Shiny new tool belt: a graduation story

Graduating senior Talia Triangolo receives the Rhode Island College Theatre Award from Professor Jamie Taylor at the Cap and Gown Convocation on May 4.
As graduation approaches, RIC seniors are diligently putting the final touches on their college career in the form of exams, practicals, final performances and evaluations, to name a few.

Some students will graduate on May 21 after spending the standard four years here at RIC, but others, like me, have spent a little more time.

I have spent five jam-packed years here at RIC, performing, and studying hard to earn two degrees – one in musical theatre, and one in communication.

As I prepare to leave, I am already in rehearsals for an upcoming gig, the world premiere of an original musical that will play at Trinity Repertory in Providence throughout the month of June.

Though graduation is on my mind, I have been busier than ever getting my final papers and exams done, then rushing off to rehearsal for the remainder of my nights.

This may seem like a stressful situation, but to me, it is the ideal. I have waited five years to begin this new chapter of my life – the life of an actor.

Soon RIC graduates will embark on the beginning of their own new chapters of life: some as actors, dancers or musicians, many as nurses, teachers or writers, and some as scientists, publicists or artists.

We have studied long and hard, some while working part-time or full-time jobs, or internships. Others have spent nights rehearsing for hours on end. Many have been playing on sports teams or spent endless hours in the biology labs.

Whatever your passion may be, we all have something in common: We have spent our college careers honing our individual skills to mold and shape our futures.

When I was asked to write a piece on graduation, the image of a tool belt was tattooed in my mind. On May 21, each skill, tactic and lesson that we have collected along the way will be carried with us. You can’t always see them, but they are there, tucked neatly into our own personal tool belt that we wear every day.

You might think that after graduation this tool belt gets tossed in the closet, or buried under the bed, never to be seen or used again. College is over, and we begin real life. But what is real life without the tools we have so diligently strived to create?

For me, the tool belt is complete. It is brand new and untouched. Shining. The tools are finally organized, polished and ready and eager to be used.

I have already begun to pull from the belt. It has taken me five years to stop and relish the moments, and consider the people and events that brought these tools into my life. I am thankful to my family, friends and of course, my teachers who have used their own tools to assist the creation of mine.

These tools are not always tangible. Many come in the form of life lessons. A very wise professor once told me that most of the learning you do in college is not academic. They were right. Though my academic merits have been plentiful, the majority of my learning over the past five years has been unrelated to books or exams.

Spending time at RIC has handed me some extraordinary situations. Others have been unexpected, and have taught me many lessons along the way. From discovering and appreciating time with some of my favorite professors, to avoiding my least favorites…the learning was constant.

Perhaps the most difficult puzzle of all was piecing two majors into 10 semesters for a perfect fit. I learned to thoroughly ensure that all my bases were always covered, and to be my own advisor.

Through the relationships I made and maintained while in college, I have learned to be a better friend, daughter and human being. Whether it was academic or personal, I have learned to handle extreme situations with practicality and grace. I have learned to never give up, to always stand your ground, and to always keep the morals that have been instilled in me. As a student, worker, and actor I have learned to juggle personal, private and professional life. I have learned the value of a real friendship.

Each of these lessons has been neatly tucked away into the belt, ready to reappear whenever they may be needed.

Whatever degree you hold in your hand on graduation day, you will experience what everyone has always talked about: the beginning of the rest of your life. We hear it all the time on television, in movies, in music, and directly from people in our lives.

I am unsure if graduation day will live up to the whimsical fantasy of what a college graduation is supposed to feel like, but one thing is for sure: We will walk across that stage with readiness in our hearts, willingness on our minds, a degree (or two) in our hands, and tools of our trade always within arms’ reach.