Wrote this Friday night, (er Saturday morning actually) before graduation. I was several cocktails and cigarettes deep when writing this and terribly past deadline for the Sparks Tribune. But I don't think I would have it any other way.
It’s 12:38 a.m. and I graduate from college in seven hours. Five years, several grandiose dreams about how to leave my mark on the world and one long day ahead of me in a “one-size-fits-all” gown — it all boils down to this.
This one moment.
And I feel, well, ambivalent.
Yes, ambivalent. Not ungrateful — quite the opposite, actually. For the past several weeks, I’ve been burdened with the annoyingly ubiquitous question, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I temper my use of the word “burdened” because I realize just how lucky I am to be so-called “burdened” with that question in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m fortunate and I know it.
I feel ambivalent only because that aforementioned question, the dreaded words to any college graduate’s ears, is downright frightening.
Thoughts of “the real world” and “being adults” suddenly take on all new meanings that gnaw at me and keep me up at night. It’s no longer the question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now it’s “What do you want to be when you grow up? And by the way, you have three seconds to decide, because this it, your life starts now … 3 … 2 … 1 … go.”
Were we at starting blocks this whole time and I just didn’t know it?
But perhaps that’s not fair of me to ask. You don’t need me to tell you that I’m graduating into a world that has seen record highs for unemployment, an economy in shambles and, as any other print journalist will confirm, a job market that is seeing pink slips, final editions and doors closing indefinitely.
Understandably, the logical and sane-thinking person would be rushing out for a job. Hungry for it even.
But I’m still so goddamn ambivalent.
The catch? I think we all should be ambivalent to a certain extent.
Just a few days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Jim. Jim, who happened to be shopping with his sister in the same shoe aisle as me at Target, is the jovial, grandfather-type who sneaks you an extra piece of candy with a wink.
After a random conversation that started over the genius behind flip-flops, Jim recapped much of his life for me, including teaching psychology in correctional facilities, being a real estate agent, raising a family in New York and now being the caretaker for his sister.
And he’s happy. He has a genuine laugh to prove it. I’m sure when someone asked him years ago what he was going to do when he graduated, he would never have described his life quite like it turned out.
And you know what? That’s OK.
Yes, plans are great. Yes, the education to back them up, even better. And yes, yes, yes starting that job on the Monday after graduation will give you security, especially now of all times.
But, on the other hand, it’s the ambivalence, the uncertainty — better yet, the unknown possibilities — that oftentimes make their own plans for you.
For the past several years, I’ve been a diligent journalism student. Took the courses, received high grades and even have been working professionally at the Sparks Tribune for over a year now.
Next week, I will be doing the unthinkable by quitting that job. It scares the hell out of me and, trust me, it never makes for a good answer to the post-graduation-plans question, garnering a combination of responses and raised eyebrows and stammers of, “Really?!”
Sometimes I can’t believe it either. It’s not the logical next step, and that’s why I like it. All my most recent educational and professional decisions have made sense, been planned and executed. Except for the graduating in four years part, but you get the picture.
Nearly 99.999 percent of my steps have fit into the “plan” because we emphasize figuring out that “plan” so much.
It’s 3 a.m. right now and I say, forget the “plan.” In less than five hours, I’ll be walking across that stage, shaking a sweaty palm and taking an out-of-step step for me. And it’ll feel good.
Or, to beg the question in the words of Bob Dylan, “Oh mama, can this really be the end?”
To all those graduating, it’s hardly the end. We’re just beginning and I’m excited to see what new — and unplanned — places that takes me.