To the graduating Theatre Majors of 2017,
My commencement speaker’s most memorable line:
“Titles don’t matter, it is what you do with those titles that matter.”
Thanks for telling that to a bunch of people that just spent thousands of dollars to get these titles.
“Small businesses are the future of America!”
While that might be true, she was speaking at the College of Arts and Science ceremony.
Graduation is terrifying, and it doesn’t help when your commencement speaker seems to be talking to everyone but you. Deeming titles meaningless and small business empowerment doesn’t help the woman that spent four sleepless years to graduate Suma Cum Laude as a Theatre Major.
In the middle of my own graduation ceremony, I was panicking because for the first in my theatre career I was thinking “what if everyone was right, what if I shouldn’t have been a theatre major?”
Here I am, living with my parents again, unemployed, and writing a blog post. It’s hard not to feel like every other millennial artist. I graduated about two weeks ago, and here is the pep talk I think we all need right now (or maybe just me).
Once again these big fish entered a bigger pond.
At some point in our lives, I am sure all of us were big fish in small ponds. Our egos inflated as we were the best in our small community, so it was an easy assumption to make that we were also the best anywhere. Then we moved on and faced new challenges.
That’s why we went to college, to face new challenges, we like the challenges! If we didn’t we wouldn’t have gone to college in the first place. So yes, it is only going to get harder from here, but something else brought up during graduation was “when comfort ends, growing begins.” If you aren’t challenged, you aren’t learning, and if you aren’t learning, you’re doing something wrong.
You will get a job, be patient.
Back to that “big fish” concept. I was told I would easily find a job, I had the skills, the resume, everything I thought necessary to have the perfect post-grad future.
Then I didn’t get into any of the graduate programs I applied for. Then I didn’t get any of the jobs I applied for.
It was a lot of blows to the confidence in a short amount of time.
But new openings are popping up every day, and the one I found today I am much more excited about than any of the jobs I applied for a month ago. If I don’t get this one then I am sure something even more exciting will pop up.
You’re allowed to change your mind… still!
For the most part, we all had to face judgment when we told people we wanted to be theatre majors.
“Is that even a real major?” “Why do you have to go to college for that?” “What are you going to do with a theatre degree?”
Recently I ran into an actor that I had worked with and she told me she was moving to Boston to work with children with autism. She was a successful actor, she loved the stage, but this job seemed to magically appear in her life and it was her new dream. She wasn’t giving up on acting, simply following a new passion.
The best lesson we learn as theatre majors is we don’t tend to care what the general public thinks, so do whatever you want! If that means following a new passion. It’s not quitting or giving up if it is chasing a new dream. Theatre gave you the skills and helped you along the way.
You are the only one standing in your way.
Some people are more privileged than others, it is undeniable. There was no possible way I was ever going to get into Juilliard, which is no one’s fault, not even my own. I still wanted a career in theatre, so I am going to make it happen, and I still might make it to Broadway, just in a more unconventional way.
A more general example is that someone in my life told me I was a weak writer. I then assumed I was just bad at writing and that was all there was too it. I wouldn’t be qualified for any writing based jobs, I probably wouldn’t be able to get my Ph.D., it was all over.
It took me a couple years to realize that being a bad writer was not a permanent situation.
Rejection hurts. Criticism hurts. It isn’t permanent though.
So it's back to writing, and back to applying for countless jobs.
To the graduating Theatre Majors of 2017; don’t compare yourself to others; be patient; and know you are enough, no matter what any commencement speakers say.
Michaela Bulkley is a recent graduate of the University of La Verne and has spent the last few years freelancing in Los Angeles. She has an obsession with Shakespeare, theatre for children, and coffee. Now she is exploring theatre administration and leadership as a career and hopes to create a world where more people understand her theatre jokes.
Photo: Berry College