Columnist Joanna Buoniconti: Learning to embrace the unknown

Published: 5/31/2021 2:00:16 PM

Since I consider you all my friends, I feel obligated to be open with you about something: I’m a Type A person who takes pride in having my next steps planned out.

And for the majority of my almost 22-year life, I have been able to follow the path laid out for me when I was born, relatively seamlessly. The path existed as such: do well in school, get into a good college, excel in college, graduate, then find a job and establish a career for myself.

The majority of my life thus far has been in the academic environment, and it is not only an environment that I grew comfortable in but one that I thrived in. I lived for the metaphorical pats on the head of approval from my teachers and professors that let me know that I was doing a good job, and nothing could bring me a greater surge of joy than seeing the A’s lined up, symmetrically, as trophies of all of my hard work.

But less than a month ago, when I sat on the stage at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, I temporarily let go of my identity as a student as I pursue this next chapter of my life. And similar to many of my classmates, I have no concrete plans ahead of me, and if I’m being completely honest, that scares me. However, I know this grace period is one that I desperately need, in order to re-evaluate my long-held dreams as well as figuring out exactly where I want to be in the writing world.

I discovered my passion for writing at a very early age, when I decided to enter a non-fiction essay contest in third grade. As an 8-year-old, I had no concept of how that initial spark of curiosity would ignite the flame that would mold the person who I would become. I just knew that something inside of me had clicked into place. But it wouldn’t be until high school when I was trying not to drown in loneliness, that I allowed myself to fully delve into the cathartic world that writing would become for me.

And it wasn’t until I let that part of myself bloom, that the possibilities of what I could do, in terms of a future career, became clear to me. It was around this time that I began setting my sights on going into publishing post-graduation, because being a detail-oriented person, the idea of spending my career editing and publishing other peoples’ work seemed like a match made in heaven.

But college, and the experiences that I acquired during the past four years, broadened my once-narrow perspective on the possibilities that my degree would open for me.

Ever since I was awakened to my passion for writing, I knew that I would major in English in college. It was always the logical stepping stone for me to the end goal — a career where I could spend my days with my nose pressed into books breathing in the heady smell of fresh-pressed ink. During my freshman orientation, I was first introduced to the prospect of a double major, which I became immediately intent on declaring as a way to broaden my acquired skill set and make me more marketable in my post-grad job search.

I had initially toyed with the prospect of a second major in marketing, but with my notoriously bad relationship with math, it is absolutely laughable to think about now. A horrendous encounter with calculus gave me the swift push that I needed to switch gears entirely and declare journalism as my secondary major. And over three years after the fact, it is safe to say that it was one of the best decisions that I have made.

As I grew older, writing became more and more of a necessity for me to process both my own emotions and the world around me. Journalism opened a new world for me as a way to do the latter, and once I discovered it, it was impossible not to run with it. Because there’s no better way to comprehend the world around you than through the eyes of others. While I still maintain my dream of working at a publishing house one day, it is no longer a singular, narrow one. Because I also know that I have to explore job opportunities that will satisfy my journalistic goals.

The cliche of having a degree in the humanities and the risk of unemployment that is too often associated with it is one that has been incessantly nibbling at the back of my mind for months. And while it is hard to prevent some jealousy from arising whenever I see my classmates posting about job offers, I have to keep reminding myself that everyone’s path is not straight. The entirety of my life has been full-throttle ahead, and I deserve to coast for the time being while for the first time, I allow myself to ponder what it is that I truly want.

I’ll be the first to admit that the unknown used to terrify me, but day by day I am learning to make peace with the temporariness of it. Because I now know that my options are not limited, they are limitless. And I know myself well enough to know that I will find my way through this obstacle, just like I have with all the others that have come my way.

Joanna Buoniconti is a recent graduate from UMass Amherst and is excited to see what this next chapter holds for her.

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