Diary of a Pandemic Graduate

Lou Nillas
Dec 13, 2021 · 3 min read

After a year of remote learning, I can remember what it felt like to submit my final assignment for university on the floor of my childhood bedroom earlier this May. There was no grandeur, no champion’s music as if I had defeated some boss-level monster or finished the long sixteen-year marathon that academia was. Just the dim light of my 2011 Macbook illuminating that checkmark I’ve seen so many times before and the fleeting sense of relief before realizing there were bigger boulders to push moving forward. I knew post-grad life was a time I should allow myself to be confused, and as a pandemic graduate, my future and the state of the world felt as if a giant question mark hung over my head. I graduated- but what comes next?

With the rise of movements such as BLM and Stop Asian Hate coupled with the panic and unease of a seemingly unending pandemic, a feeling of pervasive helplessness seeped into my day-to-day life. Art has always been a way for me to ease my worries and untangle the string of intrusive thoughts that threatened to fill my brain with paranoia and nihilistic emptiness. There were many moments when I wondered, how can my work and the energy I put into it be so important if there were so many other pressing issues to worry about? Then, I found Deeds.

I was drawn to Deeds Not Words because their values aligned with my own. I have considered myself a feminist for as long as I could remember and the supportive virtual office energy made me feel at home right away. As a designer and as an artist, working with Deeds allowed me to feel as though I was contributing to a worthy cause. I wasn’t just making branded work for corporations, but for larger movements. Working at the intersection of art and advocacy has also healed a part of myself that felt detached from my work, as I was encouraged to create work that reflected the cause and in turn, reflected stories that I wanted to tell. In my research, I felt more connected in my designs and narrative expression of these subjects relating to multifaceted femininity, identity, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and POC representation.

Deeds gave me a space where I felt I was creating for myself and for the communities I am tied to. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of creating art for subjects I am passionate about, I’m filled with a sense of urgency to tell stories that speak to the wary and uncertain parts of myself I had tried to mask behind a facade of professionalism and exaggerated competency. At Deeds, I was allowed to ask questions and seek advice, not expected to know everything but genuinely encouraged to learn. My satisfaction in my work and my progress is a product of the supportive, non-hierarchical environment fostered by the intelligent and intuitive women who I now consider friends. To say that my time at Deeds was one of the highlights of my post-grad journey so far would be an understatement.

I still find myself thinking about that day, submitting my last project on my childhood bedroom floor, and consider how lost I felt unaware of what would come next. I look back now with my work-from-home set up adorn with prints and relics from my first art market. The risoprint zine with my name in the credit adorns my desk, smiling brightly at me with its fluorescent colors. A stack of posters of my design sits on my drawers while graduation memorabilia decorate my space- my diploma still in its original wrapping. Seven months ago, I had no idea what would come next, but I am so grateful I took the time to sit with myself for direction as it led me to Deeds, where I would soon flourish with the passion and guidance of my co-workers and friends.

For all the upcoming graduates, career-pivoters, and hungry changemakers out there — when you feel lost I encourage you to seek company with yourself as a reminder of what values you want to shape your life around. Getting in touch with my needs and desires for the future is what led me to Deeds, which has molded me into an artist and professional I can feel proud of. With the vigor gained from my experiences, I know I will move forward with new energy and a higher standard for myself in anything I pursue next.

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