Do you remember what you wanted to do with your life when you first came to Georgetown? I wanted to become a politician. I don’t really know why I thought I might best serve anyone by becoming a politician, but I can’t say that I really had anything else in mind other than becoming the President of the United States. Plenty of Georgetown students still want to become President, and I can’t imagine that many of them have any other role in mind, either.
I still want to work in politics, but that is a far cry from wanting to be a 21–year-old senator prepping for the most powerful job in the world. Still, I’m not sure that politics wants me. I am applying for jobs now. I have interned all over this city—in Congress and with campaigns in several states—and yet I have no idea where to start. I simply do not know how to apply for an actual job. It’s strange.
My state of confusion can’t possibly be unique; surely this misadventure is as harrowing for everyone else as it is for me. I can’t imagine how anxious I would be if I were a business school student. I plan to work for a government that is always hiring and always (at least while the Dems are at the helm) expanding. Anyone who wanted to work in the banking sector for a starting salary of more than $50,000 a year better grow up fast.
I, on the other hand, am preparing to live on $30,000 a year in a Washington tenement, with roommates and rats. This is a best-case scenario, I suppose; at $30,000 a year, I would at least have an income to speak of. It is a meager aim, but it is only for now.
When I was a kid, I was sure that I would graduate from college and immediately start doing things. I would make money, to be sure but I would also wield influence, I would command respect, I would be a professional. But nowadays I can’t help but feel that, on the verge of graduation, I am on the verge of irrelevance.
This is all pretty difficult to stomach. Where I once dreamt like a child, I now worry like an adult. If only I planned like one. I now spend my weekends staring into resume templates, wondering how I’ll pay rent this summer. I have learned much living here, but I never learned how to leave here.
I often remind myself that this is how it is supposed to be, and that it will all work out in the end. I was silly to have ever thought that I could taste success without first sweating to reach it. It isn’t the most pleasant reality, but it is one that not even a bachelor’s degree will save you from during this recession.
Many of my friends are much better than I. They will work as teachers, Peace Corps volunteers, armed service members—they will earn their keep out of college. I will work hard, struggle a bit, but emerge otherwise unscathed. My worst-case scenario is the middle class, and I imagine that this is true for most of us.
I have given up on the idea of working to become wealthy, or to become powerful; I will work simply to do good, and to do well. If I may grow rich in the pursuit, so be it. But if I never break five figures, I am sure that I will survive. My mother did, after all. My soul as a writer, as a liberal, and as a man was born of a childhood much simpler than all of this. I will remain forever ambitious, but my slow crawl into the work world has humbled me quite a bit. May this recession humble us all.