It rained on my graduation day. No, poured.
It was an outdoor ceremony in May.
We all thought it was rather ironic, considering the already manic state we were all in.
After all, we all agreed, we are graduating in the worst year ever.
There’s a scenario that keeps re-playing in my life since my graduation last May.
It happened to me earlier this week at a Starbucks in Paradise Valley mall.
I was next door getting my bridesmaid’s dress fitted for my sister’s wedding (which is in about two weeks now), when I went next door, ordered my skinny vanilla latte, and heard someone kneeling behind the counter say, “Lauren Gilger!” He stood up and I realized it was a friend of a friend I knew from high school.
“Hey! How’re you doing?” I asked.
“Oh I’m good,” he said. “I pretty much work here, go to the gym and hang out at my apartment,” he laughed as he said this…probably because he graduated from Vanderbilt four months ago.
“Well, at least you’re not living with your parents again like me!” I answered.
That scenario, has replayed at least a few times a month since graduation in various places — a bar or two, a restaurant, a store.
I took an English class my sophomore year at Fordham called “Early Upward American Mobility.” We read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and learned why we all think the way we do. It’s like “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise,” is engraved on our collective conscience. In the words of The Jefferson’s, in America, we’re all about movin’ on up.
It’s been our story, our drive, our ethic since the beginning.
On the first day of that class, I’ll never forget it, Prof. Ed Cahill told us that every American generation since the country’s founding has been more successful than the generation before. Until ours. And it’s not only that we will not make more money than our parents, it’s that we cannot — the growth will have topped out.
This was before the market crashed last summer and made this all obvious.
Right now it seems that every driven, articulate, hard-working, intelligent person I know must be checking to see if they’re diploma is really there on the wall every few minutes. I have a friend who worked as a dog-walker and on-the-street canvasser in Manhattan all summer after graduation, another is waiting tables in Scottsdale, probably reciting french literature in his head, and another is cocktail waitressing at a bar near her parent’s house. I have a friend who’s interning for free at a theater in California and spending her saving’s on rent and another who’s working at Best Buy and applying for every open engineering position anywhere.
A few of us went to grad school right away and are trying not to burn out, and just about everyone else is signing up for the LSAT or GRE right now.
Should we all just give up now and accept the fact that we are way overeducated in a job market that is only shrinking?
I don’t know. But I do know that Ben Franklin would say, “an investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
Let’s hope so.