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ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2010:

May 11, 2010

College is not a vocational school, which is lucky for college, and also for you.  Looking for a job that you like is almost nothing like getting an A on a test in History of Culture.  It is almost nothing like not reading a book and then giving a presentation on it.  It is almost nothing like the last day of English 202 when everybody got up in front of the class and shared something that they had learned that year.

In college you were worried about getting an A on the essay, but in real life you won’t even be allowed to turn the essay in until you’ve already gotten an A on it from three other professors who refuse to even look at it until you go to grad school.  Does that make sense to you?  I hope not, because if it does college has taught you nothing except the cost advantage of pre-gaming.

You may have always imagined, in some vague and magical way, that because you graduated with honors and someone once called your poem Jazz Cats the work of a young genius that you would not be the kind of person who sits at a desk answering a phone 8 hours a day, but you will be this kind of person, at least for a little while.

The thing that is probably even more difficult to grasp at this moment is how difficult it will be to get this job that you don’t even want.  Yes, even with your honors and the heady praise for Jazz Cats from your college lit magazine. You might think to yourself, that you will just get a job waiting tables until you can find your real career.  Think again.  Getting a job waiting tables is about 20 times more difficult than getting a job answering a phone 8 hours a day, and that is because it pays better, and does not require a college degree.  Now we’re getting somewhere.

There are a lot of jobs a liberal arts degree prepares you for, but they are all jobs that don’t exist.  Let me be the first to tell you that you won’t see a lot of ads on Craigslist that call for a Professionally Drunk Scottish Dancing Thesis Writer who can take completely accurate lecture notes while at home sleeping.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kent McMillan permalink
    May 12, 2010 5:22 am

    May one point to the career of legendary nature photographer Ansel Adams? No, that one over there. Must have been great to idle away the days hiking around to get those perfect negatives of the perfect outdoors scenes in the perfect light and sell perfect prints of it to connoisseurs for perfectly large sums of money, right? I mean, Adams was from a weathy background and was probably the most famous American art photographer for several decades.

    Well, most of the adult life of Ansel Adams was devoted to trying to pay his bills, taking on commercial work at his studio in San Francisco and anything else he could get. I tend to think it made him a better photographer than he would have been had he had nothing to do but spend his days hiking around to get that perfect negative. Photographing shoes for catalogues must do that to a person.

    Was it Stephen King who was working as a janitor cleaning the girls’ locker room when the idea for his novel “Carrie” came to him or was that Ernest Hemingway or J.K. Rowling?

    • Ramona permalink*
      May 12, 2010 2:13 pm

      yeah! more examples like this please.

      • Kent McMillan permalink
        May 13, 2010 3:58 am

        Well, what is worse to be momentarily thwarted or to have it all and then not? I recently heard a really great story about the mother of a friend, a woman who was obsessed with flying as a teenager in New Jersey, took flying lessons, scrounged flight experience, and then got taken on as a member of the Womens Airforce Service Pilots during WWII to spend about a year piloting multi-engine bombers around the US.

        My friend recalls that her mother would take them to the airport in Dallas whenever there was a chance, just to see the planes, never explaining what she had herself done.

  2. May 14, 2010 7:34 pm

    Busy, busy, busy…

    Ramona, you don’t actually still have that thing you got up and shared on the last day of English 202 do you? I remember it as a work of young genius, and I lost my copy when my office got moved.

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