Why Completing University Feels Delightful Yet Terrifying

One thing that fascinates me about our life is the abundance of beginnings. Always, the same chords which end one song seem to become the first chords of another. I’ve never acknowledged this as fervently as I do right now, and that’s because I’m currently positioned in that phase to which I refer – the fading of a song into the start of a next.

“The bad news is nothing lasts forever. The good news is nothing lasts forever” – J. Cole

If my life is a symphony, then my three years at university contribute to one of the most riveting parts of its movements so far. Few people are aware of some of the ordeals I’ve faced while studying. I sat tests upon tests, and I don’t mean the timed kind which involves placing pen to paper. Every student will have his or her own story to tell; nevertheless, it remains that sooner or later that story must end.

I am relieved, and I am delighted.

Each time I shower, I feel a tad bit as though I were a new person (I can’t imagine how many new me’s there would be if this were literal, haha). Say, can you remember some evenings when after a looooong and grueling day, you bare yourself and step into the shower, eager to be clean? Yes, on one of those nights when you can feel the bothers of the day sticking to your body like a rancid paste, you can think of nothing else but to wash them all down the drain before they completely compromise your peace of mind.


When you finally turn on the tap, maybe you can recall the brief sense of dread in the seconds before the rain of cold water plummets down and hits your skin. You know before it happens that it’s going to be icy and shocking, yet you are still eager for its power to clean. For me, that sensation – that fleeting fear intermingled with anticipation – is precisely how it feels to finally leave university.

I made friends, and lost friends. I laughed a lot and cried on occasion. I’ve been upset and angry, and I’ve been happy and relaxed. I’ve been anxious, and I’ve been nonchalant. I’ve sung, danced, ranted and protested. I’ve been injured and been recovered. I’ve fallen, and I’ve stood again. I’ve been lost in strange places and found my way back to familiarity. I’ve been early, and I’ve been late. I’ve been right on time. I’ve skipped breakfast just to rush to classes that had been cancelled. I’ve had porridge for 3 consecutive days. I’ve had 10 slices of pizza in one night. I’ve offered help to others and I’ve been left hanging by a thread. I’ve cared for friends and have been cared for. I’ve stayed home just because I had been overwhelmed, and I’ve been called to lead when I never expected it. I’ve had doubts and I have stood firm. I’ve been mocked to my face and have remained full of grace.

I’ve overcome.

I’m sure you understand why I’m glad it’s over, but will you understand why it’s frightening too?

When you learn the ropes and you finally feel as though your ship is making waves, sometimes the thought of growing accustomed to new territory seems terrifying. Before you, there’s the vast open sea, beckoning you to chart a route you’ve never travelled before. It’s exciting, and a little scary, and the moment you wrap your hands around those ropes, cables and lines which adjust the position of your ship, it feels so overwhelmingly real – breath-taking and present and real.

I’m no longer a child. Legally, this has been the case for a few years. Still, it is only now that I feel I’ve come face to face with the world before me. I now feel I must be the captain of my own ship with little intervention from others. I know I’ll continue to be supported by a dedicated mother, loyal family and enthusiastic friends, but I also know that wherever I choose to go now, will be my path to lead alone.

So, what exactly is “adulting”? I don’t ask because I have an answer. I’d like to say I’m winging it (provided I’ve interviewed people about winging it and read up on the fundamentals of winging it, haha). I don’t even remember my own bank account number if I don’t call up my mom for the details. And then I don’t write it down when she tells it to me, and I wonder if it’s because I figure she’ll always be there to ask. Yet, here I am about to travel and enter the world of work. Seeking to be an active member of the labour force, I’ll become a force labouring to supply my own needs, repay debts, help the less fortunate, bring investments to fruition, and build the life I want to live.


Nothing is certain, save the certainty of change. I’m a being of contradictions, for though I’m spontaneous and full of spark, I’m also one who craves stability and respects tradition. I used to strongly dislike change. Then I realised that knowing that situations change also brings the assurance that unpleasant experiences do not last either. Me? Once I’ve come to terms with a plan or prospect, it is bothersome for me to make unexpected edits, even though I know I should expect the unexpected. So, if I’ve learnt one thing, it’s this:

“Man a plan, but God a wipe.”

1280x1280James 4:13-14

I’ve completed my first degree. Five years ago, I didn’t know the difference between a BA, a BSc and a BMW, but now look at me! ... Still clueless but educated too! (Hahaha!) Plans are great and all – I’m a strong proponent for having an idea of what you want to do next. I feel uncomfortable being at a standstill for too long, though such intervals are inevitable. I have a habit of pushing things into motion myself if the momentum has decreased to a frustrating level. At the same time, it is important to understand that life will not always turn out the way we plan it. As a matter of fact, that’s a key characteristic of life. It’s unpredictable, and it is impartial. If you’re a person of faith, you’ll agree with me when I say that your capacity to fathom the possibilities for the future is a microscopic speck compared to the wisdom of God.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord , thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV)

So take it easy.

Just as I gradually relax under the cold shower after the initial startle it incites, so do I begin to become more open and delighted about my new beginning. The chant of a cheerful, yellow sponge comes to mind, “I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready!”, but instead of a spatula, I have a vague map in my hand and new hiking boots on my feet, ready to take the next step. But first, I rotate the map in my hands because I realise it’s upside-down.

Wait, or was it? Fam, I don’t even… How do you…?

Arghhh, this is going to be tougher than I thought.

But you know what?

I’m okay with that.



© 2018 Sihle Atkinson – All Rights Reserved

7 Comments Add yours

  1. zharamarie says:

    Awesome read ❤️


    1. Gracias, mi amiga. Thanks for stopping by😄


  2. Lesley-Gail says:

    My Dear Sihle!
    As you start this new chapter and journey into the realm of possibilities and the unknown, always remember the duality of existence. You can not grow and chase your dreams without anxiety or fear. It is what makes you human, vulnerable, humble and empathetic. Plans are not always etched in stone. At times the current will drift you in various directions, be open to the experiences and opportunities. Each path you follow will take you in the direction you were destined to walk. Embrace it, even in those moments when you feel you are guided solely by instinct and faith. Even in those moments of self doubt, the essence of you will blossom. As my favourite poet Khalil Gibran once said, “in the depths of your hopes and desires, lies your silent knowledge of the beyond, and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity”. Enjoy this journey as it was destined for you and you alone, but at all times be true to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lesley for your beautiful and encouraging comment! It put a smile on my face. Those are wise and meaningful words you quoted from Khalil Gibran. I’ll try to remember them.


  3. As strange as it sounds, I started to miss university after I graduated, even though I couldn’t wait to get out of the place before. There was something comforting in knowing exactly what to expect day to day.

    I love the freedom that I have now, and don’t think much about it anymore. But, for about a year afterwards, I had nightmares that I didn’t study for an exam, or I forgot to attend a class that I had registered for, and wouldn’t be able to graduate. That was really silly considering I had already gotten my degree!

    I hope you’ll share what the transition is like for you in the next few months 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, yes. The familiarity is comforting.

      I don’t have nightmares, but on some days I have been waking up unusually early with some restlessness and anxiety, as if there’s something I should be doing, haha. I felt similarly before I started university. I know it will pass. Thanks so much for sharing.

      And yes, I’ll be sure to update my readers ^^

      Liked by 1 person

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