By RYAN O’CONNELL
Listen to me, college students. I know that the media has convinced you that 16-year-olds all around the world are starting revolutions in their bedrooms and that 24-year-olds are being given millions of dollars to do whatever it is that they want to do but it’s simply not true! You’re 19, you’re 20, you’re maybe 21, and I know the job market is freaking you out right now. You’re probably sitting there with trembling thumbs, wondering how you’re ever going to beat the odds and land a dream job. These fears are legitimate. Life after a college is a scary place. You will struggle. That being said, there’s not much you can do about it as a college freshman or sophomore or even a junior. So take a freaking chill pill, honey and just enjoy the ride.
You have certain obligations while you’re a college student. Those are getting good grades, working part-time at some terrible job, and maybe interning on occasion.
Ah, interning! The concept has been engrained in your brains, hasn’t it? MUST INTERN OR ELSE MY LIFE WILL BE A GIANT FAILURE BUT OH MY GOD I CAN’T AFFORD TO INTERN AND WHY IS THIS SUCH A SCREWED UP SYSTEM? I hear ya, honey. Maybe this piece of advice I’m about to share with you will help assuage your fears a bit: Interning is mostly bullshit. It’s free labor and chances are it won’t materialize into a job. There are exceptions, of course, there always are, but am I the only one who thinks the importance of interning has gotten blown way out of proportion? People act as if it’s a golden ticket when really it’s just you acting like Anne Hathaway in Devil Wears Prada for three months. I interned a million times and it got me zero jobs. The connections I made at each internship were useless. They couldn’t help me get a job when they were holding onto theirs for dear life. It was all just propaganda. College kids are convinced that their career will flounder if they don’t bring some bitch in YSL some coffee but it’s not true. Sorry. YOU’VE BEEN LIED TO.
If you’re already thinking about your career or “brand” at the age of 19 or 20, you need to, as Chantal in Gallery Girls so eloquently put it, “get off the Adderall or something.” College is a time when you’re encouraged not to have it all figured out. That’s the point of going in the first place. You spend the first few years burning the candle at both ends and then eventually you find something that sticks and think, “Oh, I’m super interested in this. Maybe I should pursue it further.” In the last three years, it seems like every college student has become so driven and I don’t quite understand it. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have ambition and goals but don’t let it take away from the actual fun of college. When I first went to university in 2005, no one even uttered the word “internship.”
Do you know that I barely wrote in college? I would do it for assignments and maybe in my Livejournal but I certainly wasn’t sitting there, toiling away on some manuscript. I was too busy hanging out with my friends and making out with random boys named Teal in railroad apartments. I was actually living. I knew that college was going to be a unique experience that I would never be able to replicate again and I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Only by my senior year did I start to get to a bit more serious and start writing for websites and building my portfolio.
Last winter, I went and spoke at a bunch of different colleges and it was interesting to hear these 20-year-olds talk to me about how far behind they felt in their careers. I was like, “CAREER? Honey, your job right now is to accidentally do coke at a house party and date some asshole!” I’m being a little glib but really, there’s only so much planning you can do while still in college. Everyone needs to take a breather and just enjoy the gift of being able to learn. I’m so jealous that college kids get to sit around and talk about Flannery O’Connor all day. Seriously, that sounds like heaven. Then, when class ends, they go to some stupid house party at some stupid friend’s house in a stupid faraway neighborhood and spend all night kissing their crush in some hallway. On top of the actual education they’re getting from their teachers, they’re learning so much about themselves. They’re learning if they can handle casual sex, mushrooms, weird friends who treat you like crap but are so fun to be around, or having your best friend as a roommate! You’re given four years to study the subject of your choice but, most importantly, you’re given four years to study yourself. Don’t get so caught up in the stuff that happens after college that you accidentally forget to enjoy what’s happening right now.