If you’re actually graduating this year, you were probably treated to a big long ceremony which included a speech from some C-list celebrity that peaked in 2003. Wilmer Valderama, come on down.
Hey, not all of us can have Andy Samberg show up. Seriously, take 20 minutes of your day to watch that. It is so delightfully awkward. I’m legit surprised he didn’t get the ol’ vaudeville hook.
Those of you who have been around for a little while might remember that my annual speeches to grads are a bit of a tradition. It started off in 2013, when I pointed out that real life is much harder than college. I followed it up in 2014 by telling people that if they spent their life working hard and working smart, things would be much easier.
Because apparently I don’t know when to stop beating a dead horse, I followed things up with a 2015 edition that begged graduates to stop being so damn impatient. It’s great you want to change the world. But it’s not going to happen overnight.
And so that brings us to 2016, graduates. When I first started this series, you were only just entering university, a pimply-nosed nerd who thought that somehow getting out town and into college was going to get your ass laid. Naturally, this did not work, on account of you still being a pimply-nosed loser. At least internet porn exists.
The world of higher education seems to have changed completely in the last couple of years. Safe spaces have become a thing, especially for minority and LBGTQ students. Colleges, which have long been a bastion for liberal thought, have almost become dangerous for those who don’t share the same opinion as the prevailing wisdom.
My understanding of this issue is most students think the same way about safe spaces as reasonably informed people in the real world. They think that people should have the right to spend time in places they feel safe. They’re just not sure those freedoms should extend into places where being uncomfortable is a good thing for long-term growth, like in the classroom or the workplace.
See, graduate, here’s the deal. Maybe you don’t want to feel uncomfortable at work. But Bob from accounting doesn’t give two craps if you feel safe at work or not. As long as he’s not breaking the law or about to get himself fired, he’s going to give you hell if your results aren’t up to snuff. Bob cares far more about the health and welfare of himself and his kids than he cares about some new grad the company hired.
The big picture
This brings up a bigger issue. At the end of the day, colleges are echo chambers. Liberal students end up learning from liberal professors who are the underlings of liberal university staff. Because these people all look at the world in the same way, they think alike. They all agree that Donald Trump is the devil and Jon Stewart (RIP) is our GOD. There is no room for alternative thinking.
If you surround yourself with these people, you will never grow as a person. All you’ll do is continue to hear the same opinions as you always do, which further cements your beliefs. That is not a formula for growing as a person.
For whatever reason, we’ve decided that the opposite side of the argument isn’t even worth listening to. The internet has turned debate from a respectful thing into a contest of who can use the most swear words and condescending language. Whoever is the biggest asshole wins, apparently. Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this.
People who just scan the comment sections of Gawker, the New York Times, or Breitbart think this is ridiculous, of course. We all realize that in the scheme of things, it’s just not worth our energy to get that upset about which gender takes a whiz in which bathroom. We have more important stuff to worry about, like whether Bob from accounting is going to fire our asses.
The problem is that you, graduate, have never had bigger things to worry about. You don’t have the kinds of problems those of us in the real world have because you’ve never been in the real world.
Say this whole getting a job thing doesn’t work out. Most of you can (and will!) end up back in your parents’ basement after just one phone call. You’ve got a built-in support group that is conditioned to feeling sorry for you. Sure, most of us older folks have a similar group of sympathetic friends, but we’re conditioned to feel pride in being able to take care of ourselves. If you think it’s bad being a 22-year old who moves back in with their parents, try being a 32-year old who does. That person is mocked, and rightfully so.
We have a new generation of kids entering the working world who have never really dealt with adversity in a big way. Their parents protected them. College protected them. And they protected themselves by only exposing themselves to one side of a lot of different complex arguments. They’re about to enter a very different world.
This will be a shock for many people, especially ones who insisted upon safe spaces and trigger warnings at school. If these folks don’t figure out things quickly upon graduation, they’ll quickly devolve from promising young grads to bitter entry-level employees who somehow think it’s The Man’s fault that they’re not junior vice-president after a year of mediocre service. That’s not a formula that’ll get anyone ahead.
Luckily, there’s a solution to this, and it’s really easy. You just have to change your attitude. Instead of thinking of the world as a you-centric place, think about what you can do for the world.
If you don’t get ahead after a year and your job no longer challenges you, be thankful you have the mental energy to be creative outside of work. Start a side hustle to harness those creative juices.
If you can’t afford to buy a house because of Canada’s real estate bubble, focus on how good of a deal renting is.
If one of your co-workers suck, spend time appreciating all the awesome co-workers you have.
Focus on what you can do to make your life better, rather than insisting somebody else make changes to accommodate you.
Here’s the deal, graduate. The world is your oyster. It really is, even if I’ve spent 1,000 words telling you how it’s hard. There will come a point when you just shake your head and marvel about all the opportunities out there.
This won’t happen unless you have the right attitude. If all you focus on are negative things, you’ll see the world in a negative way. If you focus on viewing the world the same way as the average university student, you’ll miss out on all the valuable contributions made by people who don’t view things the same way as you do.
Embrace this new world and ditch the echo chamber of your old one if you want to succeed. Your schooling might be over, but your education is just beginning.