Holy Crap! Now What?
Life is a process, a series of defined steps with expected outcomes. College is a defined step with an expected outcome – you will get a job.
We begin that academic journey in kindergarten, the place we start to learn how to identify who we are outside of the home. The end of the academic phase comes when we graduate from college, at whatever level, some twenty or more years later.
All manner of good and bad happens in college, and it is, for many, a blast, but the truth remains that for most of us, it is the last bastion of our “protected” life. When that last exam ends, you know it is time walk into the true unknown, a world without a next step clearly defined. The other thing you know for sure is you now have to get a job and totally take care of yourself. You are on your own.
True, some choose more years of study, while others go live in their parent’s basement and play video games with beer in hand. Most, however, move on to the outside world to (Dare I say it?) begin acting like a grown up …
“This is my last quarter,” Her words drifted lightly from her mouth, or so it seemed. I glanced over at her sitting in the passenger seat next to me. As we moved down the street, the intermittent city lighting passed across her expressionless face. A small, jagged tattoo stretched just below her left eye, contrasting sharply with the softness there.
“I don’t want to graduate.” She barely whispered the words.
I held my tongue. She seemed to want to talk, but she also seemed in no hurry to do so. My sense was her words were pointed within. She barely paused, and then she spoke again, this time with just a bit more volume and direction.
“I am nervous about leaving school.” Clearly, she now wanted to me to hear her, needed me to listen, perhaps participate. I moved carefully into her space.
“What is your major?” I asked gently. She turned her head toward me and I toward her. In that instant of connection, I could see both her eyes, their resignation coming straight at me.
“Business.” That word slipped out of her mouth slowly and with some detachment. Her next words, though, flowed more quickly and with greater emphasis.
“Several companies have contacted me about working for them. One, and this is bull shit, asked me for my SAT scores. Who cares about those scores way back in high school, maybe six years ago? I didn’t care back then. I only took the exam because I had to. I didn’t even know if I was going to college. That’s bull shit.”
Her tone of voice nudged me back to listening mode. She had real angst and fear, and she wanted an ear.
“Damn … Will I even get a job? My scores were not great. My GPA sucks.” Her last words trailed off. I heard her sigh in the darkness of the car. She became silent.
I felt for her, as who has not had fear in life? Who has not felt that everything you have done, all you have committed to might, in the end, mean nothing? The mood had to lighten.
“Dang girl! You lay a lot on an Uber driver on our first drive.” I slightly turned to see her reaction. She smiled. I saw in that moment room to offer my take on her anxiety.
“Here’s the deal. If those folks are looking for what you did six years ago, you don’t need them. You are a college graduate and that means something to lots of people, but even that is not the most important thing you have going for you right now.”
The street lights illuminated her face and I could see she was listening intently.
“You just spent five years jumping through hoops, meeting expectations, making deadlines, working hard to find the right answers to problems other people assigned you. Guess what? You just spent five years developing a powerful skill set. You just spent your college years learning how to do a job.
And you know what else? Somebody out there gets that. An employer will bring you in and talk with you and at that point you tell them what I just told you and you will likely get a job, despite your GPA and your SAT scores. That employer will look at who you are now, what you have become, not what you did six years ago when you didn’t know anything.”
For a moment, the only sounds were those that penetrated the car from the outside, the muffled noise of other cars, the gentle hum of the Prius itself. My lecture floated about in that wordless space. Then she spoke again. This time, though, there was a spark, an energy level above her earlier angst-filled words.
“Wow! I didn’t think about it like that. You’re right! Who cares about what I did then? I don’t. I am different now. Yes, somebody will see that and give me a job. Thank you. Yeh, I didn’t see it like that. It makes sense.”
The Uberius rolled easily up to her house. She opened the door and turned her head back to me. I could see her face now in full light. She was smiling.
Neither of us knew what that next chapter would bring, but in that 15-minute Uber journey, we both came to realize she had more control over that outcome than previously believed.
“Don’t forget what I told you and good luck.” I emphasized my words.
“Good night. This has been a good ride,” she said cheerfully. With a bright expression, she walked off into the night. She was stepping out of my car, college, and into her next phase of the process called Life.
Tune in and don’t drop out.
Mr. Uber Driver