I first saw “The Graduate” during my freshman year of high school. It instantly became my favorite movie. If you don’t know the plot, it goes something like this (spoiler alert is obvious, but if you haven’t seen it, you should have): 20 year old graduates college, comes home, sleeps with parents’ friend, falls in love with parents’ friends’ daughter, runs away with her. The tale of cougardom interrupting young love appealed to my ninth grade interests: there was sex, leopard print coats, Dustin Hoffman and a mopey Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack that was perfect for drowning out Ciara’s “1, 2 Step” on the bus ride to school. I latched onto the film as a high school student because it was a pretentious outlet for my angst. What? Was I supposed to identify with the people on The O.C. with their perfect noses and WB melodrama? Please.
Inspired by the tiny, limb-heavy poster that hangs in my dorm bedroom, I decided recently to re-watch “The Graduate” on Netflix. As Mrs. Robinson seduced Benjamin Braddock, it dawned on me: I’m just now at the point in my life when I truly get this movie and identify with its protagonist.
Many of my friends at Yale are getting word that they are going to have a future. They’re getting into grad school, getting jobs at consulting firms, beginning to apply to internship programs that might be pathways to permanent spots. I, however, have chosen a career path for now that forces me to put a hold on my job search until second semester. And in turn I’m starting to feel a little bit like Ben.
The panic that leads Ben into his unfortunate relationship with Mrs. Robinson is one seniors face: It’s the looming question, “now what?” In Ben’s case the answer is to fend off adulthood and jump into a bed with someone twice his age. That’s not my case (thank God). In my case, I know what my next steps should be, but the system within which I’m working has forced me to wait to make any moves. Therefore, I’m stuck staring into my computer screen, clicking mechanically on job listings, enacting the 2011 version of Ben’s glazed over gaze that acts as the dominant image of the first half of the movie.
“The Graduate” paints a pretty sorry picture of post-college life. “I’ve had this feeling ever since I graduated. This kind of compulsion that I have to be rude all the time,” Ben says. He’s not alone. The prospect of graduating is making us all assholes just like Ben. We’re self-absorbed. We’re nervous. We’re taking our stress out on our friends and families. We’re lazy. We’re prone to making reckless decisions. Maybe a few among us will do what Ben does: run away with someone, jump on a bus and then stare into space, having no idea what the fuck we’re doing.
So, I guess, “hello darkness, my old friend.”