Yeah, you’re still kids. Embrace it.
It’s been four years, almost to the day, since I showed up to my college graduation, where documentarian Ken Burns spewed a bunch of non-affecting bulls**t at us (which fit mostly into the motif of my time at Penn State re: education anyway, so I didn’t expect much) and I Tweeted drunken nonsense to my other friends who were present. At the time I didn’t know who Burns was, but since then his documentaries have been popping up in my world quite often. It’s like when a friend gets a model of car you’ve never seen before, and as soon as he or she purchases it you start seeing them all over the place.
I have now been a college graduate for as long as (most of you) were in college. This doesn’t make me wise by any means, but it makes me semi-qualified to give you some unbiased, relevant pointers that you’re probably not going to get from, like, Jill Abramson or John Malkovich or documentarian Ken Burns.
- Unless you are very lucky and/or privileged, the next few years of your life have serious potential to suck—especially from a professional standpoint. This isn’t abnormal. Most of your professional life, if you’re ambitious, is going to be a metaphorical struggle to get to the top a non-functioning escalator where people who are too dumb to realize it isn’t working are also too dumb to move to the right so that the climbers can pass without disturbance on the left side. (If you don’t know proper escalator etiquette, learn it.) But it’s only going to suck as much as you let it.
- Try to find happiness in the journey toward where you might ultimately be, but steer clear of immediate satisfaction. It can make you complacent.
- There are going to be people you know from school or work or the Internet or pop culture or wherever who are going to do much better than you are out of the gate. And potentially for the rest of your life. Say you want to make a show about female friends living in a big city. Spending your time resenting or bashing on Lena Dunham (or even thinking about her) because she had connections you’d gladly use if you had them isn’t going to get you anywhere beneficial. It’ll behoove you to accept that people are going to get breaks that you aren’t, and to spend your time working to get better at your passion and/or work instead of dwelling on how unfair life is.
- Do your best not to become jaded re: the things you are passionate about, especially if you’re unable to pursue these passions immediately for monetary gain. If you do feel yourself becoming jaded, analyze why you feel that way, and plan and work accordingly.
- Understand that people don’t care as much about you as you may think. It’s so easy today to foster delusions of grandeur, to somehow believe that everyone is paying attention to you or is somehow invested in you. This doesn’t happen automatically. Sometimes you’re going to get a haircut and nobody is going to notice. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Anonymity is becoming increasingly underrated.
- It’s very unlikely that anything you are experiencing is completely unique. Someone somewhere has fought the same battles you have, or has faced similar obstacles. If you can find a person who has, do not be afraid or hesitant to ask them for help. People love talking about themselves, and they especially enjoy talking about and giving advice to people facing similar struggles.
- As you grow older, people will phase out of your life. This is mostly unavoidable. But don’t allow yourself to grow distant from those dearest to you just because they are at a different level of living or maturity than you are. Many of my best friends in the world have gotten married. Some have given birth. Yesterday I spoke to a parakeet for 30 minutes straight, then spent the next 30 minutes deciding what kind of food I wanted to order. We’re on different paths, is what I’m saying, but so what? They are still the people I have loved for a long time, and maybe they always will be. For every baby born to a stable home, he or she needs that weird uncle who lives in New York and refuses to fully “grow up.”
- Have fun whenever you possibly can. The next few years are probably going to be accompanied by at least a low level of perpetual anxiety. The best way to deal with it is to get out of bed every morning ready to laugh and enjoy SOMETHING you’re going to do before you get back into bed 15 or so hours later.
- Don’t be afraid to fall in love. But do be afraid to become overly dependent on another human being.
- Try to stay alive.
Best of luck,