Here’s how the summer after college graduation started for me: At graduation, standing in the line in our caps and gowns, waiting to proceed, all the other English majors rattled off what they were doing next. All but three of us chirped “Law school!” or “Teacher!” I looked at the other two kids who had offered a nervous laugh and a shrug as their career goal and was fairly certain we were all screwed. If my family hadn’t been waiting in the audience, I’m sure that Susie Shakespeare and Tommy D.H. Lawrence and I would have gone to the local dive bar and tried to figure out how none of us got the memo on teaching and lawyering. Then we would’ve all gotten “Personal Agency” lower back tattoos. (Although once they found out I was Claire Post-Colonial Literature, they probably would’ve banished me from our English-major-failure club with a loud “Take your feminist explorations of Edwidge Danticat somewhere else, hippie!”)
Anyway. In the month and a half after graduation, here’s what I acquired:
- A resume that liberally used words like “Managed,” “Led,” and “Directed.” (Which we all know are verbs that apply to most intern tasks, right?)
- A very sparse wardrobe of earnestly officey basics that said “Hire me!” and “I like primary colors!”
- A response to “What’s coming up next?” that went like this: “Oh you know, I’m looking, and the job market, and jobs, and do you know anyone with a job, can you get me a job, job job job, jobbity job job?”
And then it happened. After weeks of darting in and out of DC, my face usually smushed into someone’s polyester-clad armpit (polyester takes that DC heat and turns it into a BO so powerful, it could create policy change), I traded in my resume-peddling and dwindling bank account for a brand new job in Dupont Circle. Suddenly after moving in very slow motion for half a summer, life sped up. My lease on my college apartment was up in a week, my boyfriend was in Asia for the rest of the summer, and my job started immediately. I had stepped into the next part of my life.
During my last week at the apartment and my first week at my job, my high school friend Noura Hemady (whose Old 97s post went up earlier today, go read it!) met me in College Park to go to an Old 97s show at the 9:30 Club. It was a silly evening: we were staying at my apartment, which I had already moved out of, so my room was empty except for a bed and a pile of blankets for Noura to nest in. I had rushed home from work and spent the rest of the night in my too-officey outfit. And when we finally made it to the show, my boyfriend started calling me from China, and no matter how quickly I rushed out of the 9:30 Club, the mob of Old 97s fans kept precluding me from leaving, so I missed every call. But here’s what I remember most about that night. I was standing against the railing upstairs with Noura, watching the Old 97s, as we both drank hard cider from long-necked bottles. I looked at her, at us, and I was filled with this really good feeling. I remember thinking “This is what my new adult life is going to be like! This is it! I’m a grown up, and everything is great!”
Did it turn out like that? Of course not. I didn’t know then that I was in the wrong job, in the wrong city, and that for the next year, I would grow up a lot over mostly unpleasant things. But for a moment, as I watched the Old 97s, I got to feel like a grown up in a totally innocent, blissful way. I’ve gotta thank them for that. And Noura, who probably forced me to go to that show.