Here’s what they really don’t tell you at graduation.
1. Next year, you will probably either be unemployed, or live in your parents’ basement, or be unemployed and live in your parents’ basement.
Fifty percent of new graduates are unemployed or underemployed. And 29 percent of 25- to-34-year-olds live in what the poll-taker was kind enough to refer to as “multigenerational living arrangements” rather than “your old room with all the anime posters and Admiral Ackbar figurines still lying around.”
Your urge will be to respond to this by going to graduate school. Given that your only areas of expertise so far are “lacking marketable skills” and “having lots of debt,” this is a logical next step. Later, when your six friends who did manage to find jobs after college are booted from the work force, they will be unable to compete ever again because everyone around them will have six Ph.Ds.
2. You will keep in touch with friends, but not the ones you thought.
This is OK. That person you never talked to in middle school will wind up in the same city and know good places to play Skeeball.
3. When you hit a certain point in your 20s, everyone around you starts to get married. This is at first cute, then alarming, like Justin Bieber.
At the first wedding you think: “This is nice. Open bar!” Suddenly, like popcorn kernels, several start popping at once. Poofy white things surround you, along with the vague smell of burning. “This is fine,” you repeat. “They are my friends and I am happy for them! Plus, open bar!”
But by your seventh wedding you become the disgruntled person wandering unsteadily from table to table in new heels, muttering that “You know, all relationships end in breakups or in death.”
On the bright side, you stop being invited after that.
4. In life, no one rewards you for performing mundane tasks. You do not get gold stars for cleaning your shower. Most effective cleaning-product commercials suggest a bald man or anthropomorphic sponge will high-five you once you finish grouting your tile. This is seldom the case, unless you inhaled some of the product as you worked.
5. Regardless of anything the college hookup culture taught, you are suddenly expected to start going on dates.
You are no longer just you; you are a single person who needs to find a human companion (if only so he can accompany you to weddings). This leads to actual dates, where you have to sit at restaurants and talk about your hobbies and/or interests.
Adulthood consists of the creeping realization that the events you thought romantic comedies made up to generate conflict actually happen.
6. Something strange happens to music as you age. You can remember more and more of it, and you notice that the hip youngsters around you cannot.
Before you age out of the coveted 18-to-24 demographic, take as many audience preference surveys as possible so you can continue to enjoy entertainment for a few years after your views cease to be relevant.
7. Being young isn’t everything, but it’s a good thing.
Life can be divided into two sections: the years when you know that if you fall over you are unlikely to break a hip, and the years when you’re not so sure.
You are probably going to live a long time, thanks to modern medicine. You will spend most of your life trying to fund your parents’ and grandparents’ elaborate health and retirement benefits, which are premised on the basic belief that until they die they deserve to live in a style generally reserved for 18th-century monarchs. Voting will not change this. They outnumber you.
8. As Cynthia Heimel says, “There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.”
9. You have no idea how personal finance works.
Your education should have taught you how to deal with having money and how to deal with not having money. It has taught you neither. (Grad school?)
Millennials’ results on financial literacy tests suggest we have no idea what to do with money. Save it? Spend it? Invest it in something whose value will accrue over time, like ironic wall-paintings of Michael Jackson? Who knows? You had better figure it out quickly, though, before someone arrests you for tax fraud.
10. Some days will be better than others.
If you are lucky enough to be graduating now, you will have the creeping sense that your worries are first-world problems.
“No one who owns this many sweaters is entitled to be unhappy,” you will tell yourself. This is wrong. Let yourself be unhappy because it will tell you what needs fixing. If the 1950s taught us anything, it is that you can spend only so much time pretending to be contented before you rupture something.
11. No one in the book club has ever read the book.
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog for The Washington Post.