Issue #151 – “Degree of Difficulty 2009” – May 26th, 2009

-Congratulations, Class of 2009, you’ve just received your college degrees! If I were you, by now I’d be sick of everyone telling me how this is the worst job market in a generation and that my graduation is coinciding with near-certain apocalypse. I feel your pain, though, having graduated in 2001 during the collapse. When I got back from spring break in Acapulco my senior year, I had a voicemail informing me that the division of the company where I had lined up a full-time job no longer existed. Not the kind of news you want to hear when you’re hungover and sunburned. But fret not, my young apprentices, it’s not all bad. In my annual address to the nation’s graduates, I’d like to present you with some reasons why you’ll fare better in the real world than you think. Or at least fare better than your gloomy douchebag commencement speaker thinks.

-In today’s economy, thrift is the new bling. Which is good since you’ve spent the past four years living as cheaply as possible. If you own one pair of jeans, eat ramen for breakfast, or have found more uses for red Solo cups than MacGyver, then take heart: you’re more prepared than most for trying times.

-Despite their best efforts, you will still know more about the Internet than any of your older co-workers. And you should, given how many hours during finals you spent in the library Facebook stalking instead of studying. If you want to make an impression at your first job after college, simply tell your boss you’d like to set up a Twitter page for the company.  He’ll be so impressed with your ingenuity that he won’t even realize it only takes fifteen seconds and not the two weeks you estimated.

-If you don’t have a job, try to refrain from dating someone in the same predicament. All of my girlfriends since college have either been unemployed or freelancers or grad students. And since I’m home all day too, we’re always just…around each other. Which is a problem, because everyone needs a buffer zone. Work is a place where people go to get away from their significant others and have free reign to just make shit up. “Honey, I really have to get drinks with some guys from the office” is just code for “I’d rather not come home yet.”

-If you’re in dire straits, you may even have to move back in with your parents. Though this is the worst nightmare of many college graduates, it’s becoming more and more common. I did it myself when I was twenty-five. Your experience will most likely be similar. Generally speaking, your mom will be thrilled to have you, and your dad will be just as eager as you are for the day when you finally get the fuck out.

-Perhaps the biggest benefit to graduating this year is that everything is now negotiable. From food to cars to cable, everyone’s more willing to cut you a deal just to get you in the door. How best to capitalize on this climate of haggling is a bit more uncertain. For instance, my lease is up in a few weeks. I’ve been contemplating for months how I’m gonna get my landlord to reduce my rent. I keep wondering what to do if he says no. Do I threaten to move out? But I don’t want to move out; what if he calls my bluff? What good is my degree from Wharton if this basic negotiation spooks me? But, much like I urge the Class of 2009 to do, I remain optimistic. The economy, as it always does, will rebound. And next time I find myself contemplating the worth of my diploma, I’ll simply consider just how many wonderful things I can do with red Solo cups.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-When a customer service rep tells me that I need to call another company in order to get technical support for a product, I always say, “I already called them and they told me to call you,” even if it’s not true – because I know that’s gonna be the inevitable chain of events anyway.

-If you are seated next to me on a plane, the social contract calls for an acknowledgement of one’s presence via head nod or brief smile. That’s the end of our obligation to each other. If you even so much as ask me a simple question once I’ve closed my eyes, I will point you in the wrong direction of the exits should we attempt an emergency landing.

-I just got a new air conditioner with a remote control. The remote only seems to work when I hold it one inch from the air conditioner. Even when the desired controls on the unit itself are easily within arm’s length, I refuse to use them. I will show that inanimate object who’s boss.

-Television interview guests should never be seated on a stool. They always look so rumpled and don’t know where to put their feet. Plus there’s the unavoidable crotch shot. It’s just awkward for everyone.

-For me, “quick shower” is an oxymoron.

-Girls over twenty need to realize that babysitting is not a career.

-Animated emoticons have gotten out of control. The sad face on AIM has a simple frown. The sad face on BlackBerry Messenger looks like all of his emoticon family got wiped out in a horrific accident and he just came from the funeral.

-Since Father’s Day is coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about when I moved back in with my parents.  My dad works from home as well, so we were both in the house all day, and I was able to compare our work habits. My dad gets completely dressed just to work in his home office; my version of business casual is boxers without holes. He eats when someone with nearby co-workers would eat: breakfast at 7am and lunch around noon; I ate breakfast when he ate lunch. We mostly stayed out of each other’s way, though we often bonded when the house’s fickle Internet connection went down. I’d come downstairs to his office to commiserate, and together we’d lie to the cable company and tell them we already called the router company.

-And, finally, I share yet another milestone with you, my dear readers. This is the final Ruminations of my twenties. Of course, the column won’t change much once I turn thirty in June, but I’ve spent so much time lampooning “twentysomething life” over the past decade that I thought it merited a mention. I started writing Ruminations at eighteen and I enjoy it now more than ever.  I’m confident my thirties will only bring more material, more escapades, more highs, more lows, and, of course, more reasons to say, “Fuck me.”