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Accepting congratulations instead of hopelessness

The future is unknown, and that has to be OK for now

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A Hallmark graduation card that I received so eloquently informed me that “All your tomorrows begin with now. Congratulations.” There are many graduates in other places and with other degrees that received this same card. I would love to meet my fellow recipients in an offbeat moment, drawn together by our mutual demeanor. We all have known for some time that tomorrows are apparently things that end and begin, but they matter more when we earn something. Our encounter is simply a part of such tomorrows. 

Those are countless sentiments we can choose to hold dearly or graze in moments of idle reading as graduation cards collect. Someone in a cubicle wrote them just for us, class of 2020. 

I may be a poser, but my lack of naivety is married to age and pessimism. If I lived by the mantras of Hallmark, I would be nothing short of naive. This year seems to love taking advantage of those hopeful tomorrows, whether it’s a pandemic or economic crisis. Amid it all — the chaos and the unknown — I am at odds with what I want to do, what I should do, and what is feasible to do. 

As a communication major, the path I feel expected to take is getting some nine-to-five job in marketing or public relations. Like many people, I am motivated by money, mostly so that I can support myself in a city as expensive as Seattle. What I want to do, though, is write and do some kind of design work on the side. To help curb some of my anxiety, I talked with others graduating in arts-related fields.

Matthew Tallorin is an art major with a photo/media concentration, often working in portraiture, nature, and video creation. 

“I thought creative art classes were fun because I could get a good grade in it without really trying,” Tallorin said, “I didn’t realize at the time, I just enjoyed being creative [and] I didn’t care about the grade.”

The enjoyment of creative, challenging work paired with an innate talent is something that has benefitted Tallorin in not only his classes, but in an understanding of what to hope for beyond graduation. 

“It’s intimidating in the sense where if there’s no clear plan, what do you do?” Tallorin said. “At the same time, that’s what we’ve always been trained to do in these classes. I know to trust myself to come through and work where it counts and find a niche for my own success. I’m not hyper-concerned.”  

He shared that many students in his major move on to a wide variety of careers, not necessarily in the field of arts. What Tallorin sheds light on is a need to trust yourself and your abilities, which is something he found to be relevant in his photo/media classes. 

Mackenzie Price is an English major in the literature track, and is also minoring in political science. She shared her interest in teaching English to high school students, going to law school, and what the future looks like for her.  

“It’s almost like there’s too many possibilities right now — you can do anything, but that’s kind of overwhelming,” Price said. “In the immediate future I’m trying to take a year off and figure it out and get as much experience as I can in different areas.”

Price noted the opportunity to take a number of different tracks with an English degree and we both shared sentiments of wanting to write. The struggle, however, is understanding how to make that happen professionally. 

“I would love to be a writer, but that feels so far-fetched and kind of a crazy idea to even conceptualize,” Price said. “I’ll try to write as much as I can and freelance as much as I can, but I need an actual backup plan.”

In her closing thoughts, Price added that she is still trying to understand what is happening amid the chaos right now.

“I hope that if I reflect on this in a year I’ll have more clarity,” Price said. “I’m waiting for that moment of clarity.”

What I’ve taken away from these conversations is a sense of acceptance as to what is happening, and at the same time an acceptance that the unknown is there before us. Trusting in what we’ve learned — the yesterdays that situate us into tomorrows — may be our greatest remedy to the unknown, uncomfortable future ahead. 

Whatever I decide to do with my life, whether it’s a “should do,” a “want to do,” or a provocative combination of both, it will rely on the concrete steps I put forth for myself. The quotes we read in cards and the cliché statements recited by commencement speakers could never provide the clarity necessary for our endeavors, as their hopefulness is fleeting. What those words do help with, however, is a deserving sense of best wishes.

Maybe that’s all I need at this cusp of my life: to soak up congratulations and roll with that energy until there’s something new that deserves congratulating. 

Reach writer Christina Ramler at Twitter: @christina.rival

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