I have been out of college for 2 months, one week, and four days, and I’m pretty much done. I have retired to my childhood home in the suburbs of Minnesota (there’s a euphemism for “living with the parents” you’ve never heard) and every time someone, a hairdresser, an aunt, a sorely misguided friend, shouts: “Congratulations on graduating!” I am hard-pressed not to slap them across their well-meaning face. I can handle graduation cards, but only if they have enough ten-dollar bills wedged between the pages for me to abandon them, unread, in a nearby recycling bin without cringing. The other night I found one in the mail from my uncle that I accidentally scanned in my search for money, and found the halfhearted words: “Your 20s are the best years of your life.”
This gave me pause, but only because I was sure I’d heard it before. I was sprawled dramatically across the living room couch, resembling a sad satire of Rose asking Jack to paint her like one of his French girls in The Titanic, even more so because I was still clad in my towel, and I studied the oversized letters again. Your 20s are the best years of your life. How?
I was seized by the sudden desire to call my poor, unsuspecting uncle, and go off on him. “Hey, Uncle Jim. Just so you know, I’ve had 11 ‘informational interviews.’ 11. I hate my parents for telling me that I should ‘follow my heart’ and I hate my 6th grade teacher for telling me that I was ‘gifted’ because no one wants a creative writing major. Zero people. I could call up J.K. Rowling herself and apply to be her assistant’s assistant’s assistant, and she would laugh aloud, and say: ‘Shouldn’t you have a marketing degree?’ All of my friends live in different states. The closest one is New York. New Fucking York. Today I made Kraft mac and cheese when I woke up at 1pm, and it turned out soggy. I couldn’t even make it. I’ve started watching Cupcake Wars on Netflix and I don’t even like it, I don’t even like cupcakes, I think they’re just overrated mini-cakes with the wrong proportion of cake-to-frosting that are slightly too big to comfortably fit in your mouth, but I have nothing better to do with my time. I went to the urgent care the other day for my bronchitis and the nurse offered to get me a job application to be a scribe.”
I could go on, but fortunately for both of us, I never made this phone call. Instead, I poured myself a glass of cheap white wine, watched breathing technique videos online to calm myself, and went back to my job search.
This blog goes out to floundering liberal arts grads everywhere who are torn between resigning themselves to a full-time job as a Starbucks barista in their home town and going to grad school to become an accountant. You’re not alone. You are young and resilient and passionate and creative, and you know what? We’re going to make it. We were strong enough to shotgun that beer because our roommate was racing us, even though we really didn’t want to. We were strong enough to stay up watching the sunrise so we could finish (read: write) that 18-page paper on magical realism, and to somehow finagle an A on it. We were strong enough to make it that week when the only groceries in our apartment were bread, apple sauce, and Nature Valley bars because the grocery was seriously miles away and we didn’t have a car.
We are sure as hell strong enough for this.