I’ll do my best to bring water into this water column, but with our cool, damp spring and a few global distractions, for once, water is not my most pressing concern.
This open letter is to my daughter and all recent college graduates.
Dear daughter of mine:
This week you are stepping out of the academic sphere and commencing your life as an adult, free to chart your course. Naturally, I have a few things to say:
For so long, the spring of 2020 seemed like an ideal season and year to graduate and launch into the broader world. Your dad and I imagined that your youthful, 20/20 vision would clearly guide you to a bright future.
The good karma of 2020 should have flowed like the spring freshet in the Dungeness.
Instead, a pandemic is sweeping the globe, the job market has fallen through the floor, the problem of racism has captured our full attention and climate change isn’t going away either.
As a new graduate you have every right to visions of a satisfying career, a chance to settle or travel, to raise a family or stay independent, and to lead an interesting, happy life.
As of spring of 2020, realizing these visions may depend on you and your generation helping the rest of the world through this transformational time.
I know – it sucks.
Because this moment in time is so vastly different from what you (we all) expected, you may not feel strong and powerful, or see a world of opportunities when you look ahead.
It isn’t obvious at first, but I submit that all those 20/20 visions are still yours to embrace.
Reason No. 1
First of all, your hard work gave you deeper knowledge into subjects you’re passionate about. This is your formal education and you should feel proud of achieving this major life milestone. No pandemic or economic crisis can take it away.
In the process, you gained critical skills including communication, time management, and multi-tasking – especially as a student athlete. You juggled finances and navigated the requirements to complete your degree. You gained critical confidence and maturity, and used them to express your gratitude to coaches, professors, mentors and funders of your college experiences.
Bonus – you experienced solidarity with your cohort over the challenges of social distancing and virtual classes. Then you learned critical resilience by having to accept that graduation would
not include a chance to hug and say goodbye to your favorite people and places on campus.
This loss is very real, and I am very sad for you.
However, as the number of cases of COVID-19 now exceeds 6 million worldwide and protests are prompting riots, you probably realize that a big graduation ceremony isn’t a super good idea.
And so, wonderful as your institution’s president is, you will move on with a wave from an online image of him saying goodbye and good luck.
Reason No. 2
College is an invaluable space to grow and learn, but – as you must know – it is a bubble and you are now entering the real world. Tolerance is at an alarming low point, our air and water are still polluted, our highways and utilities are deteriorating, and our collective mental and physical health is deteriorating as well.
Ready for it or not, you are seeing that your elders don’t always make decisions based on facts or predictable outcomes. This is not part of your vision. Don’t buy into it.
I’m sure you learned how rare a true dichotomy is. There are usually more than two ways to look at something even when it seems like it’s black and white. Navigating the gray area requires an open mind and compromise, so use what you learned to find creative solutions in solidarity with your elders. Many are happy to mentor you and share their wisdom.
Reason No. 3
It is clear: there is important work to be done – more than ever.
I know how excited you are to start your career, but the best-fit teaching job may not be an option right now. Consider a more global goal for the time being.
You have adaptable skills and priceless vision. Consider applying them at this transformational time to helping organizations working to teach tolerance, restore the environment, or overhaul the education system. Use your recently honed communication skills to mediate social unrest.
Use your multi-tasking skills to keep afloat financially. There are many good people ready to support your unselfish mission – you just have to humbly ask for help and show your gratitude.
Sorry for the unfair cliché, but our world needs you and your generation. We need everyone to dig in and care more about the future of society and the planet than their immediate financial well-being.
Reason No. 4
Speaking of commencements, your age group is launching a brand-new generation. (Come up with a better name than Gen Z, please!)
Your peers have already grabbed the attention of the world through strikes, speeches, and teaching online courses taken by thousands from older generations during the pandemic lock-down. Our world is, literally, an open classroom.
The truth is, your age group has more flexibility and motivation to make change than any other – and the stakes, sweet daughter of mine, couldn’t be higher.
It is a bittersweet moment: my heart is both heavy and hopeful. But my tears are pure pride and joy. Please accept my wish for you, as you accept your role in this crazy, confounding, but immensely beautiful world: use your new resiliency to keep that optimistic 20/20 vision alive!
With love and great admiration,
Your mama (& dad)
P.S. Your father adds these timeless words from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young: “And so become yourself. Because the past is just a good-bye … ” (Complete lyrics may be found on the web version of this article.)
(Of course, I would love to see more hydrologists in the world, hint hint … LOL)
“Water Matters” was started by a former resident of Sequim during the 2015 drought, about one year after Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., and the #BlackLivesMatter movement began. I assume there was no connection when the original author chose the name, but with some people now arguing that all lives matter, all issues matter – I want to make something clear. I am in full agreement that our society has a problem with racism, particularly against African Americans, and that we should honor the need for the Black Lives Matter movement to take hold everywhere.
To preempt any questions, my concerns about water in the Dungeness watershed can be represented by a different moniker, so I have asked the Gazette to rename this space the Water Column from now on.
Those who keep their eye on snowfields in the Olympics this time of year will already know that our cooler weather is definitely slowing down the rate of snowmelt – a welcome change from recent years that will bode well for irrigators and salmon if it continues!
For the 2020 Water Year (started Oct. 1, 2019):
• Rain in Sequim at the Sequim 2E weather station (sea level): Total rainfall = 15.5 inches; New high temperature = 75 degrees Fahrenheit on May 10; Low = 20 degrees Fahrenheit in November.
• River flow at the USGS gage on the Dungeness (Mile 11.2): Highest max daily mean = 1,880 cubic feet per second on Feb. 1; Low = 98 cfs on Dec. 16. Range for the past month = 350-900+ cfs, rising toward peak snowmelt time.
• Flow at Bell Creek entering Carrie Blake Park: 0 cfs; Bell Creek at Washington Harbor: 3-5 cfs.
Ann Soule is a hydrogeologist immersed in the Dungeness watershed since 1990, now Resource Manager for City of Sequim. Any opinions expressed are those of the author (and today, her husband, Dave Shreffler) and do not necessarily represent policies of her employer. Reach Ann at email@example.com or via her blog at www.watercolumnsite.wordpress.com.