Editorial: Thoughts on graduation

Katherine Mitchell

Arts and Culture Editor

So now that the semester is coming to a swift close and graduation is upon us, where do we go from here? Isn’t that a terrifying question? I suppose the reason that it’s so intimidating to take into context is because no one is truly ever certain of how to answer it. There are so many different paths, so many unique possibilities and opportunities that await in the world ahead, and attempting to provide a confident response to such a broad question is nearly impossible.

When I attempt to concoct some sort of rational answer to this inquiry, I like to think back to when I was a 17-year-old teenager who had just started applying to colleges. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to eat for breakfast in the morning, let alone what I wanted to do with my career and life. The only thing I knew for certain was that there were some things that made me genuinely happy, like my love for history, reading, and drawing. But somewhere along the lines, what once seemed clear became obscured. My vision of the things that brought me joy were blinded by the fear of financial failure and the inevitable doomed life of the stereotypical starving artist. I let the hysterical voices of others get too loud in my head, and the thought of never amounting to anything almost drowned out those little loves that essentially gave me my identity.

Within the past four years, I’ve learned to douse the paranoia that my artistic goals and dreams will somehow restrict me from amounting to anything substantial. I have learned a valuable lesson that may seem obvious and a bit cliche, but inevitably gains recognition from every individual at least once in their lifetime: money cannot be equated with happiness.

So maybe we can’t all be the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates. Newsflash! So what? Better to go through life doing what makes you happy than live a lie and force yourself to do something you hate for the sake of money because you think that when you die it will ultimately afford you a nicer tombstone. You should commit your existence and energy to the things that bring you joy and produce the best version of yourself, and if that means you pursue a degree that negative people say will lead you nowhere, then so be it. The best kept secret that everyone magically realizes when they are old and dying is that “nowhere” is the place they wished they had gone, and if you’re already on your way there, congratulations, because you are skipping a step. Give yourself a pat on the back.

So as we take this next step and prepare to embark into the world, I only make one request of you. Please, do not play it safe. I hope that you never find yourself settling for the job, career, or lifestyle that others press upon you simply because it has financial benefit. Do not be afraid to be lost for a little while. Not knowing where you are going is one of the greatest and most exciting gifts I think anyone would ever be able to receive.

Oscar Wilde said that the most important things in life cannot be taught, and I think everyone should acknowledge his words of wisdom. I believe that after graduation, the most important degree that you will ever earn is the one that only life’s chance circumstances can grant you. One that is cultivated by the diverse experiences you will encounter after graduation. One that allows you to gain wisdom, understand who you are as a human being, and know how you relate to the world around you.

For all we know, we only get one chance. One chance to live and make the mistakes that will allow us to understand our limits and discover our true potential. All we need is the courage to make the choices that scare us just a little too much, the choices that dare us to step out our front doors into the unknown and face the fact that we may not return the same person as we were when we left. Maybe we surprise ourselves by doing something completely radical and unexpected, and end up tangled in a big chaotic mess on an adventure that leads us nowhere in particular. I certainly hope so. My wish for you in that you have the confidence to launch into the crazy untamed adventure called life with no compass, and allow your decisions to be driven by what makes you feel alive.

The unexamined life is not worth living. I hope you lead a life that excites you, surprises you, challenges you to the point that you think you are going to break, and gives you the strength to rebuild yourself over and over. So go get that degree, because “nowhere” is waiting.