I gave the following two-part prompt to friends who recently graduated college.
1. Draw a picture of what you and your surroundings will look like once you’ve “made it,” and describe the picture in writing.
2. Answer the following question in writing: “While you were in college, what would your drawing of having “made it” looked like?“
See their responses below, and click “Read More” to read each response’s full text.
Want to Contribute a Response?
I’d love to post your drawing and written answers to the prompt at the bottom of this page. Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Let me know if you want to be named or anonymous.
“I’m outside a café in Europe in the early afternoon with a burly, slobbering man—a new, great friend who I can talk to in a language I’ve been studying for the last few years.” Read More
I’m outside a café in Europe in the early afternoon with a burly, slobbering man—a new, great friend who I can talk to in a language I’ve been studying for the last few years. He’s loud, telling jokes and banging his fists on our wobbly table, making me laugh until I cry. I’m enjoying a beer without getting a headache, and on my back, I feel the breeze of a pretty waitress dashing by. She smirks. She sees cuteness in our goofiness. I’m not close friends with anyone like this guy in real life. Maybe I’m attracted to his character cause he’s physically the opposite of me and embraces his masculinity. Our feet are touching too.
I would’ve still been sitting outside a European café, but I would’ve been alone—working on my art on my laptop and answering emails from people who admired me, and I could answer their emails without any stress. To passing by city folk, I would’ve looked totally cool and at ease. This version of “making it” still pops up.
In college, my mental image of “making it” and it being a given that you “make it” alone, probably caused a lot of my career anxiety. If my wildly lucrative career solely depended on my art, my personality, and my ability to communicate, then I wouldn’t have been cool and at ease at all. Rather, the passerby German woman would’ve seen my legs crossed under the café table, bouncing up and down and my twitchy fingers on my laptop, typing-deleting-typing-deleting.
Jack Lundquist – August 2020
“It was 7 damn hours giving all of me to the mountains! It isn’t just about the physical reward, but the freedom to just be…” Read More
There is a pandemic fuckin’ with us, our lives changed, and I wasn’t able to travel for months. Finally, at the end of the summer, I went on a road trip and hiked through three mountains in New Hampshire. I’ve never done something similar. It was 7 damn hours giving all of me to the mountains! It isn’t just about the physical reward, but the freedom to just be, be there between nature, as the same height as clouds, contemplating an endless mountains, which turned from green to blue in the distance, surrounding by pines that I can’t find easily in my country, and the chilly breeze that made me feel blessed. No need of a phone, off of duty, nothing to worry about, healthy, young, glowing. At least for some hours I felt free, hence I felt I “made it.”
*The poor drawing was made on my campsite reservation print.
I appreciated nature as well, but I was focused on enjoying life in a huge and chaotic city as Bogotá is. So “making it” was more about academic and professional goals. Having a master, being bilingual, having an “important” job that pays me well and doing something that I’m passionate about. Actually I’m still working on all above haha, but with no rush and appreciating the path towards it.
The reflection is simple. I find beauty, reward and pride in simple things. In college I took life too seriously, now I can say I “made it” when I accomplish a physical activity, or when I’m cozy drinking tea in my bed after a long work day or when I wake up with a hangover in a week, cause I don’t need to wait until the weekend to have fun.
Anonymous – October 2020
“I am doing work that…encourages all people (especially youth) to respect one another and reject systems of oppression. I am teaching kids raised as boys to reject toxic masculinity and care for their own bodies and hearts.” Read More
I feel supported and surrounded by those who love me— even if they’ve passed, even if I haven’t seen them in years. I feel connected and purposeful. I am doing work that I love, work that encourages all people (especially youth) to respect one another and reject systems of oppression. I am teaching kids raised as boys to reject toxic masculinity and care for their own bodies and hearts. They will learn to do the same for others, and I watch them flourish over time. Maybe I am married or have a long term partner, and maybe I have kids, but regardless I spend tons of time with my friends. All of my friends help raise my kids, and I help raise theirs. People really listen to me when I have ideas, and I feel really smart. I live in a house with lots of light.
Mostly the same but a bigger focus on feeling valued by boys. I felt so unseen by all of my crushes and boys in general. In college I wanted to feel sexy and smart and valued, I wanted to go to a lot of really epic parties and be the craziest, most fun and most sought after girl there. “Making it” meant mattering enough to tag along with all the cool people to drink and smoke and dance and be wild. “Making it” also meant graduating and finally being set free because the fun parties never truly outweighed all of the misery of my college life.
