Why are you so popular? You blow up a topic like you’re gonna go somewhere, only to blow your wad on an over-hyped, fancy, flouncy, Bobble-headed headline with all the Gen Z, Amazon-approved, LinkedIn smartphone trimmings. Four-five pages of absolutely nothing later, I’m no better, smarter, or remotely more enlightened. I’m even dumber for having wasted my fucking time reading this featured piece of shit littering my screen.
Warning: I’m annoyed af.
I just read/scanned/skimmed a highly-touted Medium essay about important post-collegiate/job-seeking/life lessons learned after floating aimlessly for a year following graduation with a useless, but expensive degree.
I chose it to read, because the title and the intro held such promise. Here, at last, I would find consensus and answers for what my son, 19, went through with his own educational hell.
He opted out of college, after spending most of his childhood under governmental public school dictatorship, and knowing by the time he did escape/graduate high school in four years…he still wouldn’t know what to do with his life, much less what to declare as a major suitable to pursue for four more-plus years at a university.
Then, an historic viral pandemic hit, robbing him of his senior year. No Varsity soccer season. No prom. No graduation. No senior trip down the West Coast to sunny Hollister California.
Nothing but virtual thoughts and prayers, and half-assed nobility that would make our WWII — 9/11 forefathers cringe in horror.
We moved a lot in 2020. During a pandemic lockdown. Uprooting our only child even further.
James Scott — named after “Star Trek” characters, natch — is only now getting back into the job scene, delivering pizza. It’s not Wall Street or saving lives, but it’s a foot back in the door. (His first high school job was through a friend, who worked at a pizza parlor.) And a way back home, his home, with his friends.
They have a plan to all live together in a big house close to Seattle. James’ friend Dante, the same one who helped him find that pizza job, has a dad in the construction industry. They want him to work there, running deliveries, learning the trade, seeing if he wants to stick with it, maybe study at a vocational school later and apprentice as an electrician.
Play it by ear, day by day.
He and his friends went through their own special hell in high school. Learned to navigate the landmines of hustling bullies and teacher’s pets, tenure and Common Core’s inherent injustice, and the double-speak of an Orwellian system pre-set for their failure, thrusting them into a slave-labor camp (see Pink Floyd) dressed up as adulting. Learned to rely on each other through the tough emotional times, getting through exams about topics teachers refused to teach, letting loose at Dick’s and cruising Gas Works Park and UW late at night, pretending to be free.
Nobody told them how it’s done. Nobody showed them the way. Apparently, judging by the dearth of educational essays by actual thinking humans — the über-misnomer meant merely for looks, likes, and hits — nobody will.
Like education itself, the featured Medium essay in question — one of many you will fall over praising to the hills — ultimately, predictably, utterly failed to deliver what it promised. Instead, it featured pages and pages of nothing but a half-assed resume and more empty, fancy talk.
Well, as a Medium writer who isn’t here for a click-baiting career, here’s my advice as a public school/university survivor and mom to a kid who told the entire system to fuck off:
In the biblical words of Jesus, “Be not of this world.” Step back and ignore the noise of the experts. Everyone’s got an agenda, including your teachers and parents. Maybe it’s just a job security to them, maybe they’re living through you and projecting a little. Okay, a lot.
Do you own thing.
Rely on your friends. You don’t have to have a thousand. Just one is gold. Help each other through this thing called life. You did it through high school, do it now.
There’s no shame is foregoing college for whatever reason until or if you get your act together, meaning, figure out what it is you really want to do, what you love doing so much you’ll do it for free, and then, go out there and do what it takes — without hurting anyone — to get there.
Don’t let too much time, a year max, go by. While you’re figuring yourself out, volunteer at an animal shelter if you love animals, a human shelter if you hate the idea of children going hungry, delivering food and company to the elderly and infirm. That’s how I got my foot through the door.
I worked two part-time jobs, one that I got in high school, and two volunteer jobs while attending school to learn the one vocation I thought I could make a living at: journalism. I studied and did jobs to become a reporter and editor, knowing I didn’t have the wherewithal to go the long-haul route of novelist, a huge commitment, requiring IMHO nerves of steel and thick skin from all those rejections.
Keep busy. Even if that means setting up a schedule where you get up at a reasonable hour to go jogging around the neighborhood or the nearby park, shower, eat healthy, and start hitting the job market online and in person. Take up some hobbies to add to your itinerary. Learn a new language, a new skill, just for the fun of it. There are a TON of amazing teachers who actually do care online, giving free lessons in just about anything you can think of.
Writers join writing groups; they’re a great resource.
Don’t be too proud to take on menial jobs to pay the bills and help you on your way. Everyone has to. That’s what kids in my day (1970s-2000s) did. Look at the movies about young people, like “Singles.” Those characters are working, going to school, and slumming it slinging lattes at a coffee house, and some of them are gigging in thankless, nowhere dives for “exposure.”
It’s okay to think you want to be one thing, and then change your mind. The ones who know what they want to do as a freshman in high school are lucky, and quite frankly, rare.
Nobody really knows. They find out, through trial and error. Experience.
Don’t be like me. Go see the world now, while you can, while you’re young and nimble and free of attachments, responsibilities, and having to take care of your parents.
Once you do figure out a vague outline of a career trajectory, follow it. Do your due diligence. Again, do what you can to achieve your goals to get there.
Most of all, be easy on yourself. Despite what it seems, the rest of us don’t have our shit together; we’re just good at fronting. Some of us are so good that we become complete frauds.
Wherever you’re at is okay. Whatever your motivation and method for getting from Point A to Point B of your ultimate goal … YOUR GOAL, YOUR LIFE … is more than okay.
If you ever feel alone, reach out. Don’t be ashamed. Even if it’s a sympathetic server at Starbucks. You never know where your next adventure lies.
Some of my best jobs came from talking up strangers.
Finally, if you’re as pissed off as I am about the plethora of empty gestures masquerading as bad, derivative, self-help essays going nowhere but the ego…go contribute some good ones.
Share your story, in your own words.
Fuck the structure, the audience, the branding, the cachet, or whatever Millennial term they’ve constructed next.
Fuck the system.
Write like you talk. Pretend your best friend or your mom or whoever you love the most is sitting there and wanting to know how your day is.
Tell them. In words.
Words, the right ones, have power.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, be the source.