It’s official. I’m no longer a grad student–just a regular unemployed 20-something. Graduation was only three days ago, and I’m already feeling restless, hoping the next challenge will pop up fast. But before I get caught up in the future, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past year.

Tomorrow marks my anniversary with Chicago, today the end of an extremely challenging year. I moved out here knowing only one person and with nearly three months to fill before I started school. It was a long, hot summer, and I was poor and lonely. Once classes began, I started meeting other poor, lonely people, and we became friends. Finally.

But classes were hard, and soon into the school year, the sun disappeared almost entirely. I subsisted almost entirely on croissants and Thai delivery. I watched too much TV and ignored too many phone calls. I developed a crease between my eyebrows from my constantly furrowed expression. It was rough.

But soon enough, I realized I had friends, and this helped. Boyfriend and I went on vacation to Florida, where we saw dolphins and relaxed and ate fresh sushi. When I got back to Chicago, I started taking vitamins, and the sun re-emerged. Things were looking up.

And then much more suddenly than it began, it ended. I finished my thesis and felt physically lighter. I completed the rest of my coursework and cried with relief when it was over. My social life had become a whirlwind of activity, and I was handed a diploma. Now, here I am, one year later, not in school, not working, and wondering what that whole experience was about.

Was the gray hair I found the other morning worth it? In short, yes. A lot of people will tell you a degree in the Humanities is worthless, but I disagree. For one, I can think the hell out of anything you put in front of me. Thinking, I argue, is quite an underrated skill. Most importantly, however, I write now. Obviously, you say, you’re writing a blog entry as we speak. Yes, I am. But I could write a story or an essay or an argument or ad copy or a proposal. And I could address it to my friends, the general public, a group of highly specialized professionals or just about anyone else.

And this makes grad school worth it. Writing well may seem small, compared to learning how to run companies or practice medicine, but tell me how a business or hospital would work without written communication. Not as well. And that’s why my year at the UofC was a pretty good one after all.

Here’s hoping the next 12 months in Chicago are filled with fewer hardships but many challenges.