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The first years out.

May 2, 2011

Originally posted over here

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Dear graduating seniors,

Hello and congratulations—you’re almost there. If you are like me when I was about to graduate, you are probably a little anxious about what the future holds. What luck: I know what your future holds and I’m going to share this information with you. Best alumna ever!

Wait a second, you say. This lady is a nobody! What does she know about anything? And isn’t she only like 3 years older than us? Fair enough—when I was in your shoes I would’ve thought the same thing. In fact, when other people told me the things that I’m about to tell you I thought they were crazy. What me? I thought aghast. But the future looks like raindrops on kitten noses for me!

The Stages of Post-College Life (In no particular order)*

* Note: This does not apply for people who majored in engineering, math, most science fields, or are going straight to law school or medical school. This is for the rest of us sad saps. It is especially pertinent to English and PoliSci majors. Sorry humanities majors: you dun goofed.

  1. You will move back home. If your parents turned your old bedroom into the state of the art fitness center they always dreamed of, you might consider buying an air mat because you’re going to be hanging with Ma and Pop for a little while longer. It might not be right away, it might not be for long, but trust me: you will live with your parents again. If you don’t, I promise that you will at least consider it—I mean really consider it.Let’s face it: living with mom and dad gets a bad rap. You don’t have to pay rent, utilities, or for most of your food. Chances are that at least one of your parents misses you enough to take you out to lunch occasionally, especially if you’re despondent over your stalled future. If you’re lucky like me your mom will occasionally be your designated drive (be safe, kids). However, living with your parents should always be a temporary solution to your problems. Your parents love you and you love them, but not that much. Also, the longer you spend in your parents’ house, the quicker you turn into a townie and serve as a sad morality tale for all of the current undergraduates coming home to visit.
  2. You will have a terrible job. You’ll probably have more than one, but rest assured, you will have at least one terrible job. Don’t worry though: it will seem like the greatest job in the world when you get it. You know how you’ve spent the past four years honing your critical thinking skills, developing complex theoretical understandings of the world, and collaborating with like-minded intellectuals? Forget all of it.You are going to spend the first month (at least) doing the most mind-numbing work you can imagine. You will lick some envelopes. You will make a lot of runs to get documents from places around town. You will also find out that your health insurance doesn’t kick in until after a 3 month waiting period, that pay checks are delivered two weeks after the pay period ends (and you started in the middle of a pay period, so not for a month… sorry!), and someone at your office will irrationally hate you because you are young and enthusiastic. Your boss will turn out to be a passive-aggressive monster who will change his/her mind about the project you’ve been working on for the past month the day before it is due. You will either cry or feel like crying at your desk.You’ll probably move up in the ranks—you’re smart, you’re a go-getter, you have ambition. But it will take a long time and it turns out that your new responsibilities are similarly mind-numbing, but now there are more of them. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you “really want to do” and will probably utter the words, “I would rather write my senior thesis all over again than do another mail-merge.”
  3. You will get a pet. You get a pass if you’re one of those people who just doesn’t like animals, but pets are an epidemic among recent college graduates. They are cuddly, happy to see you, and still like you even if work is terrible. You’ll probably drive all of your friends crazy the first week you have a pet by talking about the pet all the time and making excuses to go home and play with it instead of socializing with humans. A pet will not fill the gaping void in your life, but they are pretty great.
  4. You will go to graduate school. I bet many of you are thinking that you would rather die than go back to school. Who could blame you? You’ve just endured four tough years to be capped off with a senior thesis project that seems to have no end in sight. But the fact of the matter is that you’re probably going to need that Masters degree in whatever to get to the pay scale you’re aiming for.Here’s the scoop on grad school: it makes people crazy. This is especially true for PhD candidates, but Masters students are also guilty. After a month, you will only speak in jargon indecipherable to anyone not in your specific field. You will think PhdComics is the funniest thing on the Internet. You will not be able to watch television without figuring out ways to tie it to your dissertation. Grad students drink lots of red wine and are concerned with fine cheeses. My advice: buy a handbook on wines and cheeses now so you’ll immediately be the coolest kid at the department mixer.
  5. You will be jealous of your peers’ lives. You will see pictures on Facebook of your friends on an extended island getaway. Their vacation days and funds will seem to be endless. You will run into people at bars who will tell you about hobnobbing with influential people with whom you would like to hobnob. You will hear from your parents about old friends who are getting published in magazines that you read regularly. You will hang out with people who have settled down and started families and, even though you’ve never really considered it before, you’re going to think, “I could do that.” You will catch yourself in your lowest moments cursing every decision you’ve ever made because if only in preschool you hadn’t stuck the Play-Doh in the water fountain you might have gone to a better high school and had a better guidance counselor and gone to a better college and decided to major in Finance instead of Classics (oh what on Earth were you thinking!) and now you’d be a freaking billionaire instead of some girl living with her parents, with a dog you bought on a whim, and a terrible job.
  6. You will have so much fun. You might not think too much about the fun while it’s happening, but it does happen and in places you might not expect. You have a license to explore your surroundings. You might find a bar around the block from your hometown train station that specializes in old timey country music karaoke five nights a week (and has a bartender named Chris who keeps a microphone behind the bar so he can wash dishes and sing). Or maybe you’ll find out that your co-workers are just as fed up with things as you are and it’s time to kick back and relax. Chicken and waffles might become your favorite meal. I suggest saying yes to everything this side of sane—even if it’s something that you probably used to hate. This is just another chance in a long string of chances to make mistakes, start over, try new things, meet new people, and be the best you.

To close, good luck my stress-addled friends. It’s almost over!

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