It’s hard to believe graduation season is here again with its Pomp and Circumstance, funny hats and parade of unsolicited judgments.
I remember very clearly an old family friend asking what I’d be doing after graduation, and when I told her I was going to pursue music, she said: “Oh, but Sarah, you’re smart!”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. Actually, 14 years later I’m still not sure how to respond. (Maybe “Smart enough to know why a 6 minor is a frequent substitution for the tonic”?)
I am sure, however, that 2018’s grads are getting more than enough advice without me throwing words into the ring, so instead, I’d like to address the friends and family of graduates.
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Some of you have concerns about what your son/daughter/sister-in-law’s dog walker has decided to do with his or her life.
You have tried to impress upon them the importance of going to a “real school,” so they can get a “real job,” but instead of rearranging their futures accordingly, the newly minted graduates plan to pursue what they want to do with their lives.
Kids these days.
You know what would really teach them a lesson? Show them just how unnecessary all those not-real jobs are by living without them for a year.
I mean, sure, giving up electricity and indoor plumbing is going to be a bit of an adjustment, but how can you teach your kid that someone with years of specialized education and training isn’t as respectable as someone with a college degree if you keep relying on their work every day?
You won’t miss electricity that much anyway since you’ll be spending most of your day outside hunting for food.
Using a grocery store might give the impression that distributing food is necessary work to sustain the entire human race or something crazy like that. And that’s getting dangerously close to validating the hard work of farmers and warehouse workers, too.
So after you finish gathering your roots and berries, go home, light a candle, dig a hole in the back yard (don’t want the kids thinking the garbage collector has a real job) and throw out all your books, movies and CDs.
Can’t have aspiring writers, actors or musicians pointing out the hypocrisy of relying on professional artists for entertainment while discouraging people from becoming professional artists.
I gotta tip my hat to you. Your world is going to be cold, dark, boring and possibly full of raw sewage, but it will be worth it to teach those kids which jobs are the “real” ones.
Or you could spend this year recognizing all the people whose labor enriches your life, all the very real jobs you depend on. Reevaluate the assumption that a person’s degree or lack thereof is the only measure of their intelligence and that their job title is the only measure of their worth.
Some graduates will choose to go to college, and that’s great, but there are so many ways to get an education, so many ways to be “smart” and contribute to society. All of them deserve respect.
I don’t have any advice for the class of 2018, just a question from my friend, Harvey.
I ran into Harvey at a music festival a month after I graduated, and when he asked me what I was doing, I came at him with conversational guns a-blazing.
Yes, I was working. No, I wasn’t going back to school right away, maybe someday, but ironically schools with folk music programs are ridiculously expensive.
All my defensive scripted answers came rolling off the tongue with practiced ease.
Harvey looked at me, smiling, and asked, “Well, are you happy?”
I stared blankly at him as my train of thought careened off the tracks and into uncharted territory. I didn’t have a canned answer for that because no one had ever asked before.
“Yeah,” I said finally, “I am.”
That was enough for Harvey. It should be enough for everyone else, too.
Sarah Comer of Puyallup is a musician, storyteller and community dance facilitator. She is one of six News Tribune reader columnists in 2018. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org