Reality check for new graduates
Published 12:00 am, Thursday, June 15, 2017
Thank you Class of 2017 for inviting me to deliver your commencement address. And thank you also in advance for not walking out if I happen to say something with which you disagree. Not that it’s any skin off my nose if you do decide to leave. I get paid either way.
It is, of course, a requirement that a commencement speaker begin by making a series of abstract references in regard to what lies before you. So, deep breath, let’s get that out of the way.
As I look out on your bright-and-shining faces this morning I see your eyes focused on that distant beacon of limitless possibilities that is the future of all your tomorrows today as you follow the path paved with your passion in pursuit of the distant horizon where your dreams await because with you resides the best hope of mankind.
Did I miss anything?
The problem with the bright-and-shining refrain, unfortunately, is that there are no guarantees. The future doesn’t hand out participation trophies. Where you are headed, no one gets a 13-inch, gold-painted plastic statue just for showing up. Just so you know.
Anyway, as you begin your journey, there is cause for optimism. Look what you have accomplished so far. You have already compiled a level of debt your parents were not able to achieve until they got caught on the wrong side of the housing bubble. So, way to go.
Speaking of your parents, many of you will probably be moving back home. You may be a legal adult at this point, but your parents will still treat you like a kid. If you are smart, you won’t fight this. If your parents considered you an adult, you would have to pay room and board, not to mention compensate your mother for doing your laundry.
As for physically moving back in with the folks, there is the matter of accommodations. Although your old bedroom will be more comfortable, you will be better off moving into the basement. People your age who are living in their old bedroom are seen as much bigger losers than those who reside in their parents’ basement. Plus, I believe a high percentage of serial killers reside in their old bedrooms. I don’t know if that is a cause or effect, but why take the chance.
A popular way to delay moving back home, or having to enter the adult world, is grad school. Short term, this may work. Long term, besides running up more debt, all an advanced degree often accomplishes is to make you even more overqualified for the jobs you will be eventually applying for.
Now, if you are contemplating law school — and I believe I speak for most of mankind here — please don’t. Law school is where common sense goes to die. I know this from personal experience. I went to law school for two weeks after college, and I’m still seeking treatment for a pinstripe-suit obsession and incurable nitpicking.
For those of you who will be entering the workforce, the good news is the economy is doing well and you will have an excellent chance of landing a job. The bad news is the job will not pay much. This is mostly because the company feels a living wage is not as important as the CEO having a livable weekend getaway in the Hamptons.
In closing, let me offer these parting nuggets of wisdom:
Forget about following your dreams; follow the money.
Never lose sight of the fact that anybody can grow up to be president, which just happened.
When venturing out into the real world, bring a sweater; it can get cold out here.
And, finally, always remember you are a unique individual, just like everybody else.
So good luck, and to those of you still here, I’m buying.
Jim Shea is a lifelong Connecticut resident and journalist who believes the keys to life include the avoidance of physical labor and I-95. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @jimboshea.