A Post-Grad Story: Not All Who Wander Are Losers

I never questioned that my mom worked hard. But it seemed somehow implausible to me that working an eight-hour day in the office — one, I imagined, populated with all the customs I’d learned from “Ally McBeal” power lunches and client meetings and, I don’t know, “workflow”? — was really so grueling. The routine, I figured, was due to my mother’s natural propensities for comfort and flair: nothing says “business casual, my ass” quite like a pair of adult-sized Elmo slippers. 

And so I poked fun at the pajamas. I shook my head at the empty soda cans. And now, there is one very sore, slipper-cloaked foot in my mouth. A 40-hour work week can be rewarding, yes, but it’s also consuming. If at the end of the day all I want is a pair of basketball shorts, a nice IPA, and a two-hour block of “Keeping Up With Kardashians,” then no, I will not be “sorry,” thank you. After a day’s work, I want a goddamn foot rub, too. 

That said, not everyone graduates to a full-time job, or a passable excuse for so much bad reality TV.  Everybody makes wandering out to be the most contemptible thing in the world. But if you have the luxury, is it really so awful to able around for a while? Is there something fundamentally wrong with biding time behind the counter at your hometown Starbucks? When I imagine the norms for twenty-somethings not so long ago — for my mom’s generation, committing to an unwavering career path; and for my grandmother’s, wielding two babies on one arm and a cigarette on the other — working another unpaid internship doesn’t sound so daunting. 

I’m not saying the current conditions are ideal. Most of us are graduating with mounting debt, and job prospects are notoriously bleak for — ding ding ding! — recent grads in the humanities. 

But it’s also useless to complain. There’s value in taking a little time to re-evaluate before sinking further into debt for grad school, or committing to a path you haven’t had time to question. There’s value in testing options rather than considering them only in the hypothetical. In what might have been shocking news to the same 12-year-old that judged his mom’s nightwear, watching Sex and the City and Ally McBeal doesn’t actually count as exposure to freelance writing or law. And while I can’t say I know the true mark of adulthood after this past month, something tells me it might involve sore feet and a Bartles and Jaymes.  

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