Wednesday, March 22, 2006

When the fun times end

by Brendan Fitzgibbons, DI columnist

Isn't it funny that when you're a senior in college and your parents' friends ask about you, they're likely to say, "Oh, yeah, he's doing great, havin' a great year, real good last year, almost ready for the real world" - or a very similar female version, "Yes, she's loving her last year at the university, studying hard, she doesn't know what she wants to do yet, but she'll figure it out." It's all fun and games, until you leave.

Within as little as two weeks after you graduate (probably one day after I graduate with my parents), the tone of your parents' responses will likely change from doting fondness to hushed indignation. "Yeah, he's still at home, still lookin' for a job. It's hard though you know with the market the way it is and everything ... Should be leaving home any day now."

What changed? How did we get from silly fun time in college to 9-5 serious as concrete the second we graduate? Societal standards absolutely play a role. If it were the next accepted life step to graduate from college, shave your sideburns, occasionally box kangaroos, and urinate on a couple of cactus trees, I think most of us would accept it as a fact of life's process.

Money is another fun reality check. Money is a like that really long staircase at your grandparents' house: You never want to climb it, because it's too long, and you worry that once you got to the top, your grandpa would hit you on the head with a two by four, again, but you have to do it anyways.

We are supposed to get a job after we graduate that rewards your hard work with legal tender. I think another factor may be our need to feel useful. We all want to feel like we're good at something. I want to think that I can play the guitar, but, in reality, I am sorely and painfully mistaken. So, I will just keep pretending.

Feeling like we can have a place in this world is important; it restores a sense of order, and most people want order. Chaos bad, order good. I think if we equally mix up order and chaos in a punch bowl, throw in some Everclear and Ecto Cooler, I think you have a really interesting life.

Right now, I'm titling a little too far on the chaos side of the scale when it comes to my after graduation plans. Maybe I'll go back to Europe and backpack in the countries I didn't get to see, or I could just move out to a cool city, like San Francisco, Seattle, or Dover, and just assimilate with the natives. I could try my life as a painter, strictly sponge painting; I would be creative about it.

These plans are great, only none involve a profession where I would get paid in legal tender, and, as a result of my occupation, I would feel a sense of purpose in life.

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