About a month ago, I graduated from university with a BA in History. To no one’s surprise, I am still unemployed.
Six months prior to graduation, I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. Slogging through boring papers, tests, and classes, I looked so forward to being allowed out of the confines of the institution so I could take on and take over the world. I was ready to write great books, articles, anything. Raise money, consciousness, everything in order to fix the world problems.
One month prior to the event, I had doubts. Not only was I uncertain that I would graduate, I was even less sure that I wanted to. People’s suggestion of staying around for another year seemed all the better. Where five months ago I scoffed at such an idea, now I was certain that it was better than my current plan.
Looking back on it though, I am glad I graduated. If only because I know, maybe better than most, that I would never have been ready to leave. I would never have had any great clarity because I never would have sought it without an urgent need for it.
Granted, even with a need only slightly less than urgent, I haven’t yet found it. I’m told all the time that this is a really great job market. That it’s a good time to have graduated, even if you just got an apparently worthless degree like I did. (I don’t feel that it’s worthless, but the world at large seems to be of that opinion.)
I would readily cede that the reason I don’t currently have a traditional job is not that I wouldn’t be able to get one if I tried. It’s rather that I haven’t yet found one that I actually want enough to apply for. What I see is not what I want. I don’t want a job selling things, making things, or analyzing things being bought and made.
Lloyd Dobler’s famous line says it better:
I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.
I recognize that to get a job in the traditional sense, I have to do something someone will pay me for. But right off the top of my head nothing I can think of seems worth doing.
And partially I’m just scared. Scared of taking on all that responsibility that comes with a job. Scared of how taking a job will change me.
I worry that if I take a job I don’t really like, I will be changed by it. That I may grow cynical, uninterested or useless. I realize that not all people with jobs are these things, but part of me thinks that I would be.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should become a mailman. Or an insurance salesman. But right now, I don’t like the idea much.