Virtual graduation party: I stand with more ‘yeas’ than ‘boos’ after a stressful year fighting back

Here is where I stand.
I graduated from Drake University and earned my master’s degree.
(Yea!)
This was the most demanding course of study I’ve ever undertaken.
A quarter-century between stints as a student made me rusty.
I remember when I handed in my last paper to my professor, she emailed me and said I was good to go.
I wrote back: “You mean it? I’m going to graduate?”
I earned high marks, but that last semester — student teaching and preparing for licensure — is a lot.
I struggled at midterm. I didn’t think I was going to make it.
My professor and my supervising teacher assured me I would.
I did, but I could hardly believe it.
Sometimes I login to my student records on the Drake website just to see the degrees earned and double-check the Master of Arts in teaching is still there.
It is.
(Yea!)
I’ve had a few interviews. I’ve applied for jobs across the metro.
I don’t have a full-time job for fall yet.
But my teachers tell me this is normal. Veteran teachers I know say when their careers started, they didn’t have a job until school started.
This plays hell on my anxiety.
(Boo!)
Yet I endure.
I am going to be doing some more work for the Marion County Gazette, a weekly newspaper that approached me earlier this year about writing a column.
I’m going to be putting in 20 hours a week remotely covering public meetings and other tasks.
I never thought I would practice journalism again, but never say never.
There’s something pure about watching a public meeting, writing down the decisions the elected officials make, and reporting it to readers.
No spin.
No hype.
Just the facts.
The other half of my summer plans are somewhat tenuous. I’m supposed to teach summer school.
But my license is tied up.
(Boo!)
The Iowa Legislature finally passed the bill that waives expensive tests after completing an accredited teacher prep program.
Now I must grit it out until Gov. Kim Reynolds signs the bill.
She has 30 days.
Insiders tell me she’ll sign it. It passed both houses unanimously.
That kind of bipartisanship is rarer than a jackalope sighting on a snipe hunt.
(Sorry, that’s an old country kid joke.)
I’m supposed to start work at school on June 6. If the governor signs it before that, I’m golden.
If not, I’m out of luck.
I’m eligible for a temporary license, which allows me to teach for one year without taking those tests.
I applied for that license, but the school district that hired me must fill out a form for me to teach under the temporary license.
Their policy is only to do that for a full-time position.
(Boo!)
So, I’m waiting.
And as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
The yeas out way the boos and that feels good.
I graduated.
I’ve got at least some work with the potential for more.
I won’t relax until I’ve signed a contract to teach for a full year with some district here in the metro.
So, that’s the situation.
First, thank you to all of you for your cards, letters, notes, and, of course, your donations.
All of you made it possible for me to remake my life in middle age.
I want to describe how deeply that generosity has touched me — how it has changed me as a person and my outlook on human beings and myself.
I don’t have the command of the language to do that.
Thank you just isn’t enough.
But thank you.
I hope this is the last time I come to you to ask for support.
I’m in a delicate position between finishing school and starting work.
I need to cover expenses for June. I won’t see any paychecks until the middle of June. And if the teaching job falls through over the licensing kerfuffle, well, that’s a parade of horrible I decline to contemplate until I must.
So, my friends, I ask you again for a little support.
If I can just get over this hump, I’ll be on my way.
Every contribution helps. If you hadn’t gotten around to sending that graduation card, now’s the time to celebrate.
I thank all of you again for your support.
Thank you for renewing my spirit and keeping me afloat. You were my life preserver.
I’m very close to shore now. Another tug would be very helpful.
With love and hope,
Daniel P. Finney

Daniel P. Finney
1217 24th St.
Apt 36
Des Moines, Iowa 50311
PayPal: PayPal.me/paragraphstacker
Venmo @newsmanone
Zelle @newsmanone


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Vincent Van Gogh plays Elvis’ Graceland

Vincent Van Gogh plays Graceland and other bizarre adventures from the life of Paul Talking Paragraphs

