Class of 2011,
After 120 some-odd credit hours, innumerable cheap alcoholic beverages, and roughly 2.7 romantic relationships, you are now a college graduate.
So, what now?
I don't know, you tell me.
We held up our end of the bargain.
We went to school, worked hard, and increased the population of college-educated adults in this country. We sat through degree requirements, studied for three-hour exams, and some of us even wrote theses dealing with topics we couldn't even pronounce when we were in high school. Now that we've reached the light at the end of the tunnel, a job is supposed to be waiting for us. Right, college-brochure-we-got-in-the-mail-five-years-ago?
OK, so you're normal and don't have a job waiting for you after graduation. In addition to intermittent panic attacks, you've had to endure almost daily instances of people asking you that insufferable three-word question: "So, what's next?"
As I write this, the New York Times has tweeted a story with a headline that's so generic at this point that it's a wonder why it was necessary to write at all: "Outlook is Bleak Even for Recent College Graduates." If not for their newly instituted pay wall, I'd be able to read the story and find out more about what I, and everybody else, already knows.
Regardless of our fear of what the future holds for us, we still have to put on a brave face and walk across that stage to shake hands with the Dean of our college, who may or may not whisper in our ear asking us if we're ready to pay back those student loans as we accept our diploma.
At my school they put coupons to Taco Bell on the back of the tickets to our commencement ceremony. I guess they couldn't fit a job application.
So what's the silver lining?
Well, maybe we are.
We've all gone through this experience together, and because of it, we just may be the generation that's willing to actively work to change the way things are. And I don't speak of change in the way your Jersey Shore housemember/commencement speaker who's being paid $32,000 to not tan during the speech means it, I'm talking about a genuine re-evaluation of our priorities as a country.
Perhaps our difficulties both paying for college and subsequently finding a job will push our generation to address pressing domestic needs that have been pushed aside. The corporatist Reagan-esque mindset that has permeated our belief system and seemingly become a tenet of patriotism has failed us, and it's our job to not just pass on this failed "Get rich or die trying" ideology to another generation.
We happen to be entering a work force at a time when the country is in need a lot of internal healing. Maybe we can be the generation that will relish group, as opposed to individual, success. The generation that will take more pride in a brand new education system than a brand new car. Hell, let's face it, most of us will only be able to afford to ride bicycles anyway.
Perhaps it is our unique struggle, one that our parents never had to deal with, that will eventually help us fulfill our promise and put an end to the selfish dealings that broke our economy and put us in this position in the first place.
Maybe our country needs a generation like us that will be forced to overcome long odds in order to thrive. Maybe we're the citizens that will be inspired to act in order to clean this mess up.
Or you could just go to law school.
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