A Note to the Liberal Arts Class of 2016
Congratulations! You did it. You survived four years (or more) at [insert liberal arts college here] and all you have to show for it is a chapbook of shitty poetry and a hole in your pocket, singed by student debt, that will remain there no matter how many times you change your pants. You couldn’t even keep the area rug that you bought for your dorm room freshman year due to the loose tobacco that became interwoven in its fibers. Rolled cigarettes were never your forte.
Chances are, you’re still a little drunk off bacchanalia. You will be for the next few weeks as you host and attend graduation parties of your peers, but as you stand in line to scrape third helpings from the bottom of a tray of catered food, a relative — likely of the uncle variety — will approach to ask you the question that you’ve been avoiding since you took off your cap and gown.
“So, what’s next?”
In response, you will initially stare into the sterno beneath the aforementioned tray of lasagna until a twitch in your eye develops, possibly producing enough telekinetic power to detonate the tiny flame into a bomb that engulfs the entire party. This would be the best case scenario. Alternatively, you’ll smile like a dog whose owner is tugging on its upper lip to expose its teeth to a veterinarian and whisper, “I. Don’t. Know.”
This will be the only time in your college career that you will regret not taking the straight and narrow path of becoming an accountant or a doctor that your parents initially suggested. Sure, you suck at math, but at least you could have had an actual title to aim for career-wise rather than twirling towards a conceptual amalgamation of all of your hopes and dreams that pays in shillings made out of chocolate (non-GMO, vegan). Instead, what will happen now is you will flounder in the sea of nothingness beneath the sting of a June sun as your eyes adjust to the real world where those who get the yachts did not interpretive dance their way into corner offices.
But it’s ~not about the money~ though, right? Fuck capitalism, man — you want to express yourself! You want to perpetuate ~culture~ and ~art~, on which you have the faintest grasp. In regards to this notion, here’s the bad news and the best post-graduation advice I ever received: no one cares about what you're doing right now except your mom. You might Facebook message your senior thesis to notable figures in the field that you aspire to be a part of (waiting on you, Steve Levitan), but unless you’ve hit the nepotism jackpot, none of it will make a sound — but your work isn’t insignificant.
Never lose that spark that you had in your butt during the second week of May when you felt like the world was yours. It's what will drive you through the cover letters that you’ll be writing for the next four to thirty months in order to hopefully, maybe acquire a job for which you're 0.4% qualified. You’ll get so good at writing cover letters that you’ll consider adding it as a skill to your LinkedIn, assuming that you have a LinkedIn.
Next, get a job; literally any job. I recommend acquiring a position in the food service industry because it’s humbling as fuck, plus you rarely have to pay for lunches and/or coffee. Every penny counts when you’re working on minimum wage and split tips. Then, in your time off from trolling job boards and “working”, split your energy 50/50 by doing whatever it is that you love and by conquering something new that scares you. Write, paint, photograph. Make miniature sculptures out of belly button lint. Use your skills to document this experience via dreaded blog or tumblr page, but whatever you do, don’t start an Etsy store. Wait until you’re financially independent from your parents before you embarrass them to that degree.
Learning doesn’t stop with a diploma. Graduation is just the beginning of the longest lesson that you’ll have to teach to yourself, so start paying attention.
The past eight years of your life have existed in a centrifuge with a four-year cycle, with each turn, a promise of renewal. There was security in a destination — first high school, then college — but now's the time where the lid is removed and you’re spat into the amorphous timeline of reality. Nothing is certain, and this path that lies ahead will be a mosaic of mismatched pieces — both whole and broken — but boy, will it shimmer in the rearview mirror.