The High Schooler
Hazel Monforton, 17, junior, Brooklyn Tech
High school has been a hazy mix of half-assed angst and pop culture. In freshman year people set fire to the school, and I started the Dungeons and Dragons club. During sophomore year I watched Battlestar Galactica and Lost in Space, and last year our principal was fired. Senior year looks like Speedos and Starfleet, once the swimming season kicks up again and Trek Con comes to New Jersey. Looking over all this, I realize I am a dork. But I can’t wait for my final year of high school.
My summer has been a mess of internships and being broke, due mainly to my attempts to abandon the rigidity of the school-type schedule (I have succeeded.) Most of my friends are tied down by familial obligations or paying jobs, so I’ve been left alone to my nervous self. But it’s too late to worry about my SAT scores, and too early to worry about higher education. I have nothing to do but fantasize about my senior year.
I have been planning my senior classes since I was a freshman. Three years of forced math and science have taught me to appreciate how little I care about those subjects. As a senior, I’ll finally have a bearable schedule. I spent three years in algebraic torture, and my final year should be blissful.
I have a few certainties I can look forward to. AP American History will return in second-year glory. And I’ll have to come up with a new set of the untruths I liked to spread about certain presidents. For example, did you know that Bill Clinton has all the powers of the Incredible Hulk, but he never gets angry enough to use them? My classmates never appreciated my supplemental knowledge. I’ll have to dream up bigger and better fabrications for my senior year, and that makes me nervous.
Thinking further ahead, colleges are nothing more than mysterious, nebulous entities. All the fuss with the SAT will finally stop when personal essays and recommendations become a problem. When the application rush is over, Senioritis will spread like a wildfire.
Jamie Peck, 21, junior, Columbia
Entering my senior year of college, I’m plagued by the question of how best to prepare for adulthood. Everything I do, I’m told, must somehow contribute to this preparation. So I’m trying to think seriously about the future, but I can’t with a straight face say that in just nine months I will be getting up early, inhabiting a cubicle, and shopping for clothes nobody has worn before. I mean, I like money and all, but that sounds like a total bummer.
I’m also going to miss my recently graduated boyfriend when I move out of our summer sublet in Bushwick (he’s staying in Brooklyn). He thinks the separation will make us appreciate each other more; I think we’re going webcam shopping.
It could be worse, you say, I’m only moving back to Columbia. But my Harlem apartment is just about as far as you can get from Bushwick and still be in New York. Also, Columbia makes me do a lot of work, which we’ll no longer be doing side-by-side. I know it sounds lame, but I’ll miss our dates to the library, if not the beer- and puke-scented elevator of his dorm building.
And about writing: I’m having doubts. I want to become wildly successful, but I’m constantly sabotaged by laziness. I realized this summer while attempting to write a novel that, despite the lies my mom tried to indoctrinate me with, I can’t just do any old thing I put my mind to. My boyfriend says it takes more than a month to write a novel… blah blah blah, but I figure if those little plagiarists over at Harvard can do it, I should at least be able to write a short one. I haven’t yet, and while it’s probably harder to write a plagiarism-free novel than a plagiarism-enhanced one, my failure to produce is due at least partly to lack of discipline.
So what do I do? I want to outwit my laziness and find employment, but not end up old and grumpy. Luckily, one thing my mentors at The L Magazine have taught me is that it’s possible to be a fully functioning person with a job and still not be a grownup. Thank you, mentors! To show my gratitude, I will take any and all full-time positions you may have need of filling in the future.
The Grad Student
Patrick Coffee, 24, The New School
A flippant disregard for the graduate degree dictates public opinion. So did the three million Americans duped into joining this fall’s ranks enroll to delay membership in the working world? Is the MFA an unassailable step in career building or a justification for extended periods of fraternizing and existential quandary? The urban, northeastern grad student of lore provides an invaluable object of derision for hack pundits nationwide: a pampered, pompous drain on our collective resources. Unable to shoulder the immeasurable burden of financial responsibility, the individual in question purportedly lives a life of entitlement on the wealth of pecuniary fruits earned by his or her largely white, suburban, upper-middle-class caregivers. Known to maintain a carefully manicured sense of detachment while peppering conversation with insider references and multi-syllabic twaddle, said individual is shrill, dismissive, and lacking in requisite real world experience. (Six weeks on Eurorail do not count.)
Before conjuring images of academic idlers partial to grubby chin-stroking, consider the fact that the preceding defamatory likeness could apply to most New York students eighteen and over. While flirting with such perpetual cliché, the graduate experience constitutes a monetary and disciplinary balancing act, and the competing pressures of earning a degree and inching into the dwindling workforce often meet in frustrated collision. Institutional toil’s rewards remain invisible from the career ladder’s bottom rung, revealing their relative worth in painful increments.
Though I move through periods of pointed apprehension as a writing student with an underdeveloped literary acumen, my program manages to work as both training facility and rough-hewn social circle. The school’s well-published professors offer cautionary tales and guarded optimism on the world of words to the skeptical fledglings of each new semester. Readings and complementary discussions serve as Oprah-like arbiters of developing tendencies; seminars mirror formal book clubs and writing workshops become round-table debates. My degree may not be a passport to long-term employment, but grad school continues to expand long-discounted capacities for critical reading and credible prose. Most importantly, programs like mine grant developing writers a peer-review forum to air even their most fruitless attempts at coherence all for the paltry sum of twenty thousand dollars a year. Each class exiting the program in sober persistence proves the rickety system successful in spite of itself.