Let's be honest: I forgot what we talked about for most of this podcast. It seemed interesting at the time, at least to us. I know there's something about Paul and his mom going to see a traveling Vincent Van Gogh exhibit at Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley. After that, there's talk of an African restaurant nearby. The rest is hazy to me. So, we can listen and discover together. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/talkingparagraphs/support
  1. Vincent Van Gogh plays Graceland and other bizarre adventures from the life of Paul
  2. Crypto tanks; Don't mess with the swim-up bar; and Dan is mumbling again in a medication haze
  3. Tragic and bloody true crime! Weird animal stories! Shocking superhero secrets! Everything the almighty algorithm says you wanted and more!
  4. Bears use house as Airbnb without owners knowing; Elon Musk buys Twitter and its still horrible; Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly blood-drinking habits; and 'fictosexuality'
  5. 3,500 pounds of cheese stolen in Netherlands; Iowa Democrats can't count; Fox News hosts are horrible people; and tackling in junior college baseball

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Graduation doesn’t live up to the hype, so go find your own good stuff and enjoy that

Dear Class of 2022,

There’s nothing I can type in these paragraphs that will surpass Taylor Swift’s terrific commencement speech for New York University earlier this month.

Look it up on YouTube. That’s how you give a commencement speech.

Kurt Vonnegut gave great commencement speeches. They put a book together of his speeches called, “If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young.”

Buy that book. It’s completely free of empty platitudes. I read it every few years even though I am no longer young.

I should read it this year. I am a part of the Class of 2022. I earned my master’s degree from Drake University earlier this month.

When I graduated from Drake for the first time, in 1997, Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wrote a column called “Advice, like, probably just wasted on the young.”

That sounds cynical, as journalists often do, but it was a lovely column that began with an excellent piece of advice: “Wear sunscreen.”

The column became one of the first viral pieces of writing in the early days of the internet.

And like viral things on the internet, it was often misattributed.

One line, “Do something every day that scares you,” was incorrectly credited to Eleanor Roosevelt.

The whole thing was attributed to Vonnegut.

Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann turned the column into a hit single. He read it word-for-word and properly attributed it to Schmich, who got royalties.

The song streams online and the column can be found out there, too.

This is the long way of me saying I don’t have any better advice than these fine people when it comes to graduation.

I remember a few things about graduation from being both a student and a teacher this year.

For example, I remembered senioritis. I forgot how done with it one is by the time they get to the last lap of high school or college.

I never expected to have senioritis three times in my life, but even the luster of graduate school — where one might expect to find the most studious minds — fades near the finish line.

Each milestone, no matter how minor, seems like a Sisyphean task. It just feels like you’re never going to get to the end.

And then you do.

There’s supposed to be this great release.

It’s more like a great relief.

Senior years are stressful.

Everything is “the last” of something: last homecoming, last game, last prom, last finals tests, and so on.

The process wears on students, especially in high school.

Imagine all the hype for the Super Bowl, but about once every two weeks for something at school.

Maybe it goes well.

Maybe it’s a bomb.

Or maybe it’s just “meh.”

Hype seldom helps.

The challenge should be to take things as they come, and enjoy life as a journey and not a destination.

Pause occasionally, as our friend Mr. Vonnegut suggested, and ask, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

We aren’t set up this way.

Our culture values milestones and celebrations.

Small moments, the ones that we hold dear for the rest of our life, get washed out in the big bombast of pomp and circumstance.

Graduation is important. You successfully completed a largely preplanned series of steps toward a goal.

The market values that.

Life values that.

You’ve demonstrated you can learn.

I worry that we haven’t done much that demonstrates we can live.

I recall a fishing trip with Dad 2.0, the kindly east Des Moines printer who raised me after my parents died.

I was 15. We were out on his canoe. I fidgeted. I would rather be back at the air-conditioned trailer reading comic books.

Had I been a modern teenager, I would have scrolled through my phone.

Dad 2.0 recognized my disquiet. Now, I don’t remember the exact wording, but it went something like this.

“You know, you’re lucky,” he said. “The world is a noisy place and getting noisier every day. But right now, all there is nature.”

“You know what the sun feels like on your skin, the still of the water in this lake.”

“You know how it feels for the sun to come up in the morning and how it feels when the day changes to night.”

“Most people let those things pass them by, but that’s the good stuff.”

So, if I have any advice at all, Class of 2022, it’s this: Find some quiet and enjoy the good stuff.

A former journalist and future teacher Daniel P. Finney writes a column for the Marion County Express.


Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification.
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311.
Zelle: newsmanone@gmail.com.
Venmo@newsmanone.
PayPalpaypal.me/paragraphstacker.