but definitely not an anchor. There’s hope.

Does anyone feel this strange tension of optimism and inconclusiveness, or is it just me? Or the pressure to feel more stressed, exhausted, or worried about something than you actually do, whether related to graduation or otherwise? (Alternatively, feel free to just use the comments as a venting space.)

Only one month to go…




Alexis Stempien

An aspiring science writer studying biopsychology, cognition, and neuroscience with minors in writing and general shenanigans. In my spare time, I make YouTube videos at

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