This is my friend Mike’s graduation invite. He’s off into the real world now.
For the average freshman, sophomore, even junior in college, going home for Christmas break is relaxing. A full month off to mess around and do whatever (sleep, eat, sleep, repeat, etc.)
Everything changes senior year and in the 5-10 years after (or until you have children of your own and parents find a new place to focus their “advice-giving”). The average college student at this time returns home only to be bombarded by the inevitable question, which takes many different shapes and forms, but in my house it typically goes: “What the hell are you going to do with the rest of your life and why aren’t you doing that RIGHT NOW?” This will without a doubt serve as the segue into what they truly intended to tell you, which is: “Well, this is what I think about the matter…”
I see this question/follow-up “advice” already causing some of my closest friends to tear out their hair. And I am going to surmise, based on the singular fact that I don’t have ALL that many friends, that this is a conversation had, in whatever shape or form, by every parent with their early-20-something son or daughter. Right at Christmas time, right when all we want to do is eat snickerdoodles and watch Home Alone on the sofa with the dog (or cat).
Now, I don’t really have any advice. Screw my advice, even if I did claim to have some. But, I can offer some words of comfort:
1. You’re not alone.
For example, here’s how a conversation might go down between my mother and I when it comes to my future. Note: this isn’t verbatim, but actually a conglomeration of separate nearly verbatim conversations she and I have had over the past couple months:
Me: I’m excited about my internship in January–it sounds like I will be doing a lot of hands-on work.
Mom: I still say you should have studied journalism, you were always such a good writer.
Me: Yeah. Wait, huh? Also, I mean, in PR all you do is write. Press releases, letters to editors, blogging…
Mom: OK, but when you start looking for a real job, you should really apply to federal jobs. usajobs.org! — I’m telling you that’s where the money AND the benefits are.
Me: OK so what happened to me being a journalist?
Mom: Well, I mean you should have studied journalism because you were just always a good writer, but if you want a job with great benefits you really should get a federal job.
Me: You aren’t making sense, mom.
Mom: Oh! What you should do is marry a man who works for the government.
I guess what I want you to get from this, other than my mom is a complete psycho (jokes, she’s actually a lovely, although illogical woman), is that you are not the only one frustrated and confused by all the “advice” from your family members. Just remember they truly do love you, and as much as they aren’t helping, they truly think that they are.
2. What “your future” comes down to is what you want to do and what you are capable of doing given you’re a) education/upbringing b) personal drive and passion and c) a little teensy bit of the freakin’ economy. Which brings me to…
3. Don’t let the economy bring you down. Instead, let it bring you around. So maybe you can’t find a job or the college thing just ain’t working out and/or you can’t afford tuition payments, like this kid. Instead of trying to do things the old-fashioned way, step out of the box and just do something you’ve always wanted to do. A best friend of mine left for New Zealand a few weeks ago. He saved up money for a one-way plane ticket and is off living in Mount Maunganui. He’s already landed a job as a prep cook at a Mediterranean restaurant there and in his free time he’s taking a couple online classes toward his degree and then y’know…living life. Check out that link for some explanation—let’s just say he’s not worrying about having to shovel snow from his driveway.
All I’m sayin’ is if things aren’t going peachy and job prospects are few by the time graduation rolls around, I’m not going to get stressed out. I’m going to get excited. It means I’ll have to get innovative. It means I might have to soul search a bit and take my own advice for a change instead of everyone else’s. It means I might have found my use for all the graduation cash: a plane ticket out of this country for a little while.
Just don’t tell my mom.