Dear Imminent College Graduates,
You’ve got a few weeks left — maybe two months at most — before the wonderful veil of college is lifted and the exhausted, over-caffeinated, rat-faced rat-racers of the Real World are revealed. “Join us, join us!” they screech, their talons flexing and claws beckoning as they emerge from their cubicle homes just long enough to witness the newest parade of recent college grads.
OK, you guys need to relax. First of all, what’s with that weird fantasy-nightmares about creatures in the Real World? We’re PEOPLE, people. Besides, most of us don’t even have claws (how could I type?). We are all tired and rat-faced though. But seriously, in the weeks leading up to graduation, a lot of seniors/genius jerk juniors find themselves freaking out about the road ahead (which is silly, because then what will you do with the rest of your 20s?), or the fact that they don’t have a job yet/might have to move back home/are saddled with crazy debt/never studied abroad or took that Scuba Diving class.
Yes, the unknown waters of the Real World can be choppy and difficult to navigate (plus you never took that Scuba Diving class, so now it's really looking rough), and maybe it would be a little less daunting if I stopped capitalizing Real World (sorry), but these next few weeks are also a precious sunny moment in time that can never be recreated. Trust me — you’ll try at every college reunion. This is a time when you should be cracking open a beer and putting on the 5 pounds known as the Senior Week Gut. This is a time to celebrate your friends. A time to marvel in the education you’ve received. A time to enjoy the weather and the fleeting, golden weightlessness that is yours in this moment. And it’s a time to embrace the completely normal thoughts below that may be rumbling through your brain. They are completely normal because I say they are:
1. I still don’t know how to do a bibliography page. Should I do MLA or APA format? So is it author first, then title? A comma or a period? When does the colon come in? And where is the miserable uptight little sh-t who wrote these rules?
2. Whatever, let’s just move on. I’m 22, about to graduate college and still don’t know how to…
a…balance my checkbook.
c…change a tire.
d…confidently parallel park.
e…carve a turkey.
f…pick my battles.
g…explain game theory, the digestive system, the main themes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or the 3 laws of gravity (I solidly know 11/2 of them).
h…get my roommate to PLEASE do the dishes/take out the trash/turn down the music/have quieter sex.
i…not drunk eat.
j…convince my dad that Sociology is a legitimate major.
3. I have no idea what I want to do with my life.
4. Was I supposed to figure that out here?
5. I wonder how my major in Medieval Studies with a focus on Feudal Systems, a minor in Agrarian Uprisings and a concentration in Public Speaking will apply in my first job. I’m sure it will though.
6. It will, right?
7. Shit. Is it too late to change my major? What’s my adviser’s name again?
8. Also, I’m 95% sure I haven’t fulfilled my science requirement.
9. We’ll all keep in touch, I just know it!
10. Ugh, I am not keeping in touch with him/her.
11. I’m already forgetting people’s names. You’re saying we had five classes together? Sorry.
12. I can’t wait for the next step.
13. This went by WAY too fast, I’m not ready for what’s next.
14. What do you MEAN I have LOANS?! That’s not a real number, is it?! There’s a COMMA in that number?! I’ll still be paying off these loans when my kids are paying theirs. If I can even send them to college.
15. No, screw it, I’m not having any kids. I want nice things in my house.
16. This was the greatest 4 years of my life!
17. Shit! This was the greatest 4 years of my life. It's all over.
18. I thought this was supposed to be the greatest 4 years of my life.
19. Should’ve picked my safety school.
20. I wonder if I can find a job where it’s still acceptable to show up hungover as balls 30 minutes late and in my sweats…and then fall right back asleep.
21. I know! I’ll be an actor.
22. I feel so bad for people who don’t have jobs lined up yet.
23. I’m SO glad I don’t have a job yet. I want this last summer of freedom (read: live in the basement and apply to jobs while watching marathons of America's Next Top Model and/or Boy Meets World)
24. Facebooking and tweeting counts as networking, right? ‘Cause I just networked the sh-t out of it for 4 hours.
25. In just a few more weeks, I’ll never be tested again. Except if I go to med school. Or law school. Or any kind of grad school. Or have to take a test for my first job. Or move to a different city. Or start a new relationship with someone who challenges me. Or move into a single apartment and have no one else to blame when there's no beer and the trash is overflowing. Or engage in any kind of minor endeavor from here on out.
26. Sh-t, so that’s what “Real World” means.
27. I thought she said she was gonna stop capitalizing that.
28. Is there even such a thing as paid internships anymore?
29. I am unique. I am special. I bring something distinctive to the table. And this one time, I helped build houses in Ecuador for a week.
30. Gross, I think I'm gonna have to move back in with my parents.
31. I'm so excited to move back in with my parents!!
32. That award I won junior year of high school is still one of the most exciting things on my resume.
33. When the HELL did I get this fat?
34. People still get summers off in the real world, right? And winter break? And spring break? And three breaks in the middle of the day to walk around?
35. I could’ve had more sex.
36. I should've had less sex.
37. Wait! There’s still time to have sex.
38. I should stop reading this list so I can go have some sex.
Easy there. To sum it all up, there’s this damaging illusion that once you graduate, you’ll suddenly and magically have everything figured out: what you want to do with your life, where you should live, why that idiot never called you back, and exactly how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood (it’s about 7 feet, but I only know that because I’ve been in the real world for almost 3 years ... sorry to spoil that for you, I know you would’ve figured it out eventually). This is more or less the same illusion that people project and expect when you meet “that special someone” — everything suddenly works itself out and the rest of your life exists in beautiful montage set to a catchy, romantic tune.
The truth of the matter is that your diploma won’t change nearly as much as you think it will — sure, you’ll have proof of a bachelor’s degree and therefore more employment opportunities — but that piece of paper doesn’t guarantee all of the answers, or really any. It is my hope, however, that having that piece of paper means you’re equipped with better tools to tackle life’s questions, armed with a stronger sense of self, and supported by a great group of friends.
Now, go have sex.