Tuesday, May 05, 2009

musings for the recent college grad

I have a few friends that just finished their finals and are about to don their cap and gown this week and receive a fake diploma in an orange, tubular container. Yes, it's that time again: graduation, where the University of Tennessee releases a bunch of unprepared and confused twenty-two-ish year olds out into the world. I graduated in May 2007 and am still in that stage.

It can be pretty overwhelming learning how to be a person sans the label "college student," especially if you decide to stay in Knoxville, a college town. If you're young and not a student, people want to know what the hell you're doing here. You better have a good answer or be prepared for the glazed over, expressionless nod when you tell them you wait tables or work at Walgreen's.

I know a few people that have jumped right into a job after college and I was sort of envious of them. But then I found out they all hated what they were doing. There are also those people, that without a question, just up and left because they thought they should. They moved to a big city and guess what: they're back in Tennessee.

I did decide to stay in Knoxville, and heaven knows I've tried to leave. My friends don't listen anymore when I tell them my big plans of moving, because most likely it's not going to happen, at least for now. I do feel like I have to come up with a grand reason why I'm still in Knoxville. I guess I don't automatically assume moving will help me figure anything out faster. There are a lot of UT students that blindly accept that they couldn't possibly stay in Knoxville. If you have a good reason for leaving, then by all means go, but if you don't, why are graduates so antsy to get out of here?

Maybe there are no great jobs here for the freshly adult. I have definitely felt that way before. I'm already in my fourth job since graduating (sheesh), but I hear people now change their jobs seven times before they decide what they want to do. This statistic helps me take a deep breath and relax. Apparently I'm three jobs away from my dream job.

I've talked to various "successful" people in this town. I know that term is relative, but they are people I admire, and I've realized a common theme. They didn't find their niche until they were at least in their 30's- Peggy Hambright (Magpies), David Dewhirst (preservationist and developer), Kim Trent (executive director of Knox Heritage). I recently read Jack Neely used to drive a truck, and Kim told me she thinks she developed a twitch from waiting tables for so long back in the day. It may seem crazy, but hearing all of this makes me feel like I'll be ok.

I accept that I can't claim to be successful in the terms that most people would use. I'm not married and don't perform surgery, or whatever the crap I'm "supposed" to be doing, but I'm moving along and am grateful for what I've learned since graduation. Knoxville will forever be the place where I grew up, so to speak.

So, if you're reading this and you're about to graduate, congrats and hang in there if the future seems daunting. Also, a word of advice: try not to drink as much beer as you may have in college. It can be tough, but whether you have a good job or not, it's typically not a good idea. Otherwise, don't worry too much. You can put that off at least until your mid-30s. Even then, you'll still be figuring it out.


max said...

"freshly adult" yes.

b. your words of encouragement are still, well, encouraging even for a guy who graduated the same year you did. there's nothing wrong with staying in knoxville. i'm glad i made that choice. knoxville is f*ing awesome, just look at the Sunsphere! nashville doesn't have Sunsphere, neither does atlanta. and yes, the only word in this paragraph that is capitalized is Sunsphere.

ck said...

That may be the first animated gif in Wigshop history! Good advice, B- I could've had a lot of fun when I was "aimless" but I worried too much to really enjoy it. And I can tell ya- even when you do find your "dream career" there's still a lot of discontent as you find your right place in it. So learning not to worry will be useful for the foreseeable future.

Discordia said...

The "Knoxville will forever be the place where I grew up" statement hits a lot closer to home than I like to acknowledge, especially considering there's still some growing occurring. Good insight.

The Pol said...

Nice work B. I have tried to get out of k-town a couple of times. (DC keeps taunting me) but yet here I am, and I'm rather contented.
My wife and I recently did the math and we are both about to have been in knoxville as long as we have ever been anywhere.
Kind of feels like home.

The Modern Gal said...

Great post, B. I was one of the ones who left right after college because I did have an opportunity to work in my chosen field, and here I am, back where I started. I've moved around several times searching for a better job and a happier life and have learned that sometimes you've just got to work at what you've got rather than keep trying to change.

I grumbled a bit about coming back to Knoxville when I first got here, but I've completely fallen in love with the city in a way that I didn't as a student. Plus, it has felt more like home than Nashville or Chattanooga ever did.

micah daniel said...

first, that bedazzled graduating world is mesmerizing.
second, great thoughts. although i am still a knoxville newbie, i can imagine staying here after i graduate, although i certainly don't have to think about that for a while. most of my friends in knoxville are people who graduated from UT and are still here. so i'm glad they've stuck around.

courtney said...

Very nice post, B. I came to Knoxville for grad school, and as much as I would like to stay here now that I've graduated, I just don't see (or can't get) the career opportunities I want here. Too bad, because I do love Knoxville and would like to stay here.

athomp said...

Interesting post....

for my part I never graduated from UT, though I attended there for two years, as well as Pellissippi for four semesters.

I always felt like graduating was unattainable (no one in my family has graduated from college), even though I was pretty good at it.

I decided to become a small business owner instead of finishing school(as so many do: see Bill Gates). Perhaps one day I'll come back and finish, but I'd only do it for the challenge.

Most employers are looking for relevant experience more than a degree these days (though through internships, you can get that).

Being 29 in Knoxville and owning your own business (especially one downtown) feels...strange. I often get the impression that some older business owners I meet don't take me as seriously as they would if I was 40 or 50.

Excuse my rambling though, I'm not sure what compelled me to write all that. The best advice I can give is get relevant real life experience in whatever field you want to do something in and a job should come easier.

Unknown said...

"Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your
life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they
wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year
olds I know still don’t."

--Baz Luhrmann, "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)"

Lord Von Lord said...

Great post.

Everyday above ground is a good one, lovely b.

benjamin said...

you know what else knoxville has that no other city in tennessee still has? good music. real, good music.

i also loved the statement, "Knoxville will forever be the place where I grew up, so to speak." I wish i could say that now without plagiarizing you.

i can definitely see myself back there some day - i miss everything so much.