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Curing the Summertime Blues

By Sarah A. Rodriguez

Brrring.

"Hello?"

"Julia?"

"Who is this?"

"It's Amanda, you fool. I can't believe you don't even recognize my voice anymore."

"Amanda! Oh my God! Well, I haven't actually spoken on the phone to you since Christmas, loser. Maybe if you tried to reach out and touch someone rather than just writing all of us three-line, `I'm-really-busy-but-I'II-write-you-a-real-letter-soon' e-mails, I'd be able to remember what you actually sound like."

"I'm sorry, Julia. Things have been incredibly busy around here. I'm trying to find a summer job."

"Oh, that again."

"Listen, Julia, it's not easy. Everyone at Harvard has a job or an internship lined up already. I can't just go home and file in my uncle's office for another summer. I've got to get something good--something high-powered, or at least with a title that sounds high-powered. It's a cold cruel world, and a resume isn't worth the paper it's printed on unless you can network to support it."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this. You of all people shouldn't have this attitude. Remember the two, no three summers during high school when we waitresses at the IHOP back home?"

"God, how can I forget? It was fun hanging out with you all the time. But I need to move on to bigger and better jobs."

"Dude, you sound like you're finally succumbing that `Harvard mentality' you're always complaining that everyone there has."

"Don't take this the wrong way or anything, Julia, but things are at Harvard are a lot more competative than they are at most state schools."

"Are you mocking my state school?"

"Julia, I'm not mocking anything. I'm just saying things are different. Maybe it's really not this way in the real world, but the attitude around here is that if you don't have the best and most prestigious summer work experience possible, you're never going to find a decent job when you graduate."

"That's preposterous. Most people in my dorm haven't even started looking for a summer job yet."

"Yeah, well, all my friends have positions lined up."

"Such as?"

"One of my roommates is going to be doing research in a lab. She's discovering a new element."

"Interesting."

A girl in my entryway got a grant to found a city in Antarctica. She's also got corporate sponsorship from L.L.Bean."

"Nice way to spend the warmest months of the year."

"One of the guys next door is going to be running a summer camp for underprivileged orphans, teaching them how to read, write, and save the Brazilian rainforests."

"Wow. That's pretty dedicated."

"Another friend of mine is research-writing, editing, typesetting, and binding by hand the first edition of `Let's Go: Compton.' I hear the maps are made out of real blood this year."

"You know, Amanda, all those jobs sound amazing beyond belief. But would you really be happy doing any of them?"

"Of coerce not. It's not about being happy with what your job is; it's about gaining contracts and security so that you can find a better one when graduate."

"Dude, look at all your graduating friends. I'd bet dollars-to-donuts that they're stuck in the same mentality--going for the most difficult, most challenging, and occasionally the highest-paying position possible, so that it will enable them to do `what they really want to later."

"Possibly."

"For how long are people going to take that attitude? For two years? For ten years? Until they retire? If that's what they want to do, fine. Saving for the future is extremely important. But there's also something to be said for not putting such an incredible amount of pressure on yourself to try and compete in such a bloodthirsty market, when in reality, it probably doesn't matter nearly as much as everyone fears it does."

(Silence.)

"Hello?"

"I'm here."

"Amanda, I'm sorry. Don't take any of this the wrong way. You're right; I probably don't know what it's like. But I do know that when we graduated from high school, we weren't sure what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. All we did know was that we wanted to be comfortable, but not wealthy; and have jobs that would make us moderately happy. If you want to go out there and work 80-plus hours a week as an investment banker this summer, well more power to you. I could never do that. I'd never want to. But it's your life and your decision, and only you can make the call about what's the most important thing to get out of a summer job experience."

"I know, I know. (Sighs.) I should probably get back to work."

"Okay. Well, thanks for calling. I never get to hear from you anymore, and I'm sure I won't hear from you again in a while."

"Dude, I'm sorry about not keeping in touch. I'll be better about it in the future. And you never know--maybe my uncle could use your help and mine with all the filing in his office this summer."

"Well, maybe it would pay more than IHOP, though it wouldn't be nearly as interesting."

"Tell me about it. Well, I should go. Thanks for listening Julia."

"What are friends for? Take care, I'II talk to you soon."

"Okay. Bye."

"Buh-bye."

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