Restoration Calls: “I’m more scared of being underemployed than unemployed.”

I graduate college three weeks from today. Honestly, student loans are not even close to on my mind. I’m two grand in debt. I’m lucky.

I double majored in Anthropology and Literature, and I would do it again. In Literature I practiced writing, critical thought, articulating criticism, applying historical and cultural factors to the production of meaning; I engaged with theory focusing on the reader of the text, rather than the author, and applied that in a senior thesis on Young Adult literature. In Anthro I got the opportunity to form a completely new world view based on cultural relativism and the ethics of studying people. I learned to face internalized racism, classism and sexism. I learned that people are a lot more than individuals.

And those are just my majors: I also engaged with translation work, diaspora studies, ornithology, philosophy, and pedagogy; I was a peer advisor and a TA; I’ve worked as a museum educator, a summer camp director, an office assistant and a retail sales clerk; I’m part of my campus feminist collective, my campus Occupy affinity group, NYSR (New York Students Rising), and I register voters in the city twice a month.

I did a lot these past four years.

It makes me so angry when my picture is in a news article for a demonstration with NYSR or Occupy, and these middle-aged privileged white guys in Westchester County comment on the story, calling us navel-gazers, telling us to go study, talking about how useless our majors are.

But here comes the critical thinking: how are you measuring useful? Am I going to have a job in August when I move to the city? Likely not. Maybe my immeasurable luck at having a resume with Real Jobs on it will help me pull through. But honestly, my chances wouldn’t be much better if I’d majored in engineering or international relations or business, so what’s the point in beating myself up for choosing to pursue majors that taught me how to think? Maybe it’s the imminent poverty talking, and call me an idealist (please!), but I think my education was a success if I’m more scared of being underemployed than unemployed. I did a lot these past four years. If I don’t get to use it I’ll be heartbroken. I hate being wasteful.

I am adaptable, well-spoken, and critical. I will never make hundreds of thousands at a multi-million dollar firm because I’m critical of what those firms do to our economy and cultural fabric. I spent four years coming to the conclusion that this country is fucked and I have the skills and passion and drive to help fix it. And I learned those skills in Anthropology and Literature classes at SUNY Purchase College. I learned that drive with the fantastic student activists I’ve met through NYSR and Occupy. I learned that passion in an environment where I was encouraged to do what I feel I need to do to give back to this broken and beautiful society.

I saw a news article that said, “the class of 2012 is in for a rude awakening: 1 in 2 will be unemployed or underemployed.” Don’t be so cocky: we know exactly what we’re getting into, and we know it’s not our fault. But we’re going to fix it for you. Don’t worry.

What’s your story? Are you one of the college graduates that have hung up the mortar board to enter the real world? Are you years out of college but still wondering how you’ll make your loan payments? Or is college off the table, never been an option? How are you chasing your version of the American Dream? Tell us and we’ll publish it here.

This isn’t your LIFE

The Milton Bradley company mapped out a dream for you in red and gold rectangles on a folded slab of cardboard. It came packaged with a wad of rainbow-colored cash, a bag of little plastic minivans, and a vacuum-clogging array of tiny pink and blue pegs. A sweater-clad family smiled up from the top of the box. They called it the Game of LIFE, but it was more than a game. It was a promise of how America was supposed to work.
For a long time, America made good on that promise. You spun the wheel. You moved your car. You grew up, and maybe you went to college. You got a job, got married, and had kids. You earned regular paydays, saved money, and built a nest egg. You retired comfortably. That was how things worked on the game board—and also in the real world, for a huge swath of people.
Life doesn’t work that way today. The promises that underpinned the game, the economy, and American society no longer hold true for most of the nation. A return trip through the classic game board illustrates how badly those foundations have decayed.
Young women and men can’t just graduate from high school and land a good-paying job in a factory or at an office park; increasingly, college graduates can’t either. More and more people worry about the security of their careers, their retirement savings, and the affordable energy that powers their lives. Fewer and fewer of us trust government officials, clergy, scientists, or any other authority figures. One of the great American ideals—that every generation will pass onto its children a better life than the one it inherited—may perish as aging baby boomers chew up the nation’s financial resources.
The best way to understand this decay, and the rebuilding that Americans must undertake, is through the stories of the people struggling to navigate a country very different from the one Milton Bradley promised. These are the stories that National Journal will tell throughout this year, in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. In a series of narratives in print and online, we will introduce you to people coping with those broken foundations—and working to reforge them for the next generations.
Most important, we hope to engage you, our readers, in a conversation about how to restore the nation. As LIFE reminds all of us, America is more than a set of roads or institutions or political parties. It’s the players who join you around the game board. It’s the people who climb into your car.
Read the full story here. 

                                                                    Photo by Brianna McClane/NJ
This isn’t your LIFE

The Milton Bradley company mapped out a dream for you in red and gold rectangles on a folded slab of cardboard. It came packaged with a wad of rainbow-colored cash, a bag of little plastic minivans, and a vacuum-clogging array of tiny pink and blue pegs. A sweater-clad family smiled up from the top of the box. They called it the Game of LIFE, but it was more than a game. It was a promise of how America was supposed to work.

For a long time, America made good on that promise. You spun the wheel. You moved your car. You grew up, and maybe you went to college. You got a job, got married, and had kids. You earned regular paydays, saved money, and built a nest egg. You retired comfortably. That was how things worked on the game board—and also in the real world, for a huge swath of people.

Life doesn’t work that way today. The promises that underpinned the game, the economy, and American society no longer hold true for most of the nation. A return trip through the classic game board illustrates how badly those foundations have decayed.

Young women and men can’t just graduate from high school and land a good-paying job in a factory or at an office park; increasingly, college graduates can’t either. More and more people worry about the security of their careers, their retirement savings, and the affordable energy that powers their lives. Fewer and fewer of us trust government officials, clergy, scientists, or any other authority figures. One of the great American ideals—that every generation will pass onto its children a better life than the one it inherited—may perish as aging baby boomers chew up the nation’s financial resources.

The best way to understand this decay, and the rebuilding that Americans must undertake, is through the stories of the people struggling to navigate a country very different from the one Milton Bradley promised. These are the stories that National Journal will tell throughout this year, in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. In a series of narratives in print and online, we will introduce you to people coping with those broken foundations—and working to reforge them for the next generations.

Most important, we hope to engage you, our readers, in a conversation about how to restore the nation. As LIFE reminds all of us, America is more than a set of roads or institutions or political parties. It’s the players who join you around the game board. It’s the people who climb into your car.

Read the full story here. 


                                                                    Photo by Brianna McClane/NJ