It’s May, which means my social feeds have been flooded with pictures of caps and gowns and smiling faces, proud in accomplishment. This time of year always reminds me of my decision not to graduate.
I finished university and I am proud of my Bachelor of Arts, but I never performed the actual act of graduating.
Months after I completed my coursework and took my final steps as a student on Tulane University’s lush campus, my diploma was shipped out. It was sent to Boston because Tulane had the audacity to request $75 for international shipping. After earning a degree and giving thousands of dollars to the institution in question, they wanted more money because their recent graduate decided to move someplace without domestic shipping. Only the audacious, I suppose.
I got my diploma eventually. My mother brought it, framed, when she came to visit. By that point, so far removed, I was happy for the wall decor obtained without ceremony.
I could’ve waited what ended up being two years to walk across a stage in Yulman with my peers and receive an empty tube symbolizing a diploma. Or I could’ve strolled across a grander stage, under false pretenses, with 6 credits weighing me down and amid peers, but not the right ones.
Instead, I chose neither. I chose to sprint through the end, not stopping for a celebratory lap at the finish line. While my friends were still running the marathon, I had finished it and immediately inserted myself into my next race. I never took what some may view as necessary time to catch my breath. I just kept running.
I ran until I realized that my destiny was not determined by speed, but rather by distance. I would get to the end eventually, but the finish line was time. It was the same distance, the same time for everyone, which meant that I could slow down. The end was inevitable, but this time I could choose how to get there.
I strolled to the end, easing into it by preparing months in advance. I wasn’t stopping abruptly nor was I planning on rushing into the next race. This time, I came to a full stop and reveled in the relief. I had done something. I had accomplished what I set out to do. It wasn’t finishing college—it was something harder—something better.
Perhaps the reason I didn’t graduate was because I didn’t see it as the accomplishment. Getting the degree was part one, but without part two it was meaningless. College was lumped in with my larger goal, which was: finish school in order to enlist in the army in order to live in Israel, amen. One was nothing without the other.
I didn’t need the closure of graduation because I wasn’t ready to celebrate when I knew it was just the beginning. Now, I’m a college graduate and a veteran. Now, I’m Israeli. I don’t need to walk or run to prove that. I am here. I am doing it. I have done it.