Am I Too Young To Be So Bitter?

the internship owen wilson

A few weeks ago I went to my friend’s graduation. I’m one of those people who tends to cry at everything. I can’t even watch 95% of the commercials they air these days without a box of tissues on hand. So I warned my friend that I’m probably going to tear up at some point during the ceremony. Graduations can be an emotional thing and I just knew one of those speeches was going to get to me.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sadness was the last thing on my mind. If I was going to tear up, it would have been from laughing so hard. I laughed at most of the speeches. It was either I laugh or scream with rage. Anger. That’s the emotion I felt the most during the graduation ceremony.

I graduated from college over four years ago. I owe a ton of money from student loans that I haven’t made a dent in. I am incredibly underemployed. It turns out I am way too cynical and jaded to buy into what many of the graduation speakers were saying. If I had a dollar for every time I rolled my eyes, I’d probably be able to actually make some sort of dent in my student loans.

Every speaker spoke as though armed with a college degree, the graduates were now set for life. The world is a land of opportunity and nothing will get in their way now that they have a bachelor’s. I really wonder if the speakers believed the nonsense they were spewing or if they just decided to say what people wanted to hear.

A few of the speakers were alumni from the college. They graduated 30-40 years prior. Many of them spoke about the struggle they faced paying for tuition. How they had to work a minimum wage job in order to pay for rent and tuition. Forgive me, but I just couldn’t find myself sympathizing with their struggle. A minimum wage job allowed you to pay for rent and tuition in New York City and that’s supposed to make me relate? Today working a minimum wage job will get you on welfare and food stamps. It’s definitely not going to pay for schooling and a roof over your head.

It got me thinking about what a realistic graduation speech would sound like. It definitely wouldn’t be as cheerful and optimistic as they normally are. It would look a little more like this.

college graduate

First of all, I would like to say congratulations fellow graduates! You did it! It doesn’t matter if you breezed through your classes and pulled all-nighters to get that paper in last minute. You earned your degree. Not everyone in this world has the opportunity to go to college so in that respect, consider yourselves lucky. 

Now you get to enter the real world. So remember right before when I said consider yourselves lucky? Forget that. The real world is a scary place. You will wish time and time again that you were back in college. You did not realize how great you’ve had it these past four years. College was your security blanket. You were able to slack off, get drunk every other day, lay in bed until 3. You were in college, you had an excuse. You do that now and people will just think you’re a degenerate.

You also didn’t have to stress about working. Maybe you worked part-time waiting tables or bagging groceries. It was really just for some spending money and to keep yourself busy. Now work will consume you. It will be all you think about. If you’re lucky enough to land a job right out of college, you’ll be too tired to do anything else. Working 9-5 is bad enough but you’ll be putting in a lot more than just eight hours. Don’t have a job? My prayers and thoughts are with you. 

You will quickly realize that 9 out of 10 times your application is never even seen. There are hundreds of other people applying for the same job as you. It’s easy for your resume to get lost in the shuffle. If you do score an interview, they’ll expect at least two interviews of you and you’ll probably be expected to do an assignment for them. I bet you thought you were done writing essays?! If and when you do get a job offer, you’re going to realize just how little 30k really is. After paying rent, student loans, cell phone bill, you’ll barely have enough money to eat. Free will become your favorite word. Free food. Free drinks. 

I predict that 95% of you sitting here today will contemplate going back to school. Your reasoning behind this will be you have nothing else going on. Since going to college and getting an undergrad degree isn’t a rarity anymore, you’ll need something extra to stand out from the crowd. Simply having a bachelor’s isn’t enough. A Master’s is where it’s at. More student loans. Be afraid, be very afraid. I’m sure by the time your kids are grown up they’ll need to at least get a PhD in order to stand out. 

Look, I still think you’ve made the right decision by getting your degree. Unless you’re good with your hands and could have been a plumber or electrician or had the next big idea for an app or social networking site, having that degree is better than having no degree. It just won’t feel like it sometimes. You will struggle and feel lost. It’s an uphill battle, and some of hills will be higher than others. But don’t give up. Because while CEOs and big companies are starting to take everything, I still believe that perseverance and hard work will eventually win out. It just may take a little longer than you thought. 

And in the meantime seriously take advantage of that free thing. If someone invites you somewhere and this somewhere has free food and/or drinks, always RSVP “Yes”. 

Advertisements

370 comments

  1. Great post. I actually spent four years in the military following college, and am about to enter my last year of my MBA, and still I find myself struggling to find an internship or solid prospects for after graduation. It’s brutal and insulting, and one of the reasons I’m leaning very heavily towards a more entrepreneurial path (though I admit I am extremely fortunate to be afforded the luxury of even considering that).

    1. Trev, I feel the same way. I’m fortunate in that I was only living at home for a year and a half after graduating before getting my current job, but it sure felt like an eternity and a lot of wasted time. It did, however, allow me to save enough money to move to another state on my own.

      But like you, I’ve been considering going the entrepreneurial route myself. I have a friend out here my age (23) who’s already running his own business selling POS systems.

      Out of curiosity, what are you thinking of launching business-wise?

  2. I’m also 4 years out of college and catch myself having a lot of the same thoughts. In fact, the summer after I graduated and applied to nearly 100 jobs, I had thoughts cross my mind that would upset a lot of grads. I wondered why I even went to school. I easily could’ve waited tables during those four years and had a lot more to show for it than the cobweb in my bank account. Needless to say, I’m so unbelievably happy I went to school and I believe I learned a lot in that time. If nothing else, I learned that in life some things are important and others are not. Great post! Peace, love, and free food.

