The Space Between My Degree and My So-Called Real Job

Happy graduation, 2013 graduates! We did it, whatever we did. Some of us have landed promising entry-level jobs that offer enormous potential for growth, urban patio parties, and a salary fit for one-way ticket to your parents’ spare bedroom. It’s not always pretty, but it’s humbling, and hugely gratifying when you wake up and start the day ready for whatever your superior throws at you–be it baby’s first expense report, weekly hashtag analyses, or something you’re unmistakably not nearly qualified to do. Regardless, good for you, you go-getter, going to get it. GET IT.

Some people decide they want a gap year, or even a gap month. How about a gap minute? Recent graduates may come to the conclusion that they need a break, a breath of fresh air outside the bubble to recollect their hopes and dreams. Example: a girl that graduated with my degree is off to Tuscany for an undisclosed period of time to care for horses and learn Italian because. You read that right, just and simply stated because. Because…..who needs a because? Who’s to tell her otherwise? It’s her life, she has the will and way, go for it. GET IT all the same.

You can bet, however, that others graduating from our major roll their eyes, thinking with a pinch of composite DisapprovalEnvyFear: “So much for you and your future.” Is that true? Maybe. Maybe this girl is delaying or hindering her future because she isn’t jumping into the piranha pool with the rest of them. Maybe this will appear ungrounded or impulsive to potential employers. But maybe she doesn’t work for anyone who would translate worldly and curious to ungrounded and impulsve. Although inevitable, the speculation isn’t fair. There isn’t a formula; formulas aren’t any fun anyway. And if there is a hypothetical formula, the hopeful and privileged 22-year old crowd probably shouldn’t be the authority.

Either way, only the girl knows her  motives, her vision for herself, her discovery in the meantime. This girl may owe some money before she makes any, but she’s getting some rich, invaluable experience that some of us won’t gather in an entire lifetime. Or maybe where the journey takes her will have a core value system and overtime protocol of its own. Life is life, degree or no degree.

Everyday, we’re tempering “Time is Money” and “Life is Short.” With the pressure, or the rebel against pressure, that many graduates experience, instead of considering this balance we tend to lean toward one school of thought or the other. The new explorers look on at the young professionals tossing up a hand that can’t be bothered: “You have the rest of your life to work.” The young professionals jeer at the new explorers hands full of deadlines and coffee orders: “You’ll never get ahead if you start way behind.” We’re a new generation of bullies, with an overconfident sense of place, order, and reality. This doesn’t have to get messy, but the trouble begins when individuals start classifying jobs as “real jobs” or “not real jobs.” Excuse me, but what are you talking about.

Ok, I have a deep-seated issue with this “real job” terminology. Every job -no matter  income, perks, location, function- is a REAL job. I’m more forgiving of the realistic phrasing, if REAL is the emphasis here, is that a job is a job. No job out there doesn’t require commitment, work ethic, and sense of greater purpose.

I’m working at a vineyard in upstate New York for the summer. Hands down it’s the best paying job I’ve ever had. Every single day, I walk into work excited for what I do. What do I do? Wine. I speak it drink it pour it sell it fix it mix it picks it nix it. It sounds like a stretch, but we connect people with wine. We help Josh and Chloe find the Riesling for their engagement party, Martin find the table red for his family reunion that fickle Uncle Frank will even love, REAL PEOPLE with their REAL JOBS find their 5:01pm liquid getaway when it’s time to get really real, take their pants off and power down. The krux of this being: I just love it. I love the people I work with, the surrounding acres of natural beauty, the savory science of wine, and infinite intangibles that I can’t even verbalize. It’s a feeling. It’s hard to have feels for a job, but I have big feels and not one of them dread, dullness, or disdain.

Furthermore, the experience is REAL. I talk to more people, REAL people, at this job than any course, internship, or networking night of my life. I learn where they’re coming from, where they’re going, and why they’re here. We make suggestions, we tell stories, we get names, we remember them. It sounds a little like marketing to me.

And the truth is, AdFreaks, Don Draper isn’t the only one who drinks before noon.


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