High School Graduation Address
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "Espresso"
Originally featured on 05-04-2010
As part of our series "All From These Magic Beans"

Let me just say this. I actually believed that a college degree was the key to happiness. Every culture has to have a salvation mythos, to stave off the suicidal thoughts, and I grew up poor enough that college was this mythos, and I didn’t actually know any college graduates to tell me otherwise. I’m telling you now. I have a graduate degree and earn nine dollars an hour. I want to spare you.

If I had to do it again, I would become a nurse. Not because I care, but because there will always be a need for it and because you can truly be done with college in four years and then get a job that pays a good wage. Because the world actually needs people who can do basic medical tasks. And even if there is a recession and you get demoted, there will still be a need for someone to spoon feed disabled people and to shower them. That’s the last job to go in a civilization.

I would never tell someone that they could fulfill their dreams. Because that’s mostly a lie. For the most part, you shouldn’t either, because it’s bad for all of us, it reflects a false system.

You know what the world does not need? More people telling other people that they are special. Momma said that we should get a good education and that that was the right thing and it would all be better for us. But it’s not. The truth is that college degrees are pretty much a hoax. If you don’t want to ever have enough money, just follow your interests. Major in anything and the academic advisors will just nod at you and give you a course sequence. Because they hate their jobs, were probably art history majors, and don’t want to kill your dreams, believing that it somehow could be different for you and that they failed. You can keep believing that you’ll be done with school one day, and somehow you’ll be able to function in a magical system that doesn’t exist, in which there is a huge need for all of us, doing exactly what we are called to do. Go for it.

For me, that ended in being handed a box cutter. Loading products off trucks and stocking shelves. I work beside single mothers, semi-retired people, and the slow. Wondering why I tried to be better. I did full time school and the full time work, spending most of my late adolescence and early twenties in a self-punitive coma. Babies at 18 and living in my parents’ basement would have landed me in the same place, just probably with more social support and less debt. I’d bet it’s just not going to work out for you either.

Try not to care about what you think you care about. It’s probably not that important if you won’t ever be able to afford to order what you want at McDonalds. The one bedroom apartment you’ll live in at 25, in the shady part of town, won’t feel “whole” just because you spent four years immersed in what you wanted, in a fake, hope-filled place called “undergrad”. You’ll have your magical books, an old car, and a name tag. Nine dollars an hour will be the wage your soul is worth. What’s worse, is that you’ll be educated enough to know that and to feel every bit of it.

Read More By Alice Clark

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