Nothing's changed, in fact, it may have only gotten worse.
In 1967, The Graduate hit theaters and Dustin Hoffman hit the nail on the head. His character, Benjamin, illustrated one of the biggest issues young adults of our society faced and still do today; we struggle in the same way.
The movie needs no introduction, but if you've been living under a rock it goes like this: Benjamin graduates from college and comes home to a parade of adults asking, “What will you do now?" and the character is frozen for months within the realization that he has spent years studying and earning a degree just to float along with the ebb and flow mainstream culture pulls all young graduates into. He lacks direction, passion, or perhaps a lack of passion due to an absence of his own direction. Anyhow, he becomes more and more obscure in his behavior and is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (you know the song) and then, later, runs off with her daughter.
His character is indecisive and afraid to be swallowed by the money making monsters of our western society. He is scared of 70 hour work weeks because once you step on the carousel, how do you get off? Once you choose a direction, or actually give in to a direction, have you become just another contender in the industry?
I have no doubt that most college students identify with Benjamin even after almost 50 years. None of us want to study for years just to be a stay at home parent. None of us want to go to school to be just another banker, or an insurance agent. I don't want to waste my time releasing passion into my work if it's going to be subjected to people who see me as just another set of hands.
We have created a culture that mills students into a workforce that doesn't honor the individual and, much like Benjamin, we will all face the moment where we might have to give in to it. And in truth, the majority of us will give in because it's not easy to run from society all your life.
Why go to school for 20 years just to learn how to shove more money into my pocket? I'd like to think my future career would be more demanding of my talents.
I don't want to be the graduate -- not ever, at least not in our culture. I can see it already; I've grown up with 100 dreams and the day I get my first job that has no direction or fire, they will all be flushed down the toilet only to join the billions of other spoiled dreams headed down the sewer.
Consider the question we all answered in elementary school: what do you want to be when you grow up? Why this question is even considered relevant to a four year old, I don't know. This is the start of the deep seated perversion individuals place on work and money. When did “being" become equated to “working". The question should be posed, “What do you want your job to be when you grow up," and you wouldn't ask a toddler for an answer to this question.
It never changes, either: the only thing his family cares about when Benjamin arrives home from college is what he's going to do. It's sad, because it shouldn't be about the job, but it is. And it shouldn't be about the money, but it is. As much as I disagree with this, it's difficult not to envision wealth and financial stability when I think about what success is. It's such a deeply ingrained association we have made between the two concepts, and now reversing this phenomenon has become one steep hill.
I am not suggesting that this problem is only American, but there is no doubt, America is more money centered and work driven than most countries. Work weeks, on average, are double most European countries. So put yourself in Benjamin's shoes: you are trying to find a job when you are 23 that will likely consume the majority of your time and life for the next 40-something years. It is natural to freeze, or to want to run from time. And I can write about this all I want, and rant until I lose my voice, but this system or cycle we will soon join will just keep spinning. I just hope my generation has learned mind over matter better than our predecessors. I hope America raises young people who give a damn and won't stop giving a damn when they step into the real world.
I would like to be an optimist and believe that I am not here at College of Charleston just to learn how to earn. I would like to believe I am here to learn about how to discover a happy life, different life -- perhaps not even a different one, but one I can call my own with its own unique way of moving, breathing -- something that will at least seem significant even if its only possible fate is to be buried with me when I go, or when we all go.
Hasn't anyone ever heard that life is all relational?