Life in the post-Yale working world is like a petri dish full of deadly microbes. It’s interesting to look at for brief amounts of time assuming all your vaccinations are in order and you’re wearing proper protective gear — but I would never want to live in it.
After summers of obscure Yale-funded research projects and Yale-created internships in which the “work” was photocopying and spending afternoons looking up everyone I knew on Google, this summer I found a “real job” as a newspaper reporter in Toledo, Ohio.
“You’ll find it so liberating to live on your own and make your own money!” encouraged my mother on my last day at home. She helped carry my suitcases to the car and mused aloud whether she should repaint my room taupe or fawn.
“The Real World will eat you alive,” warned my 18-year-old brother, who spent this summer working three hours per week at the local video rental place and laboring on his autobiographical novel.
“My book is about destruction of the illusion of man’s natural rights,” he explained. “The main character realizes he can take whatever he wants — steal other guys’ women, whatever — as long as he has the power. That’s how the world works, Molly.”
If anyone knows a publisher who might be interested in Danny’s novel, please let him know. He has three months to get autographed hardback editions in the mail to college admissions officers.
Despite my brother’s words of caution, the prospect of self-sufficient independence was exciting: leaving dirty clothes wherever they fell, peeing with the bathroom door open, lounging on the couch in my underwear, shamelessly picking the peanut butter cups out of a carton of Moose Tracks ice cream, all with no ramifications whatsoever. Aside from paying monthly rent and surrendering a third of every paycheck to Uncle Sam, my life as an independent 20-something would be every seventh-grade boy’s dream, and a nice trial run for the real thing after graduation.
But, by the end of the first two weeks, I had discovered a massive daddy longlegs infestation in my apartment, had melted my radio-alarm clock to the stovetop when I put it there to get better reception while baking brownies, and had become so bored at night without a television or Internet connection that I started passing the time by opening Eudora, ignoring the “connection failed” error messages, reading old e-mails for several hours and laughing out loud at my own jokes.
Any kind of social life at all required enormous initiative. Who wants to call up co-workers you barely know to hit the bars in a town you still need a map to navigate? Why not just lie inert on the couch and call your friends from college to complain about your boring summer?
Remind me again why I should ever want to graduate and be an independent, productive member of society?
To say I was relieved to return to Yale is an understatement. My eyes watered with joy to run into classmates down in storage space, clambering over boxes like Red Cross workers looking for survivors in a bombed-out Sarajevo cardboard factory. When a mole-like employee at the bookstore scanned my last used textbook and told me he could give me a total of $4.56 for all of last year’s reading, I almost jumped over the counter and kissed him.
And when I saw the vacant look in the Au Bon Pain clerk’s eyes when she told me she was, like, really sorry, but they were out of bread bowls, turkey and mustard, I told her, “That’s all right. Just make me a chicken wrap, and do it even more slowly and incompetently than usual — I don’t need to be anywhere or do anything important. That’s because Yale is NOT the Real World!”
But although we seniors still have one more year to enjoy bursar billing and the occasional thrill of magnetized silverware in the dining hall, we can’t be completely immersed in college the way we once were.
The uncertain post-Yale future now looms over everything we do, palpable but unseen, like the kid with the moist-sounding sinus infection sitting behind you in lecture. You can feel his breath on your neck and you know you should probably do something to protect yourself against his presence, but somehow you’re frozen in your seat, scribbling notes about “Biology and Terrestrial Arthropods,” trying not to breathe.
But so what if our fate after graduation makes us sick? So what if we spend a little while feverish and subsisting on cans of chicken soup — soon enough we’ll get over it, find our niche and be forever immune.
That said, any graduating senior is welcome to join me next year in my hermetically-sealed plastic bubble on Cross Campus, providing you first undergo a chemical shower, complete delousing, and leave behind all resumes and grad school applications in a CDC-approved autoclave.
Molly Worthen is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her columns regularly appear on alternate Tuesdays.