  3. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a thing worldwide or if this is because Trinidad and Tobago is so Americanised. But we’ve basically been having this same problem. I remember when I was in my third year at university, a friend of mine said that she knows someone who at that point had been unemployed for nine years – and not for a lack of trying. And right now, being 24 and unemployed while everyone your age and younger seems to have some form of money-gaining, it’s not pleasant. It sort of feels worse when people say that I’m lucky to have nothing to do, and have little responsibly but my homework for a Diploma following a BA. It really is painful at times. And it could only get worse with free education (okay while I have benefited from it, so will thousands more, and then how many will the job market be able to accommodate? We’re barely doing that now.)

  4. This is so true! I graduated last year and while I am working, it’s not what I went to school for. It’s a struggle, but good to hear that you still think it’s worth it.

    And I understand the cynicism.

  5. This post is 100% relateable and getting a degree has certainly NOT been a stepping strong onto my career path. It makes me just wish I had invested my time at school working on my own self-driven projects. Maybe I would have had a career for myself by now if it weren’t for all those hours spent in class and studying. xD
    This reminds me of the poem I wrote a few days before my graduation ceremony. I am not going to lie, while writing it, I had some hope in the back of my mind that perhaps the ceremony and beyond would change my mind but the truth is, life has been just as difficult.
    If anyone is interested in reading my poetic narration of post-college, A Barrage of Debt, I’d really appreciate some feedback. 🙂 I’m sure many people leaving college can relate to these feelings as I did to this article.
    http://analizjee.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/a-barrage-of-debt/

  6. Sadly, this is so damned true. I could tell so many personal stories, but I haven’t got the time. Ha!

  7. This is excellent and so well written! I personally am in the middle of my final year of studies and was having so many of the same thoughts. What you say is SO true – – we are needing more and more to stand out now and I’m sure someday our kids probably will need a PhD to get somewhere! so thanks for this post – – nice to know that I’m not alone (and it’s really funny too 🙂 ).

  8. Highly enjoyed this….makes me see the nightmare that occurs after college. I haven’t finished nor plan on it for a while. Maybe I got lucky hitting a manger’s position without it and still do some writing on the side…..mountains of student loans scare me! I liked the humor. Wish you luck!!!!

  9. So true – saw something the other day in the paper – Costa Coffee opening a new cafe in Nottingham – over 200 grads applied for a part time barista job – to get an interview you had to project your passion for coffee …. oh and have a degree and EXPERIENCE.

  10. Loved this post! I’m graduating in April and terrified because I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do. Sure, I know what I’d like to do, but I’m being realistic. Some say I’m cynical, I say I’m being honest with myself. Thanks for being honest with us!

  11. Ok, being ten years out of college (eek) I can say it gets better. The student loans eventually get paid off and if you had a federal student loan they have various programs to help you pay. Just gotta call them. The thing that I advocate the most to graduates is that college is just one of the stepping stones. There are many hurdles and walls to climb, but if you have a positive perspective and encouraging people around you it helps lessen the bitterness. The situation might not change, but you can at least laugh during it. Good luck to you, hon.

      1. You’re welcome. 🙂 I teach high school and often times students come back needing a pep talk. Every one needs a cheerleader in her corner.

  12. The world is a though place and everyone around us just keeps saying “Oh tomorrows going to be better” or “It might not be good to day but in the future it will be better” ….it never does get better. When I thought I got lucky to land a professional basketball contract at 18 and study in another country I was happy, worked hard but never got my chance due to other people not letting me play. Now I am in a though situation because when I was able to get my chance for the younger team to show off I got injured badly and now struggle to find a team that would pay me a salary, my college got held back one year due to my surgery and I have to do 12 more exams in September and pay for all 12 of them a lot of money.
    But even though I am bitter and hate everything right now I dont want to give up, even though I know it might never get better I just want to keep trying as my father and mother, my whole family supports me and my brother and I want to carry this on to my kids, help them grow , help them be a good person and have more fun in life than me 😀

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that things are difficult right now. It really is hard to believe someone when they tell you that things will get better. Despite everything you still seem to have a good mindset with things and you are still working hard. Continue to do that and surround yourself with the people who care about you and support you (your family). That’s all you can do. Good luck with everything!

  13. Well-said! Having just delivered a speech at a high school graduation, I can report that it would be nice to be able to share these sort of thoughts. I certainly tried, but it’s hard to be simultaneously upbeat (as you’re expected to be) and realistic.

  14. Can’t agree enough with this post. It really is a shame to see so many graduates being turned down even by the likes of McDonalds, as I have witnessed. Whereabouts are you based?

    1. I’m in New York. You’d think there would be a lot of opportunity here. There are but there are a million other people looking for those jobs. So sad but true about the McDonald’s thing. Either you’re not qualified enough for a job or you’re too qualified.

  15. You make a very good point. I too spent 13 years in the Air Force and left with technical experience and a Bachelors degree only last year. I am now back in school for my Masters just to be a step ahead like you mentioned. It took me 2 years to land a job on the outside up to 5 days before I was unable to re-enlist in the military, but I stuck with what I put my mind too. It paid off with lots of stress and a family in tow. I am now slowing moving up and have started my second job just to make more money and am looking and willing to move again for yet another promotion. You have to be willing to move and make that sacrifice to move up and it very well may mean packing up every 18/24 months to do it. If that means in 5-10 more years and 3 moves later I am set and happy where I stand, then so be it. A good support from friends and family is equally important. The Bachelors is nothing nowadays. I am still young (34) but have found that it takes our crowd that much longer to reach the heights, that 20 years ago with a Bachelors alone would have been achievable. Climbing that ladder of success takes much longer nowadays. Perseverance and that willingness to sacrifice is key. The harder you work, and show your dedication and patience, the faster you will move up. Your time will come, be patient, and keep fighting the fight. Good luck and keep up the good work. Fantastic thoughts and right on the money!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s