“What are you doing after you graduate?”
Those terrible, terrible words. I give the curious friend / acquaintance a passable answer. I try to change the subject. What am I doing after I graduate? The jobs I casually applied for rejected me. Living with my mom in NYC is much cheaper than finding my own apartment, (evidence: this tumblr is terrifying). What do you even do with a history degree? Were those econ majors and math majors right all along!?!?? But then I calm down. I remember the most valuable thing I’ve learned at Brown: Uncertainty should be embraced. Uncertainty is natural.
I used to have it all wrong. When I was in high school I kept my head down and powered through SATs to gain entrance to my *perfect* school. After a year I hated it, so I agonized over my almost-perfect-but-not GPA and sent off a flurry of transfer applications. I almost went to Columbia since I didn’t think Brown was “academic enough,” or so I posted on College Confidential. (My friends found this post two years ago and have never stopped making fun of me since, for very very good reason. No, I won’t post the link.) My main motivation was moving up that next rung on the meritocracy ladder. Even as I told myself that these artificial markers, like grades and enrollment at an Ivy League school, didn’t matter — I deeply cared. I really believed there was only one way to be successful. I was very unhappy.
Thank the lord I chose Brown. Being a student here has made me realize something very important: that the world is fucking complicated. Nothing is black and white. Marxism, socialism, existentialism, structuralism — none of them are right or wrong, since real life is somewhere in the spaces between. People are many things at once, and people can and will change their minds. Feeling around in the dark is scary, but it’s the only way to find new ideas, new voices, new versions of yourself. THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO BE SUCCESSFUL. That’s actually really exciting, if you let it be.
I’ve studied history at Brown for three years, and I still couldn’t define the word “modernity” for you. Are you referring to the thinkers and ideals surrounding the Enlightenment? Do you mean industrial capitalism? Globalization? You can’t define modernity because it’s too complex and contradictory to fit in a simple paragraph. Being a fulfilled person is like that. If you can’t define yourself in a paragraph, you’re doing it right. Why are we all convinced that we’re any less complicated than the theories we study in class?
There are other small pieces of advice I would give: Be friends with people you actually like, study things you actually enjoy, make sure to use up all your meal credits before the last week of the year… but let’s be honest. My time at Brown is unique to me. Only I’m going to crack up when someone says “Psyduck” or think singing Jason DeRulo’s “Ridin Solo” with only cat meows is a legitimate art form. You’re going to have to figure it out for yourself.
Side note: In the spirit of life’s randomness, I will be moving to Texas this summer to help film a horror movie. Q.E.D.