Seniors, congratulations on completing your last first day of classes! As I’m sure you’ve realized, the real world is awaiting us, jaws agape, in less than four months. For many of us it’s a terrifying prospect, and I know that I’m going to cherish every moment I have left in Morningside.
However, ignoring reality rarely serves one well. Whether we like it or not, we’re starting a huge new life on May 16, and it's time to make the necessary preparations. Now I’m not talking about choosing a credit card and figuring out insurance. I’m talking about preparing for the next step in the life of the mind.
Talk to any recent grad and they’ll tell you that one thing they miss is how everyone at Columbia reads and can hold a challenging conversation. Not so in the real world. Unfortunately, most of the grads I know passively accept the disappearance of robust dialogue when they graduate.
However, there are exceptions. I had lunch recently with a certain former student body president. He told me about the discussion group that he’s been hosting since moving out of New York. Every two weeks 20 or so people (Columbia grads, coworkers, and random meetup.com people) assemble in his apartment and discuss a book or short story. He likens it to a post-college CC class.
Hearing about this got me thinking—why is it that we don’t spend more time planning our post-graduation lifestyles beyond our employment? Think back to the last big life-change you orchestrated—going to college. Remember thinking obsessively about what clubs you might join, what your personal schedule might look like, and how you would reprioritize your life? Well, why aren’t we doing that for our lives after graduation? To be able to maintain the intellectual zest we’ve come to love here, we’re going to have to be proactive. We’re going to have to determine the priorities of our post-college life and think about how to secure them. Because once work starts we’ll be trying to stay on top of it, not constantly innovating life-enrichment techniques.
So that’s the challenge I’m giving myself and that I submit to my fellow students—let’s think beyond employment and start a conversation about what we hope to get out of life once we leave the office. The result may be a life that is characterized by the standards and ideals we’ve come to embrace over the past four years.
Derek Turner is a senior majoring in Political Science and Anthropology. He enjoys the blanched faces people make when he tells them he’s voluntarily moving to downtown Detroit for two years after graduation.