You just wait, underclassmen, until you are a senior, writing a thesis, playing or quitting a varsity sport, and administering a blog all at the same time. You just wait until you are a senior taking Psych 101, which proves to be not the easy A you imagined but the pointless time-sucking vortex of doom that reminds you of the time you almost failed another psuedo-science freshman year. You just wait until you have lost the mental fortitude to hamster in the gym for more than 30 minutes because you realize that you have spent at least 500 hours of your existence on elliptical machine #2, whose headphone jack has been patchy for the last 12 years. Then you will understand our pain. Then you will see why senior year, though a time to enjoy life, friends, and academic proficiency, is not a time when you want to be applying for jobs.
Unlike many of my comrades, I began the job search long ago, precisely at the age of 16. A Russian spy, I thought, would be the ideal life-long occupation for me. Whether I was to spy for or against the Russians was not important, simply that I be able to sneak around and crack codes in a language whose rules I had not yet begun to loathe with most, but not all, fibers of my being. After I entered Kohlberg’s sixth stage of moral development (thanks, psych 101!), making moral judgements based on universal principles of ethics like, “though shalt not spy on thy neighbor with the intention of later dropping nuclear weapons on the sneaky bastards”, I grew to understand that spying is bad, and does not foster joyous relations between nations. Then, in the 30-or-so days between the time I began bio-18 and the time I was placed on academic probation for nearly failing the class, I wanted to be a Russian paleontologist, finding the five or six dinosaur bone-shavings left undiscovered on the earth and writing papers on them in a language in which I now knew how to say
“я хочу гулять”. After this folly, I though I might major in PoliSci and write for a Russian expat newspaper. I took two courses in that department, but discovered that despite the many tons of literature that proves otherwise, I could not find “the point”. This was the beginning of my pessimistic stage.
After studying abroad in Russia (and also after the semester of recovery), I finally realized that a) I should just major in Russian literature because I enjoy it and b) after graduation I will be done with Russian. At least for 5 years or so. Maybe 10.
And this brings me to the problem that most seniors will have this year, peddling their liberal arts degrees with no idea about what they want to do or where they want to be. The lucky few that really always knew what they wanted (or were forced by their parental units to pick a track and stick with it) will be heading off to graduate school for somethingorother that guarantees them security, a future, money, successful spouses, an exciting location, colleagues in a similar state of life. Of course these tracks are difficult, I am not saying that they have made an easy choice. But in a sense I guess that’s what I am saying–––the choice wasn’t hard. If the first step is always the hardest, then they are a leap and a half ahead of the rest of us.
There are a few fellowship tracks for those with high ambitions to nowhere at all or somewhere specifically somewhere else. Of course, the problem with the Fulbright and the Watson and the Luce Fellowships are that they are so specific that they attract a small but very passionate crowd. I applied to the Watson and was completely absorbed with my project for the first two months of this semester. I had conceived of my project to study women and public bath houses across the world over a year ago when I heard about the Watson––I knew this was the exact sort of post-grad experience that I wanted, and my project was personally
significant to me for many reasons. I wrote three different drafts of two essays, emailed many people asking for research help and travel suggestions, pestered friends and family to read drafts, and in general publicized to the whole world that this project was my heart and soul and I would not expect anything but victory. I am not typically this confident in my academic work. Usually I hand in a paper and think, “I hope this goes well, I hope the professor likes it!” But one night I remember sitting in bed with my boyfriend telling him, “I have a good feeling about this, I really think that my project is a good idea and I can’t imagine that anyone else cares about their project as much as I do mine!” Of course I wasn’t chosen. No one gets chosen for these things––I should have known!
Now I find myself questioning if my plan B, C, D, E, F are actually viable options for me and my delicate soul. I don’t handle rejection well, and right now, a month after I found out that I wasn’t selected for the Watson final round, I can’t bring myself to really think about what I want next year. Part of me wants to travel, but this is the part of me that lives in a world without money. Most of me wants to get the hell outa’ dodge (aka America), but I worry
that I will leave my support system behind (I miss my parents and sister!) and/or end up being sold as a sex slave in Indonesia. Or I could hate an organized life abroad (as opposed to traveling, which I know I love) and end up with a Russia part-2 experience. Maybe most of all I worry that my possible unhappiness will drive away my boyfriend, who has graciously decided to follow me (and I him) into the unknown future. It’s much easier to make a choice, like whether to teach English in Korea or nanny in Finland, when the “why not?” can’t be answered. I can give you a long list of “why nots” for every job I come to, but sooner or later I am going to have to make a decision if I want to be with him somewhere, anywhere.
If your’re wondering, this is plan F.
*Thanks nokaveo.com for the feature image!