It’s often said that change is the only constant in life. This is unfortunate, because I’ve never been a big fan of change.
My mother still tells the story of the 3-year-old Emily who was desolate when we sold the family Jeep to buy a minivan. (I apparently cried for days.) Every time any aspect of my childhood life shifted — when we remodeled our bathroom, had a garage sale or even when I got my hair trimmed — I couldn’t handle it.
As I grew up, change continued to freak me out. We moved to a new town when I was 14 years old, and life as I knew it ceased to exist. Even now, I spend weeks or months anticipating big changes in my life, contemplating (perhaps too much) how they’ll affect me.
So, as you can imagine, the idea of leaving Penn, picking up my life, moving to another city and entering the so-called “real world” is fairly terrifying to me.
At a school where there’s so much emphasis on — and apprehension toward — our futures, it’s a common theme, and one I’ve spoken about with many graduating seniors. Graduation is a major transition, no matter who you are, what you studied or what job you have (or don’t have) after you leave this campus.
I’ll admit: when it comes to post-graduate transitions, I’m luckier than most. I’m moving to a city I know and have a job at a place I’ve already worked. But it doesn’t change the fact that I, along with the rest of my graduating class, am about to undergo one of the biggest changes of my life.
The funny thing is, when I look back at the timid 18-year-old version of myself who showed up on campus almost four years ago, I’ve realized that my time at Penn has been full of change I never noticed at the time.
Most of that change has been welcome. I still remember the day in 2008 when I covered an event with Hillary Clinton and realized I was doing what “real political reporters” do, or the first time I sat down in an unfamiliar rare books library for my thesis and really felt comfortable doing original research. Last spring, I cut most of my long hair off and donated it to Locks of Love. And at some point during these four years, I officially ceased to think of myself as a California girl and joined the ranks of the East Coasters.
Others were abrupt, difficult to accept and affected my life in ways I’d never imagined. When I lost an election for managing editor at The Daily Pennsylvanian, I was devastated. But that loss gave me a chance to do other things — spend more time with friends, write a thesis and get professional internships instead. And when my family was hit hard by the economic crisis in 2008, I had to learn how to see money and finances in a way I never had before.
But either way, the things I’ve been through at Penn have made me the person I am today. We have all experienced change — good or bad, sudden or gradual.
It’s scary — but change is something we’re encouraged to do while we’re at Penn and something our time here is supposed to prepare us for. Each of our experiences at Penn has been different, and we’ve all changed in our own ways.
So, to my fellow seniors: as we take the stage at graduation, let’s remember all the change that’s already happened to us before worrying about the change that’s yet to come.
Emily Schultheis, a former City News Editor, is a College senior from Moraga, Calif. After graduation, she will work as a reporter for Politico in Washington, D.C.