This Friday my sister Sara will be graduating from college at USC. As I’ve told friends over the past few weeks, particularly the ones I’ve known for a long time, they’ve been stunned. Sara was the child they remember clinging to my ankle when I’d be trying to leave the house with them. How could she be graduating from college? Recently on the phone Sara reminded me that I’d once said, “Wow, when you graduate from college I’ll be thirty-four!” As in old. And now that moment has arrived. I no longer feel reticent about being the age I am, but it’s still slightly surreal for all of us to see Sara well into adulthood.
That said, Sara’s been ahead of the curve for a long time. She was put in a talented-and-gifted program early in elementary school, a harbinger of things to come. I remember when she still was missing some permanent teeth Sara memorized all of the US presidents, so you could just throw out any number between one and forty and she’d name the chief executive. In 12 years of public school and four years at USC, anything other than an ‘A’ grade has been a major anomaly. In high school, she was editor of the school paper when it won first place in the nation. At USC, she also became the editor of the Daily Trojan, while also running with the cross-country team, working at a work-study job, and keeping a permanent spot on the dean’s list.
Sara is also a ferociously hard worker. For the last couple years, it seems like her day has begun with an 8AM class, continued into the evening at the paper, and then extended into the wee small hours with homework. Last summer, she worked as an intern at People magazine, where she acquired a bounty of stories to tell friends about Botoxed celebrities and the yip-yip dogs they tote to Starbucks and nightclubs. Most recently she interviewed Dolly Parton at press event celebrating the DVD release of 9 To 5. What a way to make a living.
Speaking of which, Sara’s been sort of half-jokingly saying, “Oh my god, I’m done with college. What am I going to do with my life?” Which is funny, because she seems so solidly on track for an impressive journalism career – hell, she already has one. But I know the feeling is sincere. It’s daunting to not be in school for the first time since kindergarten. And the job market isn’t always kind to kids fresh out of school – unless one is willing to set aside most of what he or she has learned in school in order to make copies or serve food.
The thing I’ve tried to impart to Sara and other people that age coming out of college is that it isn’t necessary to land the ideal job right out of school and start in full-throttle on a career. I think at 22, coming off so many consecutive years of school, the best thing to do is just try and have some fun. The career and achievements will come, along with responsibilities like a mortgage or marriage. I hope Sara goes to Italy with a backpack, or discovers some author or filmmaker she never had time for in school, or even just takes the time to enjoy some bad daytime television. At this age you won't have much money or assets, but you have one thing many of us older people envy: freedom to do whatever the fuck you want.
Meanwhile, major congrats to my prodigal little pal.