The looming ‘real world’

BY DAN WATSON | MAY 11, 2009 7:26 AM

On the eve of graduation, reflecting on life after education

More goes into talk than words.

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” my mom told me when I was being an obnoxious little smartass.

With this in mind, I’m going to review 10 of the most common conversations I’ve engaged in, read about, or overheard in the days leading up to the most foreboding topic on my mind: life after college.

• The Mom Talk

“I can’t wait to come up for your graduation,” my mom says. “Do you have a job yet? It should be a really fun time, all your brothers are coming. You know we made a deal, and once you graduate, you’re on your own. I was talking to Aunt Becky, she is so proud of you. Did you hear anything from that company in Chicago? I heard it is going to be really nice weather that weekend. Did you get a job yet?”

“No,” I say.

• The Dad Talk

“You know, when I graduated, I just pulled out a map and picked a city that I thought I would like to live in,” my dad says. “We didn’t have the Internet or anything, so I decided to move to Denver, solely on intuition. I really liked the town, but then I met your mother, got married, had your brother, and moved back home for money reasons. So, if you want to explore and what not, try not to get married for awhile.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I say.

• Brotherly Love
“The real world isn’t what you think it’s like, man,” my brother says. “I was excited to graduate, too, but it sucks. You have to get up early, you have to pay bills, and you’re always tired.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound fun,” I say.

• The Sunscreen Speech, by Mary Schmich

“Wear sunscreen,” Schmich, a Chicago Tribune columnist, writes. “If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been probed by scientists.”

“Great advice,” I think. “I have been sunburned too many times not to listen to it.”

• Quarterlife Crisis Alert from author Alexandra Robbins

“After graduation, the pathways blur,” Robbins writes. “In that crazy, wild nexus that people like to call the ‘real world,’ there is no definitive way to get from point A to point B. The endless array of decisions can make a recent graduate feel utterly lost.”

“That pretty much describes me now,” I think.

• Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Hair Admonitions

“Hair matters,” Hillary tells the Yale Law class of 2001. “Your hair will send significant messages to those around you … Pay attention to your hair.”

“What?” I think. “Hillary Clinton giving advice on hair? I’ll take it.”

• Best Friend Empathy

“I’m so glad I’m not you,” my best friend says. “I mean, really, if I was graduating I would be freaking out. Do you even know what you want to do? The economy sucks, you have a journalism degree, newspapers are dying, and you’re from Iowa. You’re screwed.”

“Thanks for the pep talk,” I say.

• Personally Addressed E-mail from David Plouffe

“Dan,” says Plouffe, manager of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Let’s seize this moment together so history will show that, at this defining crossroads, a generation of Americans put their country on the path to long-term security and prosperity.”

“Yeah!” I say. “I’m game, let’s do this!”

• Stoner friendliness

“Philadelphia?” my stoner friend says. “You’re moving to Philadelphia? That’s awesome, they have great weed out there. We could, like, make a business. You supply, I sell.”

“Yeah!” I say. “I’m game, let’s do this!”

• Monologue (not technically a dialogue, but who’s listening?)

“So, what’s next big guy,” I ponder to myself. “Not many options. It just depends how you look at the situation. I know I need a job — that’s No. 1 on the list. But, I also want to have some fun before I really settle down. Maybe I could do both. How? I don’t really know. I should probably send out more résumés, or try to make more connections. But where and how? Oh, I know, I should be more innovative and adapt to technology like all the journalism experts are telling me. Yeah, that sounds good, I think I’ll do that. How to be more innovative … hmm … how to be more innovative …

“Oh look, ‘Family Guy’ is on.”

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