Expectations shine brighter than reality

Hungry and Foolish

Sigh. Graduation.

Allow me to sugarcoat it for you, my undergraduate brethren, you starry-eyed unique and special little snowflakes. Upon finishing up your last semester at this university, you will doubtlessly be faced with a bounty of job offers, endless travel opportunities and a conception of the world that only an arrogant young college grad who has spent some time reading Albert Camus can possess. Bob Barker will be waiting for you outside of Dwinelle on the day of your last final with a beer, a brand new car and the lease to a rent-controlled studio apartment in San Francisco. You’ll cure cancer, become a Nobel laureate and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I’m laying it on a little too thick, aren’t I? If only I had known that this brightly painted future didn’t carry even an ounce of fidelity to the real picture, I might not have donned such a stupid-looking grin in my commencement photo, endearingly pathetic in its naïve optimism.

From experience, I can tell you that my days as of late have been spent sleeping until noon, eating obscene amounts of ramen and, most shocking of all, finishing that book I’ve been meaning to read just for fun. That’s right: In the outside world, people read simply for the pleasure of it. But most of all, after being a student for my first 22 years of living, I’m really just trying to answer this question: What’s next?

In this column, I hope to tell you about my experiences fresh out of the Cal sandbox and into the “real world.” The air is pretty different out here, where I still live a mere block from campus in the largest student co-op in Berkeley and frequent Northside cafes to work on cover letters and applications rather than midterm papers and finals. My parents tell me I need to move out and move on, but after living here in Berkeley for a few amazing and memorable years, it’s not easy to let go of this beautiful place. After being a student for so long, it’s hard for me to conceive of a way to structure my days without fixed class schedules, office hours and discussion sections.

Coming off of the heels of the Great Recession and the transformative Occupy movement, students graduating today are faced with a peculiar conundrum: Do we strive to do what we love and enjoy, or do we look responsibly for jobs that will guarantee financial security? So far, I’ve found, quite sadly, that the two are mutually exclusive more often than not. Jobs for cheeky liberal arts majors such as myself are sparse at the moment and, if found, are never sure to be lucrative undertakings.

When answering such questions, I have found words of encouragement and inspiration from a seemingly unlikely source. The late Steve Jobs, whose celebrity status would seem to justify that I need not give him formal introduction (although I will anyway), was the former CEO and co-founder of Apple and a pioneer in the computer industry. Although quite far from my academic concentrations, it was his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 that struck a nerve in me. He concluded with words that inspired him at a young age, found in the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”

I, too, have found great hope in this mantra. It is this phrase that adequately sums up how one should hope to embark on the long road that follows college.

At this point, you may be asking: This is a student-run newspaper, no? Although no longer a student, I have chosen to remain in a strange limbo in which I live and work only with students. I still have my retail job that I found in my third year at UC Berkeley, the job that is just barely paying my rent and bills.

Inevitably, we must all graduate and leave the incredible place that is Berkeley. My hope is that by virtue of my strange and unique position at the peripheries of both student and adult life, I might be able to divulge some new pieces of advice to those who are approaching their higher education expiration dates. I’ll be attempting to look at all of the hard-hitting questions, such as, “Why on Earth would an employer advertise this position as entry level yet require five-plus years of experience in the field?”

I don’t have the answer to that one yet, but please shoot me an email at the address listed below if you figure it out. What I can promise you is that I will share anything and everything so that perhaps, just maybe, my sophomoric stumbles in navigating the postgrad circus will clear a path for someone else.

Max Rosen writes the Friday column on life after college. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @RosenMax.