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I have known since practically my freshman year that this summer -- the summer of 1998, the summer before my senior year of college, my last summer before being kicked out into the world -- this summer I would be a proud paid intern of Random House. Or the New Yorker. Or MTV or Rolling Stone or at the very least some big New York law firm. What I did this summer was going to determine what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Well that all went to hell, didn't it? If I were to determine my future based on what I'm doing with my summer right now, I'd grow up to be a jobless leech, a virtual sloth with minimal social interaction and no source of income, not to mention a dental plan. Where did I go wrong? Is it me? Or should I not be worrying about how many reruns of The Cosby Show I've seen this week? A little of both, he says, loathe to give a concrete answer even in an opinion column. But it's the truth. I tried, really I did. I got my Random House dream job application in in plenty of time. I went to New York for the interview. I smiled all the time that moron in Human Resources asked me inane questions straight off my resume. She hadn't even heard of The Atlantic Monthly. Not that I'm bitter. The biggest lesson I've learned in my months of job searching is to cast a wide net. It's great to have a dream of a perfect job. You may very well get it. But if you pursue that job with single-minded ambition, you're probably going to miss out on something else, and that something could be very necessary if Random House's HR manager turns out to be an idiot. Of course, I'm not still bitter. So, no, I didn't have a back-up for Random House. It didn't help that Random House doesn't notify until late May, when most internships have already been filled for two months, but I think that if I had had another possibility lined up I could be of some use to society right now. But I did get a job, you'll be happy to know. Like I have done for the past two summers, I decided to make a deal with the devil and work for (gasp!) Barnes & Noble. I quit last Tuesday, and despite the fact that the highlight of each day since then has been Jeopardy!, I don't regret the decision -- with the possible exception of the fact that after paying my rent this week, my net worth is about $350. They had me peeling price stickers off the back of every book in the store, for gosh sakes. Every last stinkin' volume that the store has picked up since it opened. I'm sure that the work needed to be done, but to me, the misery of sore fingernails and an unoccupied mind was not worth the paycheck. On my third day of employment, a little bit of that summer-after-junior-year anxiety hit me. I couldn't respect myself for doing a brainless and repetitive job that a monkey could be trained to do. I should be analyzing mutual funds on Wall Street for $12 an hour. I should be clerking for the Chief Justice. I should be interning at the White House. Well, maybe that last option isn't really a job that a man like myself is particularly cut out for. But it's July now. I'm certainly not going to get that big summer-after-junior-year internship. I may not even be able to land a part-time job at this point without lying about my availability in the fall. My situation would almost be a little bit depressing if I hadn't come to a bit of a realization: an "important" internship really doesn't mean that much. At least not to me. The cynic in me (which, by the way, is a big part of me) wants to think that major international corporations dangle these "prestigious" internships as a way to get cheap labor to do their Xeroxing during the summer. Even the least cynical parts of me see corporate internships as a way of sucking unsuspecting youths into the big nasty corporate world. OK, so maybe I am a little bitter. But what, really, would one of these internships have gotten me, a liberal arts major with tentative law school plans? Not a whole hell of a lot. From what I gather, law school admission is pretty much by-the-numbers, and an internship would not have raised my GPA an iota. And once I've gotten through law school, would a college summer spent doing busywork in a New York skyscraper mean anything when placed next to my law school grades or a summer spent clerking for a judge? I doubt it. So if you're like me, a rising senior with no job prospects, or if you see yourself being in that position someday, don't despair. I'm certainly not crying myself to sleep. Your life will not be determined by a single summer. And in the end your Penn degree will mean so much more than whether you worked to end world hunger or waited tables instead that it's almost funny. So I think I'll take this "opportunity" (a euphemism for not having a job in July, of course) to go to bartending school. It's a respectable job. I'll make a little money. I'll be good at parties. I'll have a skill I can use my whole life, regardless of what profession I enter. And I won't mind listening to my friends who swung summer jobs as apprentice heart surgeons. But even as I tell myself that I can look a budding multinational real estate financier in the eye and think of myself as his or her equal, I feel my secret jealousy welling up. So, I'll end with a plea: if you're still reading this and you have the capacity to hire an English major with a respectable GPA, a love of writing and law school plans, give me a call. Please. I'm available immediately and I'm almost always home. I'll make you a killer martini for your trouble.

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