STAFF OPINION: Just breathe

Unlocking your passion doesn’t have to happen during your college years

By Emma Swett | October 26, 2023 11:00am
by Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

​​Entering another school year, life seems to be happening all too fast. For some of us, graduation is right around the corner, and for others you have just gotten one step closer. The million-dollar question: What’s next?

I’m here to tell you the answer isn’t always cut and dry – unlocking your passion doesn’t need to have happened just yet.

Everyone take a deep breath. I’m not nervous, and for anyone who is having feelings of doubt as you’re approaching this milestone in life, you shouldn’t be either. Seniors, I know we are graduating in May, but just know that whatever step you take next along your journey doesn’t have to be the last. 

Some of you may know exactly what you want to do and are head over heels about the possibilities ahead while others may lay awake at night manifesting a short pause of the clock that keeps ticking, taking us further and further into adulthood. 

I find myself feeling a little bit on both sides of this continuum. I know what I’m passionate about and what I want to do, but sometimes I feel the fear creeping up the bottom of my spine. What if this isn’t what I want to do for the rest of my life? How am I supposed to know? 

Well, let me reassure you that none of us knows. We just have to take the twists and turns of life one step at a time.

My passion for journalism and storytelling has popped in and out of my life at various points. This time, it’s decided to stick around for a while, so I consider myself one of the lucky ones having a sense of direction as I exit college. 

Still, I have no idea exactly what I’m going to do with this after I graduate on May 6. 

You may be wondering how I came to this peace of mind. Well, I’m hoping I can tell you my story and maybe it will help you feel the same.

Super cliché to admit, but it’s true nonetheless: The pandemic changed my life. 

It sparked my passion for journalism. I was trapped within the four walls of my home and the news was the window I’d look out to see the rest of the world. 2020 will go down in history for so many reasons, but something that will stick with me is the stories the media told us that year. 

I’d like to say that’s my origin story and say I fell in love and never looked back. But (surprise) it’s never that black and white.

Next on my timeline was college. The pressure was on: declare a major, get an internship, build a resume, join relevant clubs, do this and do that so when you graduate from college you are prepared in every way to start the career you’ve always wanted. But this only suppressed my passion rather than igniting it further.

Once I got through the freshmen year pre-requisite slump, as a communication major I found myself in a multimedia storytelling class. Knee deep in photography lingo and Adobe Premiere Pro, reality was way different in Franz 231 than I had expected it to be when I signed up for the class simply because it had “media” and “storytelling” in its title.

Then, I was finally given something I could handle. A writing assignment. 

The task was to interview a media professional that inspires us and tell their story. Well, guess what? Remember that freshmen pre-requisite slump? It turns out a little note I had written down in my anchor seminar class — a class I don’t even know if UP offers anymore — and tucked away for later, was going to provide me with a breath of fresh air.

Walter Thompson-Hernandez. It was a shot in the dark. Someone with over seventy thousand Instagram followers, a crazy-intimidating aesthetically pleasing website, someone who’d worked with Nike, Beats, has had work published in The New York Times and a Sundance film festival winner. But hey, he’s also a UP alum, so I decided to shoot my shot and ask him if I could interview him via Facetime, Zoom or Email. He happily agreed.

Little did I know, what I was going to learn from this Zoom conversation would be my life motto moving forward.

Basketball had been his life, with no intent other than to go play professionally. He reached his goals and found himself playing professional basketball in Latin America. With his first paycheck, he bought himself a notebook and a camera and everything changed. 

Post-grad, Thompson-Hernandez ventured into worlds he never could have imagined as he departed UP in 2009. He’s held the title of journalist, photographer, videographer, writer, director, producer and, most importantly, storyteller. The success he has amounted to can only be credited to his openness to try new things. 

Thompson-Hernandez told me to go out there and do it. Buy myself a camera, travel, take photos and videos, observe different environments and cultures, that I’ll never learn more than I will by actually going out and doing it. He advised me to apply for the internship I’ve been considering, to take that trip overseas. What I’ll gain from these experiences will only give me more than what I had before.

So what comes next after graduation for me? 

Well, I suppose I’ll try and find something where I can do what I love. Maybe I’ll travel a little bit, buy myself a notebook and a camera and immerse myself in the experiences of life. Most importantly I’ll know that no matter how many steps I take, none of those will ever be my last. 

Emma Swett is a sports reporter for The Beacon and can be reached at

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