I recently unearthed an email I wrote to my father in the fall of 2000, when I was a cub reporter at The Daily Times in Salisbury, Maryland.
I recently unearthed an emailI wrote to my father in the fall of 2000, when I was a cub reporter atThe Daily Timesin Salisbury, Maryland. Several hundred miles from home and green as a blade of grass in June, I had written to break the news that my Scrooge of an editor had denied my request to travel home for Christmas. As the newest hire, I would be spending the holiday not gorging on my mother's amazing cooking, but extracting good quotes from the less fortunate at a community dinner and writing 12 to 15 column inches about it.
Though it was printed on a cheap ink-jet printer 15 years ago, the email still reeks of tears and angst. This paying dues business was for the dogs. In short, I was exactly the same as every new graduate who experiences the indignities of the working world for the first time. Thank God my father had no qualms telling me as much in a few hundred words of wisdom that can best be summarized with the phrase "Buck up," one of his all-time favorite cliches, right up there with "People in hell want ice water."
This month, higher education institutions are certifying thousands of people as ready to be productive members of society. (Congratulations, graduates!) One key to survival in this indeed often cruel and unfair world is figuring out how to stand up again, dust yourself off and keep moving when you get knocked on your butt. Boy, is that going to happen a lot.
This, and finding a job and figuring out how to feed, clothe and shelter oneself, would seem plenty to worry about. But student debt is an additional yoke around the necks of many new graduates. The soaring cost of education was an ominous theme of new Ohio State University president Dr. Michael Drake's investiture ceremony address, and it is the subject of a story in our Arch City section this month ("Price-Checking College," page 24). In this environment, resilience and tenacity take on entirely new meanings for young people feeling out adulthood for the first time.
Maybe we have adapted biologically to these challenges, in that our knowledge of and desire for creature comforts start at a very low (read: cheap) threshold. People who are 20 often do not mind "vintage" apartments, subsisting on Kraft mac and cheese and grocery store ramen or assembling a wardrobe at thrift stores. In fact, they think it's an adventure. And it is!
I netted $536 every two weeks at my first job, moonlighted at an art gallery and cafe on weekends for extra cash, drove an '89 Ford Thunderbird, decorated my apartment with "antique store" finds and drank vile National Bohemian beer because a six pack cost $4. Maybe it's a coping mechanism, but I have only fond memories of those years.
I wish the same experiences for all the accomplished people graduating this month-a rich, complex life that will give you a beautiful patina of resilience. It's a wonderful ride.