By Eric Mosher '13 and Pete Fey '13
Ah, spring! That magical time of year when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of “What the fuck am I going to do with my life?” We find ourselves with no concrete plans for even the near future, entering an economy still reeling from a global crisis. We are leaning over the abyss, wondering if it would be better to jump, cry, or just suck it up and marry rich.
Maybe it was naïve to think, four years ago, that finding a career would be easy after college. Maybe we should have just started at McDonald’s fresh out of high school—we’d probably be managers by now. (With Eric’s brains and Pete’s good looks, we could probably even manage a Burger King.) But we did not make that decision; instead, we made the potentially financially irresponsible choice of attending a college that is vehemently non-vocational.
Our situation is made all the more pitiable due to the successes of some of our non-Bennington friends. Pete has a high school friend who went to Yale, and who just accepted a full-time position at a prestigious consulting firm—with an $80K salary. This guy is in his early twenties, and he’ll already be making about $30K more than the median American household income. Eric recalls a conversation, also with a high school friend, who goes to George Washington University where he studies international business. His words to describe his life prospects were, “Yeah...I’m set up.”
All that studying literature and drama or political economic philosophy has set us up for are more internships, grad school, and waiting tables. At least we have six months before we have to start paying back our student loans.
Being a senior is fun, sure. But it’s fun in the kind of way that flying up in a plane with a parachute that might not release when you want it to is fun. Almost every conversation with a graduating senior involves the words, “I don’t know,” repeated multiple times. We are in a process of self-evaluation that even involves our physical possessions—for example, who will we give our fridges to? How will we take all our stuff with us when we eventually move to our future homes?
Another important consideration is how on Earth we might move our own bodies after enjoying all of the free booze in which Bennington College drowns its senior class. Senior Conference—open bar. Senior Lit Reading—two drinks each, on Annabel (bring your ID!). Senior Reception—free wine service. Commencement Dinner—one free bottle of wine per table, and as much as money can buy after that. And the post-Commencement Senior Party...we can only assume there will be some booze on the house at that shindig.
There are other perks to being a senior, like not having to worry about being judged for sitting alone in the Dining Hall; every non-senior assumes that you’re ruminating on the wonderful life upon which you will embark after graduation. We know how to do passable work, even good work, with minimal effort. We know how to balance drinking achievements with thinking achievements.
To be a senior is to experience culmination. You can’t be a freshman, sophomore, or junior without sometimes thinking about what will come as an older student, and you can’t be a senior without having lived through that anticipation, and having now seen it through to completion.
It seems to us like the end of college is the end of what comes pre-planned in life. We can both remember being much younger and having career ambitions, and nebulous plans for what we might do after finishing college. But the furthest concrete point on that timeline is now in under a month. And the ethereal quality of those post-college plans are even more apparent now that we truly see their non-existence.
At the same time, this point in life is really exciting, for a number of reasons. For the first time in our waking memories, we will be out of school. No more homework, no more papers to write, no more all-nighters spent knowing that the work we’re doing is not up to par. No more professorial evaluations of how our work compares to both our previous work and the work of our peers. No part of our characters will be defined by our academic merit; our employers will judge our work performance, and our friends will judge our characters.
Also, we can go wherever we want and do whatever we want. The world is our oyster, as long as that oyster’s rent is $200-$600/month, and is an affordable city, and has gas under $4.50/gallon. But even with those financial limitations, the possibilities are nearly endless. We live in a huge country, and an even bigger world, and it’s satisfying to know that with our academic responsibilities behind us we can explore all of both.
The lack of formal academic responsibilities allows us to take learning into our own hands. Instead of trudging through Descartes’s Meditations—again—we can bury our noses in the newest J.K. Rowling novel. We’re excited to read what we want to read when we want to read it. We’re excited to read the news more. One thing that won’t change is that we’ll be on the internet just as much as we are now.
Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to being an about-to-graduate college student. The situation we are in now is a marriage of cautious optimism and crippling despair. We know (or hubristically presume to know) that everything will be fine in the long run. Who knows, we might even be happy one day.
But we will be happy when we’re under the tent at Commencement, together with our graduating class and our families. And we will be happy when we’re out in front of the Barn, collecting our diplomas, hugging our friends, meeting dozens of moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and other relatives, reuniting with old friends who come back to see us graduate, and seeing off our younger peers who will continue our legacies and keep Bennington traditions alive. Those hugs and tears will be the true culminating moments of our time at Bennington, and, to a certain extent, of our lives thus far. And we look forward to them.
To all the seniors who will be there graduating with us, good luck. To all the students who will stay beyond this June, good luck (with Aramark). To everyone else, thanks for making our Bennington experience both educative and enjoyable, and we hope that the Vermont State Troopers get that black bear.
Thanks, and please be in touch if anything is not up to snuff.
Eric & Pete