Anonymous – August 2020
“Old friends and former lovers arrive, and in a dramatic moment of confrontation, we appraise the success we’ve each arrived at.” Read More
I’m at some kind of reception in a large white-walled space, and it’s in my honor: a show of my artwork, or the cocktail party for my film screening, or I’ve just given a lecture and now it’s time for the “refreshments.” I’m dressed elegantly in tasteful fabrics, but not flashy, and I have a smart silver haircut. I’m not famous, but I’m well-known and well-respected in my field of art or design. My partner, the great love of my life, is at my elbow contributing to the conversation, and sometimes we drift apart to talk to different people, and I admire them from afar. I have riveting conversations and laugh loudly with people attending the reception. I watch my partner point in my direction from across the room and swell with pride. Old friends and former lovers arrive, and in a dramatic moment of confrontation, we appraise the success we’ve each arrived at. I feel content to be myself, in all my personal and professional, material and emotional, facets.
I probably wouldn’t have had such a long view of my future. I couldn’t imagine myself older than thirty. I saw myself in a radio booth, dictating what’s important over the airwaves; in an attic studio, endlessly tweaking a collage; and then attending a party and remaining blasé, removed, observing. I wanted to hole myself up in a beautiful room somewhere and eschew what I thought of as the poisonous schmoozing required to become lauded. It wouldn’t require me forming or maintaining or honoring connections with anyone. But now I’m reevaluating that and acknowledging that personal-professional bonds are real and complicated. A social dimension of everyone respecting each other is how anything satisfying gets done.
Saskia Globig – August 2020
“There is sun. A butterfly lands on my nose and we make eye contact.” Read More
I exit dwelling
I am alive. There is sun
A butterfly lands on my nose and we make eye contact
The butterfly remains until I arrive to my destination
I made it
A city -blah blah -using words I only partially know blah blah
More is more
Exhale and shrug *
There is Sun
Mikey Cabezas – August 2020
“Colors, welcoming pictures and messages, and flags from all over the world invite my new students into an accepting, safe, and fun space.” Read More
In the center of my drawing is my first-grade classroom, where I’ve been teaching for a few years already. Colors, welcoming pictures and messages, and flags from all over the world invite my new students into an accepting, safe, and fun space. Bordering my classroom are snippets of my life beyond the classroom. Starting from the top left image and moving clockwise around the border: I take frequent road trips in my current or newer Nissan Rogue. I have cultivated a substantial vegetable garden at home, which yields all of the tomatoes and potatoes my heart desires. With my teaching career, I have the summer free to vacation in Italy, spend time with family there, and explore Europe bit by bit. Every Sunday, I have lunch with my family. I proudly share my polyglot status, since I’m fluent or proficient in English, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, German, Portuguese (Brazilian probably), Greek, Hebrew, and Swedish. In my community, I regularly design for productions of musicals. I am the very proud owner of at least one Bernese Mountain dog. I occasionally have opportunities to teach around the world through professional or personal pursuits. I have fun with my friends, as always. And lastly, I have at least one room in my house solely dedicated to Harry Potter. I’ve definitely “made it.”
In college, my drawing of “making it” would be similar, but less fun. My classroom would still be a main feature, and academic work would be equally as central. I would have drawn myself surrounded by stacks of books and papers I’ve written and published. I would still be studying my languages, although they would have been slightly different (Arabic, and no German, Hebrew, or Swedish). I would not have included the other “fun” aspects of my life that contribute to my personal fulfillment and balance. In college my mindset was “me against the world;” I struggled to ask for help or recognize when I needed it, and I self-isolated. The success I dreamt of in college largely consisted of accomplishments in which others would be grateful for my work (teaching, research, activism in education). I absolutely did not acknowledge my creativity and my desire to express it.
Marisa Finkelstein – October 2020
“My home is bright and airy, and in my living room…a few people are shooting a porno titled ‘The PISSolution of the state’. I am an openly queer mayor of a town, anywhere, with the power to bring direct change to my community…” Read More
Tectona Reuggen – August 2020
“I was placing my happiness as the end goal for my life plan, when I should have been including it in every step of the journey!” Read More
“Making it” for me means making enough money with my art to live in happiness on my terms.
I want to “make it” in the way of having the freedom to continue to develop my art while driving my parents on every road in the world during their retirement in a slightly modified mini van (filled to the brim with snails). I want to install a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style bed for my parents to relax, while we drive through all the sites in the world! The upstairs of the van will have a collapsible studio where I can escape in the evenings to draw and sculpt…and the next morning we will all watch the sunrise and follow the road to our next adventure!
