If you asked me what my outlook for my post-graduation future was going to look like about three months ago, my answer would surely have been bleak. Now, while still feeling some incipient bleakness, I’m feeling a little better about entering the adult world, at least until I start graduate school.
I suppose most seniors are experiencing the same thing. Not at the same time of course. I suppose we’re going through something that resembles the stages of grief. I think there are five. See how I’ve retained all I learned in my Human Development class? I even got an A in that one!
So how are we reacting to this very major life change? Some of us are experiencing denial. These people are avoiding entering the real world by going to graduate school. Those of us going to Learn a Profession will enter medical school, law school and business school in the hopes that we will find gainful employment upon finishing our expensive advanced degrees.
Some of us are experiencing anger. Anger at a crappy economy, enraged at absolutely insane/senile professors that grade unfairly, angry at the final realization that a history degree gets us very little in the world at large. Would you like fries with that?
Some of us are in the bargaining stage. This is where I am. I tell myself that I’ll take a year off, travel, work, take the LSAT and eventually start law school (see, I’m also in denial!). We’ll get around to the business of being adults after certain conditions are met. These conditions can be anything from seeing the Mona Lisa to getting married. It’s a really good way to prolong the inevitable world of car payments and mortgages.
Of course, the most important stage of entering the adult world is acceptance. Accepting the fact that working for $31,000 a year at a non-profit organization isn’t making you feel as fulfilled spiritually as you thought it would and you’re not a bad, selfish person is hard. Conversely, those who make $80,000 right out of law school may feel that they are slaving away for corporate America and they are beginning to dislike the world they see.
What is the true path to enlightenment and self-fulfillment? Is giving up that $80,000 a year to write the Great American Novel a good idea? Or would it just be better to write that novel on vacations? How do you write a novel anyway? And once that question is answered, you have to figure out whether or not you want to write fiction or nonfiction. What if I can’t even write?
Reaching the level of acceptance doesn’t mean you turn into Buddha. There are more hurdles to climb once we’ve finished school. Finishing school isn’t going to solve our problems. In fact, it will probably cause more problems than it solved. Sure you don’t have homework, but now you have a burly loan payment to make and you need to buy new clothes for your swanky new job. Clients aren’t impressed by flip-flops and battered khakis.
There are folks who find workplace happiness after college. I salute them. I also want them to let me know if they need a really good legal secretary. I can type almost 100 words per minute, and I can take dictation. I also have a working notary stamp and three years of experience. And I didn’t learn a bit of it in college, but it’s not going to pay my bills forever.
So, for all you uptight grads, I urge you to just seek counseling, provided that you have either qualified for the Oregon Health Plan or gotten a job that has a benefits so you can afford therapy. The rest of us will walk that fine line, wondering if we spent four (or five, or six) years Doing The Right Thing. Or we will wonder if we should just find a rich old man to marry.
(By the way, I realize I only went over four of the five stages of grief. I’m a history major, for the love of God, not a math major.)