No Job, No Problem

I have a confession to make: I am a second semester senior who is graduating in less than a month, and I don’t have a job yet. Are you surprised? Maybe. Maybe not. What’s more surprising to me, at least, is that nearly every other second semester senior I know has either a job or a grad school waiting for them after graduation.

I guess I’m surprised because I didn’t think graduating from college would be like graduating from high school, where almost everyone—everyone I know—continued on the same path that had been set out for them since birth. First you go to daycare, or preschool if your parents were really concerned about you getting ahead; then, elementary school, where you test out whatever sports or extracurriculars will become your “thing”; high school, where the main focus is “finding who you are”; after that, it’s straight to college.

 

I’ve known for a long time that post-grad meant “job,” but I suppose I’m disappointed that we’re still measuring success on the prestige (and accompanying bragging rights) of the place you’re ending up. Taking a position in the Peace Corps, or Teach for America, or City Year, or any other AmeriCorps program? Great work, you’ve become an asset to society. Or maybe you’ve landed a gig at a publishing house in NYC, or a law firm in whatever other dream city, and you’re on your way to climbing the rungs to the top of the next ladder of success. If you’ve been accepted into a prestigious grad school or managed to win a Fulbright, you’re the cream of the crop. Your mom must be so proud of you.

But if I decide I want to become a waitress after four years at a fancy liberal arts college, my time spent there will be seen as a failure. If I’m not teaching underprivileged kids somewhere in the United States or abroad, I’m not giving back to the community. If I haven’t decided what I want to do after graduation, what have I been spending all my time on?  

For so many people, finding a job or some other position, whether or not it is paid, is a relief. It means there’s something for them to do, or, it’s an affirmation that they really are as successful as everyone’s always said.

But what about taking a goddamn break?

I know I’ve been on this strictly regimented train of advancing through school system after school system and assignment after assignment for just about my whole life, and frankly, it’s a relief that I now have the chance to jump off.

No, I don’t know what I want to do after I graduate. If you ask me, I’ll give you the same stock answer of all the other people who are also tired of the structure of success will give you: I have a lot of options. It’s true—I’m a double major and I’ve had enough out of school experience that I could find something to do. I could pursue an MFA in creative writing. I could work at one of those publishing houses. I could apply for grad school. I could also apply for an internship or a low-level position at a museum. I could travel. I could work as a waitress, or a flight attendant. I could take a position teaching Latin or English at a private school somewhere, or plenty of other subjects at an elementary school. I could work as someone’s assistant. I could work as a nanny. I could get a job copyediting, or in marketing. If I have so many options, why don’t I just pick something?  

I don’t really know, is the anticlimactic answer. It’s not like I haven’t thought about—I just shared with you my list of potential options. Maybe I’m an idealist who won’t commit to something unless I’m sure I’ll love what I’m doing, or at least care about it. I certainly have the privilege to not be immediately worried about money—I have student loans, yes, but they’re not nearly as crippling as some people’s will be since my parents were kind enough and had money enough to pay for a significant portion of my expensive, private college education. Because of them, and because I’ve worked minimum wage jobs since I was seventeen, I was able to amass a comfortable amount of money in my savings that will carry me for at least a few months if I choose not to find a job for that time. I recognize, though, that not everyone is so lucky and finding employment might be the only option.  

Am I just a whiny Millennial, then? Maybe I’m biased, but I don’t think so. I’ve been working hard for eight plus years, doing what I’ve been told, making good marks and participating in extracurriculars because I was told that was the path to success and happiness. But I’ll confess something else to you, since you’ve made it this far: I’m not satisfied with everything I’ve been told I’ve accomplished for the past eight years, and I want something else beyond the next step, the run of the mill. But what other options do I have?

 

Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3