Confession: In a few days, I will be walking across the stage at the Tacoma Dome. The emotions surrounding this day are many and varied. I am overjoyed to be finally graduating college. It has taken me 10 years to get to this point. I could not be happier that the day has finally arrived. I am also filled with quiet sorrow because I am not only leaving college, but a home, community, and state of being. Which brings me to the fear. I am terrified of life outside college. I have been working so long toward this one goal and now that it is here, I am shaking in my proverbial boots because I don’t know what is going to happen next.
While preparing to write my final opinion column, I realized that some of you, dear readers, might feel the same way. And even if you are not yet on the precipice that faces every graduating college student—the one from which we dangle until we figure out this life thing—you might soon be exactly where I am. So in the interest of the common good, here is a list of five things I will take with me when I leave.
For most of us, this might be the most difficult piece of advice to carry out. I think it is because we are so incredibly weary of assigned reading. Despite the deluge of pages that we must consume during our collegiate experience, I can see the end of this stack of assigned reading and it is terrifyingly near. I realized earlier this month that everything I am reading is affecting both my writing and my life in the best way possible. So I aim to continue to read constantly and voraciously, to always have a book in my bag or on my bedside table, because if we don’t read, how can we possibly understand the world?
LAUGH LOUDER AND MORE OFTEN.
This one is important. What is that old cliché? “Laughter is the best medicine.” Although I hate to agree with the tired formulaic cliché, there is truth in it. Laughter has made my experience of college so much more joyful. I hope that laughter will also make life (complete with its difficulties, because whose life is perfect?) that much more enjoyable, too.
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH PROFESSORS WHO ARE IMPORTANT TO YOUR LEARNING AND EXPERIENCE.
Chances are good that you are important to them as well. The worst that can happen if you send an email is that it won’t be returned. In that case, there is little you’ve lost. But if you can manage to stay in touch with the professors who have had a profound impact on your college experience, you’ll be better for it.
INDULGE IN YOUR PASSIONS.
I am a student of two worlds—both a writer and a mathematician. In my professional life after UWT, I’ll be pursuing the latter fervently and for the next several years. However, I would do a great disservice to myself if I forgot that I am also a passionate writer. Finding balance will be key, but none of us should ever forget what drives us at the core. For me, my core is writing. I hope you can remember in the struggles of daily life after UWT who you are and what truly matters to you.
BE AN AGENT OF CHANGE.
This last lesson is perhaps the most challenging and important. Our time in college is for nothing if we leave its halls and go about our lives as drones working for a paycheck and a comfortable house. Rather, our education should propel us forward into the great and desperate task of changing what is ailing the world. It won’t happen all at once. It may not even happen in our lifetime. But when I see the collective voices on our campus bringing attention to important issues (Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ communities, urbanization and gentrification, and women’s issues to name a few) I can’t imagine a world in which we all leave and grow quiet. No, my most fervent hope is that we find ways to remain engaged in the process of perpetually growing our communities, our cities, our country, and our world so that it’s a better place for everyone.