This last winter break was my last as an undergraduate. This means that I spent approximately half of my time obsessively checking for those lovely CITsender emails and the rest of it crying into my laptop while bookmarking LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Bookjobs.com.
Being an English major has its benefits — classes are rarely curved, you learn how to read Anna Karenina in a weekend and sometimes the only homework is watching a Woody Allen movie. This winter break, though, has been a montage of the low moments.
So, while I was glad not to have to traipse through the snow in a lady-suit for OCR, the hours I spent browsing Tumblr for shirtless pictures of Chris Evans instead had a real consequence: I don’t have a job secured for after I graduate. In addition to stressing about this fact, I also had the added benefit that winter break brings. It’s the time of year when holiday cards arrive in the mail and carolers visit unexpectedly — and when relatives ask, “So, what are you plans for after graduation?”
This is a question no one should ask. It should be illegal. In fact, I’m fairly certain it’s covered by the first line of the Declaration of Independence. Maybe a potential employer could ask this during an interview; perhaps a college adviser may broach the subject. Otherwise, I strongly believe that no English major should ever be expected to answer this question.
I’m sure this isn’t a problem specific to my major. In fact, I’m fairly certain that all relatives have a pre-prepared list of questions to ask at each age, and this is just one of them. At 17, they ask you about SAT scores. The next year, it’s all about early decision and safety schools.
I had reached a middling ground during my first three years of undergrad where I could talk about my courses. But now that I’m a senior, there’s a new conversation topic, and it’s much more powerful than, “Hey, how are you enjoying your classes?” Relatives innately gravitate toward this power.
After a few weeks of hearing the question from everyone as soon as they removed their coats and wiped the snow from their boots, I’m feeling haunted by it. I’m fairly certain if I met my celebrity idol Robert Downey Jr., he would shake my hand, sign the lunchbox I have with his face on it and then ask me, “So, Sara, what are your post-graduation plans?”
So, in the interest of helping myself — and others — I’m compiling a list of possible responses when asked this dreaded question.
1. Convince your family and friends that you have gotten a job as an agent at a security firm and all the details of your job are now classified. Instead of lying, you can simply say, “I’m not at liberty to say” or “That’s need-to-know.” To make this more convincing, occasionally hold your finger to your ear and nod as though receiving a secret communication via some sort of earbud.
2. Calmly explain that you’ve decided to repeat all four years of college, this time recreating Harry Potter’s class schedule, substituting Chemistry for Potions and so on. If pressed, inquire as to whether your relatives would be willing to donate some money to your Quidditch fund, as you’d like to purchase the Nimbus 2013. Begin referring to them as “muggles” and put on a bad British accent.
3. Respond that you are planning on becoming a full-time hobo. The hours are terrible, and there’s no dental, but you’ve heard that it’s fairly easy to get that coveted corner office.
4. Make loud noises like a parakeet until they stop asking.
Or, the one that I have employed most commonly:
5. Sob hysterically into your napkin. When they look startled, cry louder. Fall on the floor. If they keep asking, yell loud enough so you can’t hear them anymore.
And for those reading this, stop and consider what words are coming out of your mouth before “post-graduation” and “plans” escape anywhere in the vicinity of a graduating senior. Maybe don’t say anything at all — unless you’ve got earplugs and are ready for the dramatic performance of a lifetime.
Sara Schonfeld is a College senior from Philadelphia, Pa. studying English and Hispanic studies. Her email address is email@example.com. Follow her @SaraSchon.