The Intangibles

Since I was a child, I fantasized about college and the ultimate freedom it would afford. I could go anywhere I wanted, study everything I wanted, and do anything I wanted. It didn’t quite turn out that way, and like many Illinois students, I ended up in “the middle of the cornfields”.

But in fact, it was in the middle of the cornfields (and throughout various travels) where I learned that place doesn’t matter so much as the people you share your time with. I’m still astounded that in these few years, I managed to find so many incredible friends that share such similar perspectives and enjoyments. The intense laughs and conversations we had were moments I always dreamt of, and god, even as an introvert I’ll miss them. I’ll miss going to class for only two hours a day, exploring the towns just to keep from boredom, eating and drinking my way through a long list of food establishments, frequented spots in Kopi, empty classrooms, outdoor amphitheaters, so many other places, the Quad. But above all, I’ll miss the community – the resources and general support system of Champaign, Urbana, the university itself, fellow students and friends – and the feeling that I could do whatever I want to do because there is a group of people somewhere near that I can go to. Enactus regionals, Enactus in Russia, late night group project camaraderie in BIF, Pygmalion, Ebertfest, Illinifest, all the films I made and slaved over, all those nights with friends and roommates, all the people that supported me and my endeavors. I can only hope I returned the favor at some point, in some way. TO ALL MY FRIENDS, THANK YOU FOR BEING FRIENDS WITH THIS WEIRDO and listening to me complain all the time and coercing me out of my apartment every now and then.

I did have the chance to study everything I wanted – mostly through electives – and had the chance to do everything I wanted – funds permitting, of course. What I wanted at the very least was to learn something; to become a better person and a more informed individual. And after all this, I’ll admit – I feel like I’ve learned a lot, in more ways than one. All that knowledge made me more skeptical than anything (the mark of a true accountant, and arguably a good thing), but the accompanying experiences also made me believe in possibilities more than ever. I also suppose this knowledge gave value to the $70k+ my parents just spent on me.

When we look back on major life events we tend to only remember and reiterate the positive experiences. But those are nothing without the struggles – the stress and long nights and impossible exams; taking finals in Foellinger Auditorium; going to class in below freezing temperatures; being away from the comforts of home; missing out on the life events of family and friends; extreme boredom leading to existential crises; constantly challenging my crippling introversion; comparing myself to others for the first time ever; doubting myself for the first time ever; fighting for my own decisions; the bureaucracy. I can only say in retrospect that I never want to forget these feelings, but that I’ve always been ready to move on. I’ve always felt most at home in that “real world”, and I’m more excited for the future than anything else. I shall follow fellow alumni Nick Offerman's advice: "Make things with your hands; consume less. Say please & thank you. Engender mirth. Spill the wine. Excelsior."

The fact is that I entered college wanting to accomplish certain things, and so I did just that. But the achievements that can’t be explained to anyone can’t be qualified by official ceremonies or pieces of paper. My beautiful parents worked just as hard as I did for this, and so that Sunday ceremony and that diploma are equally theirs. And frankly, it’s true that the title of “college educated” will literally afford me the freedom I always dreamt of. But along with all the incredible memories – days and nights spent with friends – the intangible personal achievements are the ones I’m celebrating.

PS. Yes I have a job, it's at a consulting firm in Chicago, I start in September, but first I'll be spending the next four months studying for and trying to pass the CPA exam, what else can you ask me?


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