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Voices of the Class of 2012: I graduated... now what?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 23, 2012 10:13 AM

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This is the first in an on-going series from members of Boston's class of 2012. Check back throughout the week for more.
gradhat.jpgBy Hana Nobel

As of May 4, I am a college graduate, which mostly means that I am the owner of a very expensive piece of paper and that you can usually find me crying in a public bathroom or in my closet. I’ve graduated college during a time in which the Washington Post and New York Times warn me on a daily basis that I will be living in my parent's basement forever. (An April Times article cited a 13.2 percent unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds.)

Unfortunately, my parents preemptively moved into a home that contains only a crawl space, ruining any basement plans. A few months ago, my mother sent me an email warning that I shouldn't return home in the near future, as my room was being used for storage. I suspected this was code for  “new craft room.”

 I returned to suburban New Jersey this weekend – the first visit since Christmas. My purple walls were painted white, my carpet, previously covered in childhood spills is re-done, and my postcard collection has been taken off of the walls and placed in piles in drawers.

I was appropriately forced to sleep in the guest room, solidifying the foreignness I felt returning home with a diploma in hand. As I sat  in the room where I used to sneak boyfriends and late night phone calls, I realized that the independence I've been craving has arrived. I'm on my own and all of the casualness I associated with graduation is gone.

I pictured my post-grad life kind of like Friends, sitting around with my successful 20-something-year-old peers, occasionally going to work, and sitting at Central Perk, catching up on our days. Four days after graduation I received an email notifying me that my dental and eye insurance have expired. My sitcom dreams crumbled. I approached my "grown up" friend, Anne, who graduated two years ago. She told me not to worry – she had just visited the dentist for the first time since graduation. I've been brushing extra carefully.

And though I have been lucky enough to turn a two-year internship into a job offer, I am jealous of my friends who are bumming around Southeast Asia until they run out of money and have no plan of action upon their return with nothing but a Facebook album and an empty wallet. I wonder if graduation signals a time to move on and take that “leap” that commencement speakers always mention. But I also wonder what the hell I'm supposed to do next.  All of these things I've been placing in my "post -grad" bookmark folder all year are possibilities, but somehow farming in South America or teaching English in France seems a lot more daunting when I've been cut off and will be leaving a job offer to roam.

I love Boston, but I worry that staying here surrounded by friends who made the wise choice to spend a fifth year at Northeastern makes it difficult to move forward. However much I love Boston in the summer, it feels a little different with a degree and a "real" job. I can't go out on Tuesday nights, I can't apply for student discounts, and I have no idea where to meet "grown up" friends. (At a bar? At a book club? At an art gallery opening?) The Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go" has become my mantra.

As I try not to curse my liberal arts degree as I watch business school friends move to Manhattan and live luxurious lifestyles, I’m mostly focused on maintaining composure when a dentist/hairdresser/parent’s friends/friend’s parent asks me what I’m doing next. At Princeton’s 1961 graduation, university President Robert F. Goheen told students, "If you feel that you have both feet planted on level ground, then the university has failed you."  Using Goheen’s reasoning, college has been successful, since I feel like I don’t even have one foot planted on the ground.

My father told me this weekend, in the way that fathers are supposed to, that everything will be fine and that in 20 years, when I allegedly will be successful, that he will remind me of this time that I felt absolutely insane and out of control. I hope that I will find success before 42, but for the time being, I will continue to make pro/con lists and scour the web for articles entitled, “I graduated, now what?” I’ll probably even continue to cry in public, and when someone asks what is wrong, I know that I can plead “recent graduate,” at least until next May.

Photo is the author in her graduation cap. 

About Hana: Hana escaped the Garden State and fled to Boston where she recently graduated from just four years. She is interested in Boston's food and entrepreneurial community. Hana fights childhood obesity by day and is working on starting up a hip-hop themed ice cream truck at night. Hit her up for a scoop of Milli Vanilla or groan at her puns at @h_nobel.

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