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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
CALL ME a screw-up. Tell me I'm doing the wrong thing.
Tell me I'm mortgaging my future on some childish whim. Tell me I'm being irresponsible and throwing all caution to the wind when I announce that I have no desire to go to work after graduation. Tell me I have no idea of the consequences that will result from my decision to blow off my future in favor of bumming around the world for no particular purpose.
But don't--please please please please please don't--tell me I'm doing absolutely the right thing with my life. That takes all the fun out of it. Telling me I'm being smart or thoughtful makes me want to puke--or, worse, go into investment banking. It makes me want to work 22 hour days and wear wing-tip shoes.
MY ORIGINAL GOAL was to take a year or two off from my life and travel around the world. No deadlines, no set place to live, no roots, and no 9 to 5 office job waiting for the Danish wagon to come around at 11:15. I would hang with mates in Australia, visit Amazons in South America, teach English to Japanese executives, or be a ski bum in Switzerland. Or all of the above.
Easier said than done. For as soon as I made public my secret plans for 1988 and beyond, the very people I had hoped to upset all lent their support.
"What a great idea," said my father. "You'll have plenty of time to work. Why not take a year or two off and see the world." He even offered to pay for the trip. He'll probably buy me some matching luggage and hire a personal porter for me as a graduation gift.
He wasn't the only one. "That's exactly what I would do if I could start all over again," said a friend who had risen to the top of the Washington Post. "It's great to see people not running into jobs right away. Go live for a while. You can write about it later."
Even business-school deans have taken a similar tack. A preprofessional three-piece-suit-wearing friend of mine asked a high ranking administrator at a leading business school what he should do to get into business school as soon as possible.
"Join the Peace Corps," said the dean. "Go learn something about life before coming here."
I was thinking about joining the Peace Corps my self. But not anymore. I don't want to go halfway around the world to hang around with a bunch of bottom downed pre-professional B-school aspirants whose main concern is how many people they can dick over on their way to the top of Dillon Read. I can do that here.
On the other hand, the very friends that I had hoped might even join me on my round-the-world voyage are slowly bailing out on me. "That sounds like a good idea, John. Excuse me, I have to get dressed for my Goldman Sachs interview."
ON THURSDAY JUNE 12, President Bok will tell me and 1600 or so of my classmates that today is the first day of the rest of our lives. After all, that's why they call it Commencement, not Termination.
The second day of the rest of my life is Friday the 13th. Draw your own conclusions, but from the point of this fuck up, I hope the rest of my days will be as ominous.
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