Life Advice

I was combing through old papers tonight, and I found my graduation speech for Tufts. It was awesome on so many levels to read and reflect on right now. Start in the middle(*) if you don’t want to read it all, because that part is the best. Enjoy!

I love Somerville.  The people, the places….It’s great.  All week, I’ve been trying to capture it in a series of snapshots so that I can take the feeling I get here with me when I move to New York.  It’s not so easy.

People-watching is like taking a series of snapshots in the context of the environment as we know it. We make judgments about teeth, clothing, demeanor, skin color…..we can infer a lot.  We create stories…it’s fun.

I’ve always created these snap judgments; we all do.  We see what we can, and then build what we want out of these creations.  But, these assumptions may not be right.  That’s dangerous: does that mean we’re misinterpreting the snapshot? It’s the exploration and challenging of these judgments that’s a key part of sociology.

Being an active photographer through people watching makes this possible.  In active photography, the photographer might not know the subject, but they’re excited to find out. It’s the interactions, the conversations, the relationships that build a snapshot and give meaning where otherwise we can only guess.

That’s why I love sociology.  It has infused in me a passion for people watching and active photography that I can share with others both as art and to tell a story about my environment through my lens.

The community at Tufts is also something I have been trying to capture on camera, and this process honestly only made sense to me at the Champagne Brunch with the senior slide show and posterboards of pictures the other day.  Some of the pictures were just pictures, but remembering the context and feeling proud to know the people in others of those pictures makes the snapshot a story.

My Tufts snapshots are an album of my friends, professors, and my family.  They have created my stories from both this physical place and this place in my life.  These photographs are snippets of my continuing learning and my place in a fabulous community.

* So what profound advice can I leave you?  Probably not much; sorry to disappoint. But what I can do is leave you with a picture of the voices of Somerville.  Yesterday, I spent some time in davis square figuring out who the people in the background of my davis square photographs are, and i asked them for some advice for post graduation.  In this photograph though, it’s not the visual that’s important, but the appreciation for all of the voices in it.  I want to share some with you:

They advised about life:

  • Have a plan.
  • Don’t have a plan.
  • Follow politics and debate.
  • Don’t be afraid to make a decision, there will be no mistakes.
  • Just sit back and have a drink.

They advised about jobs:

  • Doing it because you have to isn’t a way to live.
  • Don’t stress about the first job, that’s all it is.
  • Don’t follow the money, follow the passion
  • It’s ok to be a plumber if you wanted to be a doctor.

They advised about relationships:

  • The best things aren’t things.
  • Delegate.
  • Don’t forget your parents, they put you through school.
  • Good friends are priceless, so go the extra mile to keep in touch, even if it’s tough.

And of course, there were a few funny but great ones:

  • Get an HPV vaccine immediately!
  • One woman passionately told me don’t wait til you’re 35 to get counseling while another chimed in, hell, get it before you’re 30!

Mike, a 63 year old history teacher, who was sitting on the bench outside of jp licks, asked me if I had ever visited mt. auburn cemetery.  I said I hadn’t, and he said that to visit, then, was his best advice.  the snapshot of graves there tells the stories of the founders of the schools that all of Boston is graduating from, the people who have written the texts that we have studied and debated, the people whose shoulders we stand on, even though we often forget that we do not stand alone.  Mike’s advice to visit the Mt. Auburn cemetery reminds us not only to learn the stories but to expose ourselves to taking the picture and appreciating our context in the first place.

Class of 2008, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you create your own collage of meaningful snapshots wherever you go.

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