Everyone’s graduating and frankly, they need to stop.
I’m sorry, Class of 2011, you who include my friends Jacob and David and Francesca and oh yeah, my brother. I don’t mean that I don’t think that you’re ready to face the world, or that I begrudge you anything. In fact, I’m overjoyed that I’m not in your shoes. That first year out of college was exciting and crazy and also one of the toughest years of my life; something I’m glad I did, but would not want to repeat.
Maybe it’s just all the retrospection and introspection and general spection. I appreciated it the first couple of times. I think it’s important every so often to take a step back, look at your goals when you first emerged into the bright and bleary world beyond academia, and see how you’re doing with them. I also think that part of the importance of looking back is to acknowledge when your goals have changed and that that’s okay. I’m a closet sap, and I love the inspirational speeches. Heck, I went out of my way to watch Conan and Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert give their addresses.
But by the third or so graduation ceremony, filled with hopeful faces, I started to feel something other than pride and inspiration. Oh, I felt those too, and Jacob, I had a lovely time at your graduation. But I started to feel a little bit of self-doubt. It’s hard to hear people say over and over again how special you (or hundreds of kids at a school just like the one you attended who for all intents and purposes are past-you reborn) are and then try to reconcile it with your not-so-special seeming daily life. I thought about the reassurances that these top comedians and other distinguished speakers were giving, and compared it to my experience. A lot of what they said resonated, but there was still a part of me thinking, How much of your success was luck and being in the right place at the right time, and can these kids and I count on that?
It was probably just fatigue and a little bit of cynicism, I’ll admit that. I do firmly believe that opportunities come often in life, and that if you leave yourself open to them you’ll go places you never dreamed of, often better than the places of which you did dream. And from an outside perspective I’m sure I’m already a success story, more or less. This isn’t bragging; it’s just that I have a pretty sweet job with a new, exciting company, I get to watch The Guild, I hang out with creative people and I’m on my way to starting a theater company and putting up our first Chicago production. That all sounds sweet on paper.
Honestly, it is sweet. I have it damn good. I’m doing things I’m excited about, even if the way I’m making my money has nothing to do with my biggest passion. I just know I haven’t outgrown the rough patches, if anyone can ever really outgrow them. I know that the push to incorporate as a company will be a long and hard one, on top of a full-time job. I know that we have to raise a whole lot of money to put up this show. I know that at any point I could need to work overtime in addition to the stuff that I’m working on outside of my job, and I know that I’m someone who needs schedules and either the perception of some me-time or a lot of Starbucks chai tea lattes. Luckily, I have some fabulous friends and people with me who have my back through all this, like I have theirs.
So part of what I’m feeling, new graduates, is a little bit of worry for you. I know these next few years won’t be easy. They weren’t exactly easy for anyone I knew, and certainly not always for me. But what I also know is that I made it through with a little help from my friends, and the best graduation gift I can give to you is the promise that I’ll do the same for you if I possibly can. We’ll all do it together.
That means I expect you to share my other grad gift for you: a case of Four Loko.