Graduating this spring has its perks: I didn’t have to scrounge for another overpriced apartment in I.V., the enemy known as general education requirements will be forever wiped out and distant family members who squeezed my cheeks when I was eight will show up to take embarrassing pictures of me in a cap and gown.
What annoys me most during this final stretch of college is the mother-of-all, open-ended, intrusive question: “So. What are you doing next year?”
It typically comes from a green freshman or unschooled sophomore I run into (accidentally) at Nicoletti’s while buying yet another blandish latte in hopes of earning the prized 11th free drink. (It somehow tastes better, doesn’t it?) Or they ask when I’m at the UCen filling out graduation announcements to the aforementioned relatives.
I hate the question. It forces me to pause awkwardly while I come up with an original, respectable response, which usually includes the words “home, job, not excited,” and sometimes “need to get the hell out of there as fast I can.” My eyes wander upward toward the heavens for some guidance and a means of escape, but I look back and see I’m still standing there, late for a class I don’t want to take, up against the Senior Inquisition. I get asked by parents, friends, co-workers and those cheek-squeezing aunts and uncles (they’re the worst). Sometimes even I accidentally let it slip out too, then watch a bit of awkwardness languish in the air while furtively wishing I could just put my iPod headphones back on and erase the conversation from memory, “MIB”-style. (You’ll see that it’s never too late to make “Men in Black” jokes.)
Because as a graduating senior, I already know the answer. And so should you. We face three simple choices, some worse than others, yet none that stand out as the best.
Grad school. Work. Or the liquid “I don’t know/drifting.” It’s that easy. I’m not gonna rank these three, but allow me to hypothesize that in terms of numbers, one category is far more lopsided than the others. For those that do end up drifting post-college, I empathize with your coming struggle in the job market and its inherent catch 22: We can’t get a job without experience, but we can’t get experience unless we have a job. So a lot of us are forced to take on more humble jobs near home, because the rent is nonexistent, the food is better and your mother is your landlord. Sex, as explained by Wednesday Humper Dave Franzese, tends to dwindle, since your parents live next door and neither group wants to hear what’s going on through the walls. Mom and Dad become paternal double-edged swords: They’ll feed you and give you a roof, but won’t waste a day in pushing you out the door at the same time. It’s truly a lovely experience.
Inquisitors: Do you really want to know the answer? Are you ready to hear a poignant megillah about post-college anxiety and a critical self-evaluation as to whether four years of education actually accomplished anything? Or maybe a discussion on the apparent inadequacies of college courses to perfectly prepare you for the real world?
“So. What are you doing next year?”
Luckily, I got a job, right here in Santa Barbara. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity, and am paying tribute to the mazal gods all the time. But that’s not important. Suffice it to say I’ll be out of school.
Aaron Small is a Daily Nexus staff writer.