The pandemic acted as a catalyst in my life to force me to review what this question meant in regards to my future. After laying out a plan I realized that there were so many unnecessary and unhappy steps (involving grinding through life in a big city). After some review I saw that I was placing my happiness as the end goal for my life plan, when I should have been including it in every step of the journey!
St. Omach’s Foot – October 2020
“I imagine…coming back from a walk in the woods to a humble but beautiful cottage. I live alone with two bicycles—one is for guests.“ Read More
I imagine “making it” as coming back from a walk in the woods to a humble but beautiful cottage. I live alone with two bicycles—one is for guests. There’s a single-rope tree swing, a tool shed, and I can walk to a body of water within five minutes. Inside there’s an art studio, a powerful computer complete with creative software, a painting setup, and musical instruments. I work from home as a freelancer taking on 3D and code-based projects for clients. I take care of my health, mentally and physically, and live a peaceful existence balanced with the challenge of client and personal projects.
Outside there’s a faded basketball hoop nailed above a small garage. The air is pure and filled with the sound of cicadas in the summer. I cherish phone calls with close friends, and have auditioned enough recipes to be happy in the kitchen. No wealth, but I live comfortably and enjoy life working on personal projects, only now with less distraction. Friends, perhaps coming and going, perhaps living elsewhere on the property, pique my interest.
For many years, when I visualized myself “making it,” I always saw myself sitting in an airport at 4am with my laptop and book-bag next to me, waiting for a flight. I think this image lends itself to two points worth unpacking. The first, that my desire for success wasn’t in the having, but the anticipation. Sitting in a quiet, dark airport waiting for a plane is inherently more exciting to me than the destination. The second, that it’s a moment of surreal peace culminating from the pursuit of some personal motivation—personal motivation being a very sacred topic for me.
John Huggins – October 2020
“I feel inspired by the world around me, and through that, I am able to inspire others.” Read More
I am in a place that I have set aside to be my workspace. I feel confident and content. My brain is full of new ideas, and I have the time, energy, resources, and financial means to execute and explore those ideas. I feel inspired by the world around me, and through that, I am able to inspire others. While my space is my own, my work is not. I work with those around me to build a better world. My brain is a sponge full of other people’s thoughts and perspectives. I’m no big-shot, but I feel proud of the work I do and the people I work with.
I run an ad agency and get paid to play with colors, words, and shapes. I work for big companies who put my work up for people around the country or the world to see. Everyday-people don’t know I made the thing they saw, but I am satisfied to know they saw my work. I am a leader in my field.
Tommy Ryan – September 2020
“I am mowing the yard, while reading…I am as focused on the book as
I can be, without letting my attention wander too much. Otherwise I might run right over my big toe.” Read More
I am mowing the yard, while reading. There is not much else to describe—I am as focused on the book as I can be, without letting my attention wander too much. Otherwise I might run right over my big toe. I’m happy enough reading and working just enough to live in a cheap-to-live (well) city. I read what I want: Proust, Toni Morrison, Bolaño, Wordsworth, Walser and Kafka, Carson McCullers, Dickinson…
The drawing is, to be honest, not of my own imagination. In the summer after I graduated, and I was still living in A—, I finally decided that I wanted to move to R—, for a change of scenery. I was working for a former professor at the time, and had been for about half a year already. I confessed in an email that I was moving away after F—, this professor, proposed that I work for a friend of his who also lives and works in A—. I have to mention that F— is Nigerian, and an elder, so he does not have the usual restraint that white, American professors have with their students. After answering his question as to why I was moving –first of all to live in some other place for a while, but more importantly to work little and spend as much time reading and writing—he responded with something along the line of, “what?, do you think you will be reading the New York Times while you mow the grass?” Apart from intending to inspire some embarrassment and self-consciousness at my decision-making, I think he was only concerned about my failure to recognize opportunity. You know, the usual gamut of the future, success, initiative, potential. Also, he was worried that he would be losing a reliable assistant—but he never did, at least not totally, as I still do some little odds and ends for him…
At present, “making it,” it is not much different. I mean: working as little as possible, and reading and writing as much as possible. Now, though, I spend a lot more time riding bikes. You can imagine me on a bike with a book instead. Or at a park, with my bike propped against a tree, and I am reading. Anyways, bikes are part of my “making it” now. Beyond that, the image I have of “making it” is a little hazy.
Anonymous – August 2020
Ben Mattoon – September 2020
Want to Contribute a Response?
I’d love to post your drawing and written answers to the prompt, below. Email them to me at email@example.com.
*Let me know if you want to be named or anonymous.
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