This month, thousands of kids will take photos with their parents and siblings and grandparents in front of some meaningless slab of architecture that’s supposed to represent what school they went to: Michigan kids in front of the Big House, Stanford kids in front of the Hoover Tower, Drexel kids in front of the Planned Parenthood. It will be one last moment of surreality until you’re whisked away to stare at a gray cubicle wall and maybe live with your parents for a little while because you tore it up as a Liberal Arts major. Awesome job. And if you’re a new grad reading this now, know this: the next 12 months will be a brutal waking nightmare where only the icy grip of death can bring solace. Just kidding...sort of. It will be a test. Your friends won’t admit they feel the same way, so make this column your friend and let me walk you through the next year of your life. If you keep your head down and your mouth shut, you just might make it through this yet:
Woo! You’re an adult. Someone with a degree. A real person. If you’re lucky, you’re pissing away your money on rent in the city and the alcohol withdrawal from four years of Jameson has subsided enough that you don’t feel vaguely ill every morning. Things aren’t terrible - you’ve got several college friends nearby and the city feels exciting, if only for the sheer volume of undiscovered bars. You found a thirty dollar all-you-can-drink-happy-hour that you’re convinced you’re going to spend the rest of your Thursdays on Earth at. Work is fine but it’s taking them time to realize how awesome you are. Don’t they know they’re lucky they are to have you? They’ll come around.
July is shaping up to be a winner. You visited with your college girlfriend and had “the talk”: you see, it’s just that there’s a big world out there (aka tons of new women that you didn’t go to college with) and if you love something, you should set it free (aka I get boners every time I take public transportation, these women need me). Also, you have an awesome idea for an App (it’s just like Facebook but it ISN’T Facebook), and you’re pretty sure you could quit your job if you could just get it off the ground.
Somehow, despite your full time job, you manage to be more broke than you were in college. Your mom floats you the first of many loans that will not be paid back (don’t tell Dad). Also, you are not sleeping with as many women as you expected. As a matter of fact, you haven’t slept with anyone since that overweight girl with the “handsome” face made you think you could tear up this whole singles scene. She keeps DMing you. In a few brief moments of weakness, you drunkenly call your ex-girlfriend. Again, you’re still awesome, but no one is acknowledging that, especially not your boss. And to make things worse, everyone younger than you is going back to school and you have no time for your Facebook App that ISN’T Facebook. August is a bad month.
September - October
Football season revives your spirit, sort of. Saturday and Sunday are devoted to football at the bar, which is great, but expensive. You find that day-drinking affords you more opportunities to have indiscriminate sex with strangers. Things are looking up on that front - you finally discovered that you get more tail when the female is as disgustingly drunk as you are. The downside is that Monday hangovers are bad. You start to question your existence. Is this the job you will have the rest of your life? How come people just grin and nod when you mention your Facebook App that ISN’T Facebook? How could you leave a perfectly good girlfriend? These Mondays shock you a little. You’ve even started your own blog reviewing restaurants from a guy’s perspective called “Dude-a-licious.” Everyone thinks it’s a porn site for gay men. It’s one and only post receives no “likes”.
November - December
Thanks to the holiday seasons you’re getting a lot of days off. The problem with this is that you see a lot more of your friends. Everyone seems to have an awesome job or is just really good at making their job sound awesome. You try to keep up by explaining that you’re a “Financial Technician in the coffee analyzing sector”. You hope nobody relizes this means “I get people coffee in between checking Facebook on my phone.”
January - April
These are the toughest of times. You go to work - get this - every day. You shed a tear on Martin Luther King Day, knowing that this is really the last reason to miss work until Memorial Day Weekend. You’ll go to way too many birthday parties. Mondays are even worse. Each Monday you come up with a new career you should be doing; one week you’re a Sportscenter anchor, the next you’re living off the grid and falconing for rodents as food (you’ve even looked up “off the grid” locales on Google Maps - true to form, you couldn’t find them). You’ve burned through your sick days and they all happen to fall after the weekend. Your job is miserable. Your boss has some disparaging remarks about your performance and you struggle to express that this is because you are far too good for this position. You re-commit to not working up to your potential until they recognize what a staggering talent you are. You’ll wonder what weird, contagious virus spread that makes everyone only talk about the bad weather and 401Ks. You start to think your buddy who tends bar in Tampa had some good ideas (but definitely not about the tattoo of a wave on his back shoulder). You begin to wonder: is everyone dealing with this? How far have I fallen from the person I’d imagined I’d be? And then, you remember in a rare moment of clarity, that it hasn’t even been a year.
And maybe this post-collegiate malaise is the result of decades of parenting and teaching that made you believe you are special. Unique. Good. Believe me, we are not. And that’s actually a comforting thought when you stop to think that we are also not unique in our disappointment, or frustration, or fear. We’re a generation out-of-step; and the promises and comfort that came with growing up in a boom economy didn’t pan out, because it just so happens we became adults in a recession. So the biting contrast of taking bong rips one day and putting on a tie the next is a jarring car crash, where the resulting whiplash gives us pause to wonder why. Why am I doing this job? Why did I go to college? Why can’t I afford bed sheets that aren’t made out of t-shirts? But if there’s something I’ve learned in the years since I’ve graduated college, it’s this: There is only to do and to think - and I bet you can figure out which one makes more sense.
Another class graduates. Thank God it’s not you. You’re out of the woods. You moved into a more affordable place. Your job’s a little better since that day your boss almost fired you and you started giving a sh*t out of complete fear. Your buddy from Tampa is in debt and rehab. And guess what? You’re going back to party for Senior Week because while you may have graduated, you never really left college. That will happen later - when that App idea you had finally hits.
Jared Freid is a New York City-based comedian. You can follow him on Twitter @jtrain56 for videos, column updates, post-college observations, and plenty of pen*s jokes.