After graduation
Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave. (Illustration by Natashna Anderson, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
College /// Students x
After graduation

Don’t feel like talking about the crash course your future is on? Here are some ways to kill that conversation real quick.

For many nearing the end of their time in college, a particular variety of interaction has become painfully familiar. It can take place at a family gathering, before a class or in the elevator with a total stranger — any situation, really, that generates small talk.

Your interlocutor politely asks what you do, and you naively respond that you’re a student. They ask your major, and you tell them. They ask how far along you are, and suddenly you’re trapped. You know what question inevitably follows once you’ve revealed you’re in your final year, and you also know you don’t have the faintest scrap of an “after graduation” plan to offer this person.

Things proceed just as you know they will, and before long you’re sweating slightly, waving your arms and talking abstractly about your plan to not rush into anything because you still have plenty of time, really, and it would be nice to travel but yeah there are a lot of options so we’ll just have to see. The person will nod sympathetically and agree with you wholeheartedly, privately pitying whoever it is that will be housing and feeding you this time next year, and you leave the conversation somehow feeling more dread about your abysmal future.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this entire situation could be avoided? If there was some answer you could give that would ensure no one will ever try to talk with you about your future again? Well, look no further, friend. The answers you seek are here.

Business

Everyone always told you that business was such a practical degree. “Our culture is so crazed by capitalism, you’re going to have job opportunities up to your eyeballs,” they said. But now, graduation is in two months, and you can’t lock down an interview at Subway. But you don’t have to admit that. Try one of these instead.

— Eagerly begin describing the world of cryptocurrency and all the brilliant investments you’ve made. You don’t need to know anything about it, just gesture energetically and use phrases like “block chains” and “extremely volatile market” while looking off into the middle distance, entranced by your own prosperous future. Don’t let up until the other person politely excuses themselves from the conversation.

— Describe your plan to create a website where people can share what’s going on in their lives by posting updates, images and videos to their page. When the person responds that your idea sounds a lot like Facebook, insist that it’s really nothing like that. Quickly grow irritated when you can’t make the person see how your idea is completely different and way better than Facebook.

— Say you recently came across an interesting marketing gig online for a group called InfoWars. Explain that you’re not too familiar with the organization, but that they seem like a great bunch of really passionate, outspoken people.

— Look around covertly, then ask them to meet you in a more private location in exactly two minutes. Once the two of you are properly secluded, describe to them in a hushed voice a very promising real estate opportunity you’ve come across, involving two Russian businessmen and a sizable chunk of the Alaskan coast.

Theater/Fine Arts/Music

If you fall into one of these majors, you’ve likely been enduring questions about your future since freshman year. Strike back with one of these answers:

— Ask if you can perform your vision of the future in dance.

— Say that you’re just waiting for your improv group to get noticed by the right people. Tell the person that you have a show next week, and they should totally check it out. By the time you start reaching into your bag for a flyer, they’ll probably be disengaging.

— Claim that you don’t really need to worry about what you’ll do after graduation, because you’re in fact the enigmatic street artist Banksy, and you’ve been going to college as a sort of performance art piece about the futility of a formal education. This will also explain why you’re one late project away from flunking out.

— Say, “Jazz, man,” then start doing a kickass air-trumpet solo. Every time the person tries to speak, hold up a finger like you’re almost done, then keep ripping.

— Say that you plan on moving to New York, where you’ll stand outside of Columbia Records every day, singing your heart out until some agent on their way to work hears you and makes you a star. Be heartbreakingly confident that this plan will work. If the other person tries to argue, just smile knowingly and say, “We’ll see.”

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There’s always grad school.

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English

This category is especially for those studying English who aren’t planning on teaching after graduation, which many regard as the only motivation you could possibly have for picking the major. Obviously, ruling out teaching doesn’t mean you have a clue what you will be doing, so it’s best to have one of these answers in your back pocket when someone asks.

— Say that it’s time to get serious about your “Pirates of the Caribbean” erotic fan fiction, then ask if they’d be willing to read your first chapter and give you notes.

— Describe the screenplay you’re working on for a reimagining of “Titanic,” where the boat doesn’t sink, and no one falls in love.

— Say that you plan on beginning as the promising young talent fresh out of university who has the literary community abuzz. “How does this gentle lamb, wool still damp from the morning dew, know so much and write so well?” they’ll ask. After the fabulous success of your first few novels, however, things will start to fall apart. Your marriage, once the soul of glamorous, youthful romance, will become shambles, and you’ll find yourself wrestling with a creative block like you’ve never known. You’ll begin spending hours pacing the floor of your study, wondering where the magic has gone. Of course, as the story goes, you’ll die far too early, living out the rest of your days slumped in a dingy cafe, half drunk, muttering profanities and grim prophecy to the few who will still gather to hear you. Your name will occasionally come up, over dinner or cocktails, and those who knew you will pause, and that brief, embarrassed, sorrowful silence will be your true legacy, more real than any word you committed to paper.

— Start talking about your podcast.

Last Resorts

If you fear that none of the options listed above will be enough to shut down the whole after graduation conversation, and you really don’t value the relationship you have with the other person, fire away with one of these.

— Act like you didn’t previously understand that you would no longer be a student after graduation and would have to find something else to do. Moan, “Oh my God, what will become of me,” and collapse on the floor.

— Just start weeping.

— Say, “Oh, you know, probably a lot of —” then do the thing where you press your tongue against your cheek and move your hand so it looks like you’re performing fellatio.

— Drop a smoke bomb and run away.

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