Stop This Train (School Ends & Life Begins)

I know I haven’t been blogging for a while now. It’s not that I have nothing to blog about. In fact, there are many, many things which I’d like to blog about. Too many. Too many thoughts brimming, frothing, slish-sloshing at the top of my head. Any bit more and it’d spill. So I’m finally here to get them flowing out of my system and hopefully make sense of it all, as I go along.

As of late, I have been allowing life to fall into stagnation, a period of peace after a storm, that quiet aftermath after a hurricane. Time seems to go on endlessly ever since I’ve officially cleared all my academic deadlines. It felt awesome in the beginning – that heady rush of satisfaction and that slap of freedom immediately after submitting my thesis. But now, it just feels weird and unsettling. So this is how it feels like… To not have every waking minute of your life haunted by professors bombarding you with more writing more thinking more researching and making sure I’m making progress with my work. But here’s the thing. I never thought I’d say this but, I miss that. Three months in and the missing kicks in. Oh human, how typical. Yes, I kinda sorta maybe miss all of that. It made me feel like a super useful and productive human being. The learning process, the late nights, the hustle, the figuring out this and that, everything. I was stretched – mentally, physically, and emotionally. The exhaustion, the stress, the brain juicing was all so real. But I am ultimately thankful for the struggle. If I may quote Hemingway, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” The struggle took me rock bottom, but strengthened my faith and moulded me to handle whatever challenges He has lovingly entrusted unto me.

Initially, I had naively thought that my final semester was going to be a breeze. Unlike most of my course mates, I only had the Final Year Project to focus on since I have cleared all other modules. So, okay, smooth semester ahead, I thought. But dear self, how silly of you to think that success would come so easily? Did you really think there wouldn’t be any hurdles for you to cross to get to the finish line? Looking back now, it was undoubtedly the toughest semester I have ever gone through. I have never felt so pressurized, so helpless, so alone. Writing an individual thesis was a challenge – I’ve never really worked on something so important on my own before. Coming from a polytechnic, where almost everything is based on projects and teamwork, this was a new challenge I faced as my final initiation into the real world. This was the phase where I felt the most bitter struggle, in all aspects, but academically, this was the hardest. However, this was also the period I felt closest to Him because when I had no one else to turn to, He was there for me. Indeed, there is a blessing in every pain. So when I eventually crawled out of my FYP cave, I wanted the next few months to be free of anything school-related.

Which brings me to this, the culmination of my past half a year of typing away feverishly and nerding out on my linguistics thesis in hiding: Results day. I don’t think I have ever mentioned this before, but anyway, I believe I have a condition. It’s a unique one, and which I have proudly coined – ‘inboxophobia’. It’s the irrational fear of checking possibly important emails from important people (like the school, professors, potential employers, etc.). It has reached a critical stage where my ‘not checking till I find the right time and right environment’ excuse spans to weeks and even months. My close friends know about this. None of them could empathize, however, dismissing the action as absurd and blaming this self for being uncontrollably hysterical. So, as a potential graduate with chronic inboxophobia and denial of the anything that is to do with the future and then some, of course checking my results on the day it was released was out of the question. But my kind, understanding friends offered to do what I could not bring myself to do. So eventually I relented. Within minutes, my friend sent me a screenshot of my results and said, “You did great, silly.”

“Eh, okay. Alhamdulillah,” was my immediate reaction, as I stared blankly at the unexpected alphabet and the remarks in bold, black caps. It felt like the words were shouting at me – “YAY CONGRATULATIONS HUMAN YOU’RE OUT OF THIS SCHOOL NOW MOVE ALONG!” Yes, move along. And move along I did, to the kitchen to get myself breakfast.

It was then when I was reaching out for the milk in the fridge to pour into my bowl of Froot Loops that it slowly hit me. A tsunami of emotions washed over me instantaneously, causing my knees to buckle and the waterworks to flow. You could say that it was a quiet, dramatic moment unfolding in the kitchen. And so I cried into my bowl of Froot Loops, choosing my tears over milk for breakfast that morning. I don’t know. What was I crying about? Was I glad that all my hardwork paid off and I got an A for my Final Year Project? Yes. So was I crying tears of joy? Not really. I felt a slight sadness too, wistful perhaps. I think it was the realization that, hey, it’s over. It’s over, Humairah. Your 17 years of formal education has finally come to an end. And I had thought, all my life, that this moment would send me jumping for joy, see me tearing down the streets surrounded by a carnival of sorts and shouting to my neighbours “DOBBY IS A FREE ELF!” but hilariously, as it turns out, reality proved quite the opposite.

So it hit me that I have finally reached the end of the formal education train, and it is time for me to leave.
It has always been a given, a simple transition ever since I was 7. Where to after Primary? Secondary. Where to after Secondary? Polytechnic. Where to after Polytechnic? University. Now where to after University?
I must alight. This is me.
It has been one hell of a long, exhilarating, unforgettable ride, but here I am. I took a journey on an unexpected path filled with life-changing experiences. Took me this long to finally arrive at my destination, but at least I made it. For now, I and so many others have convinced this rather disoriented soul that it is perfectly okay and normal to feel lost after alighting from this train, and absolutely terrified and excited  for the next journey which will be as real as it gets, while I familiarize myself with this new territory and navigate my way through. As I get used to this station where things are temporarily up in the air, I shall prepare myself for what’s to come and take all the time I need to decide on how I would get the ticket to my next important destination after 17 years of schooling: Life.

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