Here I am, barreling like a downhill ragdoll toward graduation. By the time this piece is printed, I will be 11 days into age 29. By the time I finish my degree, at the end of August, my journey to finish an undergraduate education will strike 11 long years. Boy, I can’t imagine a better time to be at my collegiate eleventh hour, because I can’t wait to sleep in until 11 a.m. again.
Part of me never believed this moment would come. I spent the better part of my 20’s writing music, performing improv and playing video games. I struggled with severe anxiety, depression, agoraphobia and chronic awkwardness that formed and destroyed many close relationships. I toiled away at Metropolitan Market, a job I’d despised but desperately needed to make it this far. I romanticized about going back to school, finally leaving my mundane retail job, and — thankfully — receiving my bachelor’s degree in Communication before turning 30.
So, to commemorate such a moment, allow me to wax nostalgic for a few more paragraphs. After all, this will be your last chance to see it in The Ledger.
Being a nostalgia addict means being blessed with backward hindsight and cursed with forward blindness. Honestly, after all these years, I feel like I know less about what I’m doing than I ever did during my 20’s. When I started composing music, it felt like the next big thing in my life. When I signed up for improv classes at Jet City Improv, I felt a new sense of belonging in a group of misfits. When my quarter-life crisis knocked me to the ground — I’m serious, I had a seizure — my decision to go back to school felt like the best decision ever. And as I stare down the void of a long-awaited post-college life, I feel almost none of that foresight.
However, I am optimistic. While my future feels like an ominous void, I get to leave college with a whole new set of knowledge, tools and experience at my disposal. I always wanted to finish college, but vowed to never return unless I absolutely knew what I wanted to do. And I want to spend my life creating. I want to write films, shows and stupid online videos that cement my name in the universe’s creative canon. Will I succeed with that dream? I don’t know. Will I try anyway? Absolutely.
So, before I run out of editorial space, I want to acknowledge the UW Tacoma entities that helped me get to where I am today.
First, The Ledger. When Dan Barnett encouraged me to apply to be a writer, I felt both anxious and excited. After working nothing but a retail job in my adult life, the thought of something else — anything else — excited me. At the same time, my complacency almost derailed The Ledger idea, as well as my second seizure. Luckily, Dan still encouraged me to apply, and I’m glad I did. My short time at The Ledger gave me the confidence I needed to take my life in a different direction. I just wish I joined sooner, because nine months felt like no time at all. My wild schedule kept me from giving more of myself to The Ledger, but to any of you teetering on the edge of applying, just do it — there’s nothing like the synergy of writers and editors dedicated to furthering knowledge through writing. Also, your new editor-in-chief and managing editor rock. Rock with them!
Next, I want to thank my professors Dr. Moore and Bill Kunz for bookending my education brilliantly. Dr. Moore opened my eyes to the wide world of media studies, helping me see the deeper levels of meaning in all the weird shows and movies I grew up watching. In regard to producing and analyzing video, Bill taught me to critically question every decision I make as a producer. Also, he let me film a documentary about my mom. Thanks for letting me film my mom’s ’80s metal band for my final project, Bill.
Finally, I want to thank every student, professor, class and lecture I disagreed with over the past two years. The best thing about the boring parts of higher education is figuring out what you could do better, and how you can apply that idea of better to the real world. And the best thing about the people you disagree with or just can’t stand? You can figure out exactly why you disagree with them and, when you graduate, you don’t have to see those people ever again.
As a graduating senior, as well as somebody pushing 30, I feel some duty to impart some sort of sage-like wisdom. And here it is: nothing is more important than living a life of balance. Don’t sacrifice your physical and mental health for perfect grades. Don’t forsake your close relationships to do more work. Follow your gut — it’s usually right. Stop putting too much on your plate. Take time for yourself and never feel guilty about it. Take a mental health day to recharge every once in awhile, or you might have a seizure while trying to buy a giant burrito at Stadium Thriftway. Hey, it happened to me.
My impending graduation still doesn’t feel like the real thing. It might still feel surreal even after receiving my degree. But my two years at UW Tacoma transformed my life, for better or for worse. To all my fellow students, I wish you nothing but happiness — with a little success sprinkled within. To The Ledger, keep up the great work. And for all of you, to quote the words of Mr. Feeney from the “Boy Meets World” finale, “do good.” If that makes me look old, so do the dark circles under my eyes.