A Tale of Two Senior Years

Posted by Calvin York '18
Change is in the air and graduation season is upon us! How do you handle transitional times of life? What is your approach to important life decisions?

Caldwell alum and UNC Charlotte senior Calvin York '18 describes his experience as he enters the home stretch of his college career. As he reflects on his final days at Caldwell compared to those at Charlotte, he finds encouragement from God's presence in his life.
This past Easter, I reconnected with several friends from Caldwell Academy by sharing a drink and several laughs at a local brewery. As it often does, fellowship with old friends causes nostalgia. Reminiscing on the goofy, immature, and younger rendition of ourselves, we laughed hard and traded memorable stories of the shenanigans we experienced in our time together. This nostalgic outing both reminded me of my feelings upon graduating from Caldwell and those I currently have about graduating from UNC Charlotte.

As I approach my college graduation, I'm surrounded by increasing responsibilities, tough decisions, and a load of emotions desperate to be unpacked. A striking aspect of this hefty mental load is I find myself reminded so much of my most recent major life change, graduating high school. As both occasions involve leaving one season of life and (quite literally!) graduating into the next, my feelings in this transition are remarkably similar to the ones I experienced just four years ago. Also, the questions I asked myself in 2018 are incredibly similar to the ones I ask today.
Emotionally, this senior year has left me feeling a little bit sad. Every happy moment is consistently tinged with at least a drop of sadness. Three of my best friends all share a house. Despite it being messy, poorly painted, and always a bit gross, it’s full of love and one of my favorite places in the whole world. As I drove there recently, I found myself tearing up. I realized how few trips to this house I had left before I turn the tassel. Something so happy and sweet, a visit to see friends, reminds me I only have so many days left before college ends. Every shared meal, every belly laugh, and every teary hug brings me closer to the end of my college career. I’m shifting into a new season of life where several of my current cast members come with me while the others live on in my memory and make occasional cameos. 

Let me explain that last statement. As I finished my senior year of high school I was in a similar emotional spot. Leaving Caldwell felt equivalent to leaving me, which is impossible. I loved my friends, was desperate to not leave the people who knew me, and terrified I would never find anyone like them again. As someone obsessed with television, I coped with this impending change by viewing my life as a TV show. I was approaching a series finale, the big graduation episode. My imaginary audience was just as sad as I was to see the show end, but it was super-excited to see my character continue in a new spin-off about my college years. Some of the characters were coming with me to college, and it'd be extra special when the audience got to see their old favorites on the holiday episodes. The audience also looked forward to a new cast of characters it would love just as much. As silly as it sounds, this framing helped ease the transition. It helped me acknowledge how my past had shaped me and encouraged me to be excited about my future.

My college graduation day is just 10 days away. I’m borrowing the TV coping mechanism I used in high school, but this time, I’m pairing it with a more mature relationship with God. In this time of transition, God is reminding me of the importance of balance. It is essential to feel these tough feelings while also giving myself the opportunity to live and to love. I can’t let one of those overtake the other. If I strictly accommodate my sadness, I won’t soak up or make the very memories for which I’ll soon be nostalgic. On the flip side, if I don’t allow myself to feel and I only live, I will graduate with many unprocessed feelings.

So, I balance! I have tough conversations with friends about how we are practically going to continue our friendship when it’s not as easy. I read about transition in the Bible and in Erica Young Reitz’s After College. I pray and I journal. And I have fun.! I choose to see my friends even if it means losing an hour of sleep because I know how precious these memories will be in less than a month. I hug my friends extra tight and I tack “so much” onto the end of every “I love you.” 

In both high school and college, I dealt with the question of my future. In high school, I wrestled with where I should continue my education. Appalachian State and UNC Charlotte were in a very intense boxing match and the ring was unfortunately located in my brain. This was the first decision of significant consequence I had to make on my own. I feared I would make the wrong decision, but ultimately, I was just terrified to just make a decision! The limbo between decisions was scary, but it protected me from the ultimate terror of what would happen after I made up my mind. Things could go wrong! What if I made the choice that God was not calling me towards? Indecision was a faux safety blanket, not actually keeping me warm, but instead keeping me from the comfort of making up my mind.

I remember the night I reached my decision. I was out for dinner with my mom at Jam’s Deli. Over our shared steak-and-cheese subs, we had a peaceful conversation about this monumental decision. On the way home, she played a podcast on decision-making she thought might help. I listened and reflected. I noticed the green and gold colors of UNC Charlotte in the trees and the yellow road lines as we drove home. I felt a sense of peace as I gave myself permission to fully admit I was going to UNC Charlotte. In making a decision, I faced the reality that no decision will ever be perfect. Each road had hills and valleys, pitfalls and successes, and seasons of tears and laughter I could not see. By God's grace, I haven’t regretted it! The community I found here is lovely, genuine, and immensely kind. My four years here have been full of laughter and when tears have come, loving arms have readily embraced me.
Once again, the parallels between my two senior years are present. As I deal with graduation and seek employment, I am riddled with indecision about which job to pursue. At church last week, I opened up to a new friend about my fear of choosing the “wrong” job or pursuing the “wrong” avenue for my career. He advised me sometimes God is not pointing us in a specific direction. He just wants us to trust He’ll be on whatever route we choose. I’m still in the midst of the job search, staying alert for God’s guiding hand but also allowing myself to pursue what I desire until I’m told otherwise. I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.