Those of you who plan to attend schools next year with the hopes of appending M.D. or J.D. to your last name, read no further. Those of you whose futures involve the names Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan, skip to the section at the end detailing how to send money to the Trust Fund for Economically Challenged Yale Graduates, care of Haley Edwards. Those of you whose charted trajectories drop off into the ether on May 23, 2005 — read on, dear brothers and sisters, this one’s for you.
It’s October 2004. Generally speaking, October is much too early to start worrying about Next Year. It’s time for pumpkin patches, Liquor Treating and spending too much time playing (getting whooped at) Halo with the guys. It’s time for the annual college-wide increase of apathy levels about actually completing seminar reading, it’s time for raiding Salvation Army for smarmy costumes and it’s time for (not remembering) the YSO show. As a rule, if the Women’s Table is still running, next summer’s plans should not be on the ol’ cerebral horizon.
But this is Yale. My unassailable rationale holds no clout within these hallowed walls. On the first day of school, Rhodes and Marshall Fellowship applications were due. By the second week, our sharply dressed roommates joined the ranks of those walking briskly to UCS to begin interviews with the pecuniary posse. By the time midterms rolled around, I was pretty sure I had slept through some mandatory seminar entitled “How to Procure a Future” and had thus already missed all the deadlines to apply for Life-After-College.
It was only the second week of October and I was already feeling desperately unmotivated, lost in a sea of foresight and gumption. If Yale were the Nature Channel of life, I felt like that one small animal straggling behind the rest of the herd — the one which is effortlessly tackled and eaten by a pack of leopards. If that weren’t bad enough, I felt as if my horrible fate would be filmed through a telephoto lens and narrated by an Australian man for the viewing pleasure of my investment-banker compatriots.
While last spring my future seemed happily amorphous, this fall it seems horrifyingly devoid. Perhaps worst of all I found myself forced to endure the question: “Whatchu gunna to do with that?” every time I informed a person over the age of 30 that I plan to major in philosophy. By the 27th time I was asked that question, I found myself considering forsaking the polite answer and just going for the offending questioner’s jugular.
For almost two months this fall, many of us have been tacitly torturing ourselves every night before bed, sloshing that prototypal despicable adult’s question back and forth in our heads: What are we going to do with our various degrees in the liberal arts? Unlike our economist and chemist friends, most of us cannot ascertain a viable profession by adding –ist to the end of our majors. Englishists are few and far between and Theater Studiesists are also rare. In my experience, Lituraturists generally hang out by themselves in the cavernous regions of HGS. With this kind of thinking, it’s easy to see how images of our own grim futures begin haunting us at night even before the first snow falls.
When I called home seeking unconditional love and career counseling, my dad rolled his eyes audibly and told me to “imagine the Worst Possible Case Scenario” of graduating without a job in order to “put my life in perspective.” My Worst Possible Case Scenario is as follows: I graduate, move home to my parents’ basement and remain jobless and depressed for three months while developing a horrible case of the clap. At the end of summer, my parents kick me out and I move back to New Haven, where I set up a cardboard box in front of ABP, sacrifice my pride for the pocket change of Yale ’09, and begin a 20-year long turf war with the Flower Lady. What then, Dad?
Yet, I write this brief tirade not to validate our fears of a future devoid of plans, but to display how ludicrous our fears really are. Let’s look at the facts. We are graduating in seven months with Yale diplomas in our pockets. Regardless of whether or not we graduate with a job, or a fellowship, or a coherent plan, and regardless of the terribly vivid images of future failure we are capable of conjuring forth, I promise you this: Everything is going to be okay.
Next June, some of us will teach, some will try their luck in the Big Apple, and some will become ski bums, bartenders and assistants to Mr. Important. Some of us will face the harrowing truth that most jobs in the Real World require that one gets out of bed before 10 a.m. Some of us will avoid that truth for as long as possible by trusting our fates to the route of the Trans-Siberian railroad. Even though it doesn’t seem like it right now as we wade to class through a carnival of pre-law, med and finance kids, the substantial majority of us don’t possess any conceivable plan for life post-Yale. Take solace in the masses, comrades.
If you really want to plan your future in any significant way, vote in 11 days. Four years from now, all of our personal lives will be unquestionably different, and we will remember fondly the days when we thought graduating without a job was akin to trading our beds for a cardboard box. But four years from now, the same exact guy we elect in 11 days will still be scratching himself in the Oval Office.
The outcome of the national elections will affect the course of your life over the next four years more than any histrionic agonizing you can do now. It will not, however, affect whether or not you end up with the clap.
Haley Edwards can be seen reciting Marx for change outside of ABP.