FOUR YEARS AGO, when most of today's seniors were first-years, we imagined that we would leave Harvard with coherent plans leading us to inevitably bright futures. We were convinced that four years down the road, we would all receive a secret book explaining the mysteries of happiness, life, and the universe.
Tomorrow, we will graduate, and many of us face gaping nothingness in the world beyond. Our loved ones compound our predicament by urging us gently but insistently to form plans for the future, or less gently but equally insistently to get a job.
To address this problem, I hereby announce the founding of a new student group, which will serve the needs of graduating seniors who do not know what they are doing next year. Tentatively titled the Alliance of Ne'erdowell Graduates just Sitting and Thinking (ANGST), the organization's primary mission will be to provide support, solidarity and a weekly newsletter for its core constituency. As ANGST's founder, I would naturally be honored to assume its presidency, along with the generous stipend which this office will provide.
ANY RECENT GRADUATE of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges presently lacking work, school or any other valuable means of spending his or her time is, whether they know it or not, hereby a member of ANGST. Conversely, the act of deciding what to do in the future is grounds for immediate expulsion.
Some may question the necessity of such an organization. But a group like ANGST is in fact vitally important, if only because of the superior managment and visibility of a rival faction, the Harvard Union of Bold, Remarkably In-control Students (HUBRIS). This group has set the tone for all Harvard seniors, misrepresenting their approach to graduation as the only valid one. Their insidious publicity campaign has led the general public to the erroneous and dangerous impression that all Harvard seniors are and should be proceeding directly to exciting jobs, post-graduate education and other worthwhile destinations. They have further besmirched the reputation of ANGST's preferred alternative--namely, "taking time off"--by cloaking their own time off under the respectable aura of fellowships and grants.
These efforts constitute a direct attack on the choices of ANGSTers. I call on all ne'erdowell seniors to resist the dominant paradigm created by HUBRIS. We must affirm and defend our chosen indecision! We must unite, better to combat our rivals, and to promote our alternative way of life--or lack thereof.
To begin challenging the prevailing orthodoxy, I propose a new terminology. It is high time to cast off the coy euphemisms behind which we hide our status, as they reinforce unhealthy and undeserved shame. We are not "taking time off"; we are "doing nothing," and should be proud of it. Members of ANGST should no longer mumble vague platitudes about "work and travel" when questioned about their future. The correct responses are "I haven't the foggiest notion," or "Oh, go to hell." We must expunge "plans" (as in "Esmerelda will be starting her joint MD/PhD/JD program at Stanford next fall; have you made plans yet?") from standard English lexicon. It should be obvious that the time for planning is past. At this point, what we ANGSTers lack is a life. We must recognize and affirm this basic fact.
TO AID fellow members of ANGST in their non-pursuits, I have compiled a few suggestions for spending time and avoiding starvation.
1. Live with your parents. Living at home after four years at school will also provide you with a stimulating and exciting chance to catch up with the 'rents--surely they've changed almost as much as you have. Or perhaps not. In any case, you'll probably get free room and board. but if option #1 becomes unbearable, you can always...
2. Visit old classmates. No doubt, many of your chums are charter members of HUBRIS, and will soon be working, going to school or "fellowshipping" in exotic and distant places. By timing your trips with precision, you can spend an entire year hopping from one buddy to another, never paying rent or hotel fees, wearing out your friends' futons (and eventually your welcome).
3. Volunteer for a good cause. Public service is a noble and worthwhile means of wasting time. Volunteerism works especially well in tandem with option #2. If you are "in town raising money for (fill in the worthy cause)," no member of the class of '91 can justifiably refuse to put you up for a few nights (or fortnights).
4. Get engaged. Preferably to someone with a job.
5. Become a writer. Unemployed writers and ne'erdowell graduates have many similarities. After all, "trying to write" and "sitting and thinking" are basically indistinguishable activities. But calling yourself a writer has a certain respectability unmatched by ne'erdowellism. In this respect, "writing" resembles going on a fellowship, but without the time and effort of the application process.
If you become completely desperate or disheartened, of course, you can always enroll in HUBRIS and apply to law school.
David J. Socolow '91 has been besieged by offers from reputable employers. If you'd like to try to hire David, he can be reached at his parents' home. References available upon request.