You’ll Never Need to Look Back if you Carry it with You

You’ll Never Need to Look Back if you Carry it with You

Valentine in silver cap and gown, turned away from camera, looking back.

Where to next?

Endings are hard. Even when new, exciting opportunities lay on the horizon, endings can carry monumental emotional weight. But everything ends, and the truth is that if things didn’t, it’s difficult to imagine that they’d be nearly as meaningful to begin with. The word commencement is often left unexamined, used as a nothing more than a synonym for the word graduation, or used simply to refer to the celebratory ceremonies surrounding the end of one’s degree program. In all of this rigamarole around things ending, it’s often overlooked or forgotten that the term commencement really means beginning

When I leave Columbia, there will unquestionably be a lingering sadness. I’ll be parting ways with the amazing cohort I’ve been a part of for the past two years, my incredibly talented students who will be continuing their work at Columbia and elsewhere, friends in other programs and cohorts with whom I’ve bonded and collaborated, and a myriad of friends and mentors in the faculty and the administration who I’ve had the joy of learning from as a student and employee of the school. That, my friends, is a whole lot to miss. But the bitter, I assure you, is not without the sweet.

These cumulative experiences and bonds from both my graduate and undergraduate studies at Columbia have led me to what’s next. No matter where the road takes me, the years I spent here will always be influential on the choices I make and the things I accomplish. For what is the purpose of the first chapter of a book if not to lead you to the next chapter, and the next? There is a goodbye built into every hello, but that inevitable truth is what makes the interim so special and so important.

As the Class of 2021 faces the culmination of this chapter and the commencement of the next, we do so in a strange and challenging world, but one brimming with a renewed sense of hope and possibility. We’ll be navigating an uncertain job market, beginning new degree programs, launching business ventures, some of us just taking a beat to figure out what’s next, and of course, all of us taking on whatever surprises the future has in store. So, as we do, how does one hold the important lessons and relationships of this epoch close while still keeping one’s head high, one’s eyes forward, and remaining open to receiving and honoring what’s next?

Firstly and foremost, keep those connections alive. The friendships I’ve made in grad school are ones that will last a lifetime, and I know that my cohort-mates have amazing projects in store. I’m already excited to continue to collaborate with this amazing group of people, and to cheer one another on through our future wins, losses, and everything in between. The support network we’ve built with one another is a strong, rare, and beautiful thing, and I know we’ll keep on motivating, inspiring, and reassuring each other as time progresses.

It’s also so important to hang onto all those memories, lessons, tools, and affirmations from school and embody them as habit and practice in future endeavors. The things I’ve learned at Columbia have prepared me to take my career to new heights. That said, in my time here, I’ve grown not only academically and professionally, but also as a person in general. Learning at Columbia takes many forms. It takes place in the classroom, on the job for student employees and those taking practicum courses, and in a wide variety of other contexts, such as extracurricular activities, participation in school committees, industry events, and more. This school has furthered my ability to thrive in my career as an artist by expanding my skills and knowledge, as well as encouraging personal growth, dedication, and adaptability. These attributes are now permanently folded into who I am, and inextricably so. 

These last two years of graduate school, as well as my undergraduate studies here at Columbia, are an irrefutable part of me, and for that, I am so thankful.

Valentine in a silver graduation gown, tossing their cap into the air.

Every accomplishment is worth celebrating.

And so, to our incoming and prospective students, and to the Class of 2021, as we embark on our next endeavors, I want to wish you all a new chapter bursting with beautiful friendships, rewarding collaborations, impactful lessons, thrilling opportunities, growth, balance, joy, and all the luck in the world. Let’s do this, shall we?

Signing off for the last time with much love and gratitude,
Cruel Valentine
Master of Arts Management, Class of 2021
Columbia College Chicago