The months leading up to graduation can feel like a wind-up toy; you hear the ticking as the weeks start to turn, slowly at first, the tension building. January, February, March. When you start to let go, you are catapulted forward, April and May blurring together in a vision of senior thesis papers, clinking glasses, and blank walls.
The end will come before you are ready.
It is without question that you will break down at some point. You will try to keep everything together as much as possible; you will stay organized with bullet pointed to-do lists and post-it reminders fastened to your desk. You will tackle outlines, rough drafts, and job applications all in one day. You will prepare yourself for the goodbyes, recognizing every event as a final marker – the last impromptu trip to the 24-hour diner, the last breakfast in the dining hall, the last blue-book exam.
You will find yourself getting nostalgic over things you don’t even care about. There’s an abyss looming ahead of you, and it will become easier to reminisce about cheese fries than to deal with the fact that you don’t quite know what you’re doing after graduation.
This is when you’ll need all the help you can get.
Before the whirlwind of the impending spring hits, do yourself a favor and create an Emergency Kit. Find an old shoebox, and start preparing for your inevitable emotional meltdown.
Here’s some ideas of what should go inside:
1. Your iPod with a playlist of at least a dozen songs that will pump you up and put you in a good mood immediately. I suggest opening up with Spice Girls – you cannot be in a bad mood while listening to “zig a zig ahhhh.”
2. A list of your favorite empowering quotes. I recommend taking a look at these.
3. Your favorite childhood stuffed animal. I don’t care how tough you think you are – holding a stuffed animal while feeling sad is incredibly therapeutic.
4. A letter from yourself. Do this now – write a letter to your future self, and tell yourself everything that you’ll need to hear when you are freaking out. Remind yourself of difficult challenges you’ve overcome in the past. The post-grad abyss will just be another challenge, but you will tackle it. Seal the letter and write “in case of emergencies” across the back flap.
5. A gift card to your favorite take-out place. Sometimes you do need comfort food. Get that burrito and go for the extra guac.
6. A keepsake from your senior year of high school, like a torn out page from your yearbook. You’ve been at this kind of crossroads before, so take a moment to remember what that was like.
7. A reminder of one of your greatest achievements. Maybe this is a ribbon from an athletic award, or a copy of the program from your star role in the theatre department’s spring musical. Take the time to let yourself know that you are capable of great things.
8. A piece of paper with the silliest, most immature, grossest jokes you can find. I’m talking serious 12-year-old boy humor. Yes. Farts and poop and stuff. You’ll need it.
9. A bottle of bubble bath soap. I’d only recommend this one if you are living off-campus in your own apartment – the cleanliness of a dorm tub is doubtful, at best. You wear those flip-flops on your feet for a reason.
10. Fandango gift cards – grab your best friend and go see a movie. Pick something light and fluffy, preferably with a lot of inappropriate humor. Make sure you get an extra large popcorn too.
11. Coloring supplies – either a small sketch pad and colored pencils, or even a coloring book. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, the act of doodling and coloring is really relaxing.
12. On that note – Playdough. The smell alone will take you back to your childhood and you will feel instantly comforted.
13. DVDs of a really hilarious TV show that will make you laugh until you pee yourself. Try “Strangers With Candy” or “Summer Heights High.” Trust me, you cannot feel bad about yourself while watching Jerri Blank do literally anything at all.
14. If your hometown is close enough to your college, train tickets or some cash for gas money. Sometimes you need a 48-hour visit to your childhood bedroom with the company of your pets for solace.
15. A handheld video game. If you still have an old Game Boy or Nintendo DS lying around somewhere, what are you waiting for? Add it to the box immediately. Relax and zone out with some Super Mario, where the only thing you have to worry about are mushrooms and stars. A mental vacation is the most beautiful thing sometimes.