Finding a New Occupation

The morning after college graduation, I packed up the remaining items still lingering in my bedroom, closet, and refrigerator before hugging quick goodbyes and heading home. There had been little to no time with which to process the last 24 hours: picnics, final grades, department lunches, and graduation itself complete with unyielding summer heat and 800+ black mortar boards suspended against the clear blue sky. We listened to our president congratulate us, his words reflected in the beaming smiles of our parents sitting nearby. There was a flurry of clapping, sitting, standing and clutching our shiny new diplomas as we moved into the position of Bucknell alumni. 

We smiled for what seemed like days, posed arm in arm those who mattered most in these short four years. People who evolved from nervous freshmen strangers to close friends and devoted confidants. I glanced hesitantly from face to face, their eyes reflecting my own dazed bewilderment. Had this moment come already? We were still recovering from Senior Week, a haze of lazy beach days, strong mixed drinks and skinny-dipping escapades. The sheer weight and finality of graduation was light against the horizon that had not yet dawned. No one had mentally prepared for the last memory of college life. Not a chance.

So I sat in the waiting room on Monday morning filling out new patient forms and pretending my life was going on as usual. Just another summer break. I scribbled in health insurance information, name, and date of birth as the rain beaded along the windows outside. Suddenly I froze, unable to answer the question just after the phone number, before the contact information. The line read: Occpation ___________. 

Now in another circumstance, it would be humorous to note that the individual writing up these new patient form had an occupation that did not include spelling or spell-check. At that moment however, I could only look blankly at the paper trying desperately to think of a suitable answer. When that failed I did what any self-respecting college graduate would do. Ask Mom.

Me: “Mom, what do I put under this line?”

Mom: “Put student of course. Wait….Oh.”

And there it was. Not 24 hours after graduation and already I was confronted with the very apparent reality that I was no longer a student. I had been unfairly accosted without any defense against the form’s incorrectly spelled inquiry. What is my new identity? Where do I belong? 

Transitions are never easy and I expect questions like occpation will continue in varying degrees over the next couple months. The life of a college graduate lacks all elements of routine, tradition and certainty. After high school, I followed my four-year plan along a paved road of sophomoric confidence. But that road has ended and I am left standing at the shore, beyond which lies an endless abyss of water and waves.

I waver unsteadily, counting the days when the sunlight touches the horizon and I can call out, “Land ho!” 

The Last Real Winter Break

I bought a plane ticket about a week ago. Destination: San Francisco, the home of the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and the oldest Chinatown in the county. A city where the weather is a solid 60˚F, a welcome change from the upstate New York chill. 

 My loose itinerary includes visiting with family in Vallejo and spending the remaining time in and around Palo Alto, home to Facebook headquarters and Stanford University. I’ll have the chance to meet up with a couple of friends including Hallie, one of my freshmen year roommates and an incredible water polo player. I’ll also get to see my friend Doug, a current law student and friend from my DC internship two summers ago. The city is new, the ocean is near and I couldn’t be more excited.

People: “Why are you going to San Francisco?”

Me: “I’ve never been there before.”

 People: (polite giggle.) “Well that’s a reason.”

And it is.

 My trip will complete a time fondly referred to as “college winter break”. A year from now, I won’t have the luxury of five weeks off without any responsibilities except for an occasional load of laundry and marathons of How I Met Your Mother. The working world not does feel it necessary to provide you with a long restful December/January break. I’ll miss you dear winter hiatus.

Here’s the travel Catch-22. Now, when I am young and ready to see the world, my wallet is empty and there is a great need to prove (to my parents) that four years of expensive college tuition was well worth the time and money. Many of my friends and soon-to-be college graduates are finding jobs and figuring out their daily work schedules in the real world. But after years of hard work and growing salaries, will any of us have the vacation days or personal freedom to dedicate to days or weeks of adventurous travel?

In my mind, waiting until I have loads of money before planning any new trip is futile. For one, I will probably never have loads of money. But more importantly, I can afford to plan cheap and save up if it means I’m seeing the world and having fun. Is holding a job important? Absolutely. But it’s far too easy to fall into a routine where the next travel opportunity is like the horizon–always there but out of reach.

 So long New York. San Francisco, here I come!