Two weeks ago, I submitted my last assignment to San Francisco State University. An hour later, I locked up the Journalism Department and slid my keys under my supervisor’s door. When I left the humanities building for the last time, I left as an unemployed college graduate.

It was strange to have my employment tied to my education – though working for the j-dept was the perfect fit for a 6-class schedule – and having both come to an end so suddenly.

It’d probably be different if I was graduating in the spring; if so, I’d be walking with hundreds of my peers at AT&T Park, celebrating this accomplishment with black robes and tossed hats and another tassel tied to my car’s dashboard.

Each person I’ve talked to about my upcoming education in the past couple months has asked if I’ll be walking in the spring. And each time this look of slight confusion – even disappointment or disapproval – flashes across their face. As if it’s not real until I receive a prop diploma tied with a ribbon and shake the hand of some guy I don’t know.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve already walked twice – for my high school graduation in 2010 and again in 2013 to celebrate earning my Associate’s degree. Sure, it’d be awesome to walk at AT&T Park, but not awesome enough to be worth the airfare for myself and my family, for paying for the black robe and cap, for standing around for hours waiting to walk, for spending another unnecessary minute in San Francisco.

Maybe I’m just not like my peers. All around me, my sorority sisters and fellow newsies are already nostalgic for college, dreading the moment that the school “makes” them leave. They’re in love with this time in their lives, and while I’m thrilled for them, I’m not like them.

I’m ready to leave. After five and a half years of college, I’m done. I’m ready to be judged by my own merits, not how well I fit someone else’s idea of success. I’m ready to stop being defined by my GPA, by the letter a professor has decided I deserve. I’m ready to see if I sink or swim – or most likely a combination of the two – now that I finally get to choose my own path.

The last two weeks have gone by in a kind of haze, a sort of in-between stage prompted by my immediate departure for Seattle to spend the holidays with my family. I’ve been able to relax, no longer panicked by upcoming deadlines or last-minute photo shoots. I’ve updated my website, but haven’t started looking for gigs – that will wait until I get back to the city. I’ve spent a few hours on WWOOF-USA’s website, inquiring about hosts for next year’s road trip. My family celebrated my graduation with a great dinner, and spending this time with them was so much better than walking could possibly be.

In a couple of days we’ll be ringing in the new year with goals and resolutions and ambitions. For me, I want to be free like I’ve never been, chasing the stories I’m passionate about and finding my way to the destinations I’ve dreamed of. It’s going to be more uncertain than any previous time in my life, but I am beyond ready for 2016.