On graduation and beyond…

MARCELLA Purnama shares her thoughts on graduating and preparing to pursue her own career dreams – no matter what others may think

Marcella Purnama

On November 13, 2009, I walked onto my school chapel stage wearing a black robe and mortarboard, ready to receive my certificate after finishing two and a half years of senior high school. I was 17.

Two years later, I’m sitting at my dining table looking at a photo of myself on that auspicious occasion, and wondering what I have become since then.

A few weeks ago I attended my sister’s graduation. After six tiring and tearful years, she finally graduated from med school and will work as a qualified doctor next year.

I saw her walk onto the stage at Melbourne University’s Wilson Hall and receive her certificate as she was congratulated on finishing her degree. Then came the valedictorian speech.

While the speech was full of humour and inside jokes about the medical world, I took my hat off to the girl. She didn’t lie. Her journey of learning really was packed with tears, sweat and blood. And I realised, the piece of paper my sister was holding was only a symbol of completion. The true completion of any degree lies in a person’s journey.

I’ll remember that.

I went back to my old high school recently and saw those not-even-17-year-old students giggling about the sorts of things we all talked when we were the same age.

I saw the young girls and boys in green-checkered uniforms, and thought, “oh man, did I look that young and immature when I was their age? Did I look that naive?”

The funny thing is, I always see myself as being “old enough” to do things. I wonder: how will the adults see me now? Still a spoilt kid who doesn’t know anything?

And uniforms.

Didn’t we all have issues with uniforms? Socks too high, too short, too colourful. Skirts too long, too short, too tight, too sensual. Hair too long, too short, too much gel. Shirts unbuttoned, shirts untucked, shirts too small, shirts too big. No opportunity for individuality or self expression.

But now I miss wearing a uniform.

You don’t have to “be different”. You don’t have to worry about whether the girl in your class yesterday saw your purple T-shirt, and whether – because you’re  wearing it again today – she thinks you have a personal hygiene problem or are just too lazy to do your laundry and iron. Personally, I prefer the latter assumption.

When it comes to larger-scale worries, I still wonder whether I’m really doing the right degree and major.

As a science student, I know I took a complete U-turn by eventually pursuing a degree in psychology and media and communication.

People had always envisioned me as a doctor, a scientist or maybe an engineer. But I don’t want to be any of those things.

I’d like to be a journalist, a columnist, a writer. I’d like to open my own cafe someday. I’d like to be an educational psychologist. I’d like to be a wonderful wife and a terrific mother. I’d like to publish my own book. I’d like to travel, to learn how to ballroom dance and leave a legacy. I’d like people to remember my name.

But I have friends who are not as lucky as me. One friend wanted to do psychology, but stuck with engineering because her parents said so. Another liked fashion design, but her parents wanted her to do business.

Deciding whether to do what you love or do what others expect you to do is always a battle.

I’ll be graduating in a year’s time at the age of 20. If you think I’m too young to graduate, you’re right. But who knows what lies beyond? Honours degree, Master’s degree, work, internships… the future looks so blurry right now. I still haven’t decided which road I’d like to take.

But whatever the end result may be, I’ll just take one step at a time – sipping on a cup of green tea and cherishing the journey along the way.

If I’ve learnt anything from my experience or that of my sister’s, it’s that you should always follow your own path in life. If you’re doing something you love, then you’re already well on your way to being the best and most successful person you can be.

What are your worries about graduation and the future? Share in the comments box below.

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