Last weekend marked a turning point for millions of young Americans graduating college. I too graduated amidst a recession and clearly remember having the thought - after brunch with the family and kisses goodbye - that real life had started.
Or more realistically - Oh sh*t. I need a real job now.
My parents brought me up right, and while moving home may have been an option, it was one never shared or offered to me. I knew I had exactly one month to find a salary and hopefully health insurance - recession or not - the luxury of being picky was not mine.
So I pulled on my best Ann Taylor suit and hit the pavement. Back then there was no Craig's list or Monster.com or scouts from google scouring my NYC campus. My go to was the NY Times Help Wanted section and possibly the Village Voice if I couldn't get a real job.
100 resumes mailed later (this is burned permanently into my memory) and hugely disappointing 3 week interviews with MTV, Conde Naste and Kirshenbaum and Bond - my dream copy writing jobs - I was offered a job at $18,000 a year in Brooklyn.
It was far from the hipster, silicon alley mosh pit it is today.
Although hired as a copywriter, I worked in a woman's basement and did newspaper mechanicals (look in a 1991 dictionary for definition) in Sheepshead Bay for 12 hours a day or until she said I could leave. I was officially her indentured servant.
I worked for that woman for 4 years and after being fired/quitting, she still tried to hire me back for years, even after I left. This is either a testament to my work ethic or my ability to work well with crazy - or both.
Thinking back I remember how my worth/life felt like it was in windows of one weekly blocks, with no ability to see 6 months ahead - let alone years. This naivete and self centered world of the 20s felt so hard and intense.
Now at 43 - my Mother's age when I graduated - I love listening to commencement addresses and wish that I had been able to hear the words of wisdom then. So I remind myself today, what I would have loved to have understood then, but also write this as a reminder to myself to what life means to me now...
#1 - Take risks now and pursue your dream. Your parents will most likely not support you - but now is the time. With each adult step like marriage and kids, it gets scarier and you may never do it. See #2.
#2 - Your parents are scared, because life is scary. Right now you have no fear - take advantage of this now and don't just use it on multiple bungee jumps or bong hits.
#3 - Nothing that happens in your 20s is the end of the world. Enjoy multiple relationships, friendships and travel. Life is meant to be big - live it big.
#4 - Live big, but get a financial planner. Save for the future - you will need it and it will pay off greatly when you are old like me. If I had only somehow had the $30K down payment for an apartment 20 years ago I would have made close to a million off of it today.
#5 - The lucky ones are rarely the smart ones. You will get smarter from your "bad" choices. While I agree it would be nice to have things go your way all the time - you would end up like Paris Hilton - at that really isn't cute at 50. Be Nicole Ritchie - embrace your bad choices and turn it around.
#6 - Life is rarely fair (see #5). This becomes very apparent the older you get. When my Best Friend died at 48 of Kidney cancer and never smoked, drank or took drugs. My eyes opened. Life is not fair. This is why older people annoying tell you to enjoy your youth and health. Please do it.
#7 - You can and must make a difference. It is imperative to this world. You matter and so does the person next to you. Remind them and remind yourself.
#8 - Children are the greatest gift this world has to offer and the biggest accomplishment of your life. My Father told me at 25 his greatest joy was his children - I could not relate or understand. Now the Mother of a 6 year old I get it.
#9 -See #8 - Your parents love you more than you can imagine. Love them back. They are not perfect and are acting out of protection for you. They owe you nothing and have given you everything. You will understand this when you have kids. If they are good parents - trust me - they worked their tails off for you.
#10 - Actions, not words. Look for what a person does - not what they say they will do. When someone is true to their actions, hold them close.
So fellow graduates I hope you will take these words of wisdom and go forth and conquer all that you wish to accomplish in this world.
But you won't and that is what youth is all about. Forging your own path, finding out who you are and creating your own story to tell.
And of course reminding yourself in 20 years how fabulously naive you were -
but boy did you have fun.