Art by Christine Nelson
I remember starting at Pepperdine with a young mind that didn’t know anything about either people or the real world. It was a time of new friends, amazing fun and learning so much about life. It seemed to be a golden age for my life, and I felt I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Then I went abroad, and I traveled. I experienced rude Europeans and sipped cappuccinos with my friends daily. I returned — begrudgingly, I promise you — and experienced junior year, which tested all of my skills and made me feel like textbooks and teachers were dancing around in my head, screaming, “You fool, you think this is a game?!”
With a snap, I’m here. Senior year is upon me, and I don’t quite know what to expect. If I try to look beyond my first semester, all I feel is fear and uncertainty. I don’t know if I will have a job, an internship or be on my way to working outside of school. All those nights with friends, laughing until the sun came up or rushing to catch my train to Venice are far from this person I’ve become. They make the future seem dark and impossible.
After all the tests and trials I have experienced, the true test of having a fulfilling experience comes down to one person: me. No one else can do my homework, no one else will push for me to get that internship, and no one else will simply give me a job. I can’t have any fantasies about someone walking up to me, shaking my hand and saying, “Well done, Zach, I’m going to give you a job that covers all of your life needs and wants. This is your big break!”
I’ve learned that the real world will throw curveballs at you while you’re tied up over the ocean with sharks swimming underneath you. It doesn’t wait until you’re ready for something to happen; it doesn’t consider whether you need to save money or if you want to get married — which is one of the scariest things of all, especially if you’re getting married now.
When I look ahead, I feel a fear that looms, rises and consumes my year. I imagine a future in which after I graduate, I go home, live with my parents and cry while eating Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia — one of these things isn’t so bad. This is the future in which I give up, in which I work minimum-wage jobs for countless years. Maybe in this future I would lower my expectations and find a new happiness. Maybe I would never get married or never move out.
I don’t want that future, and this year won’t be filled with fear. It will be full of hard work, joy and courage. Pepperdine has done well to educate me thus far and has helped me fill my belt with experiences that have changed me and strengthened me; but this year my life will have to move beyond Pepperdine.
Meeting people is more important than ever, especially since anyone could lead to a job that I need. Life in the real world becomes a balancing act of relationships, a job and the things one wishes to do with life, and this year will require me to maintain my life most acutely.
I will need those relationships because, as Jacquelyn Smith wrote in her article “8 Things You Need To Know About Millennials At Work,” our generation, despite being the most educated in history, is facing higher underemployment, even with higher education. Medical Doctors are unemployed at a rate of 30 percent, while Baby Boomers of the same education level are unemployed at 21 percent. She also reported that generation Y is the most educated in history.
It’s scary to know that our education level isn’t guaranteeing us jobs. Yet getting a job is about accepting that you might have to take a low-level job and work your way up. There are hardly any big breaks to go around, but the world admires hard work, and if that’s what it takes, then we should all work hard — harder than our parents did, or anyone else does.
Yet it’s not enough to just work hard. We will fail; maybe we don’t get the job we want, or a certain job isn’t paying enough. Then one must wait, continue to work hard and never give up. You can feel defeated; you can feel like you can’t take another step into that dark future, but take it anyway. It will always pay off.
Follow Zach on Twitter: @ZPoWaH