So I’ve graduated. So what?

What does the future hold for the soon-to-be convocated?

Thulasi Srikanthan, ArtSci '04
Thulasi Srikanthan, ArtSci '04

It is Tuesday, May 11, 2004. I have finished my fourth and final year at Queen’s and at this very moment, I still don’t know what I’m going to be doing with the rest of my life. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent countless nights lying awake in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, trying to prevent myself from thinking beyond the present. I still haven’t left Kingston—living out of my backpack, crashing on friends’ couches, eating out frequently, trying to finish research work for my professor and doing anything and everything that would keep me distracted from reality. The future was not supposed to be like this. When I drove into Queen’s on a late summer day with my father four years ago, I always thought my history degree would have led me to write the great Canadian novel or find a job at a newspaper. I thought I’d be buying a car or moving into my own house when I graduated. Now, as convocation approaches, these things are still nowhere in sight. Most of the graduating class of 2004, like the people before us, thought we would have things figured out and that our futures would follow the traditional pattern of graduating, getting a job, and finding a place of our own. The only thing we didn’t realize was that this formula might apply to those recruited out of Commerce and Engineering, but not always, and not as frequently to those graduating from the Arts field. In the midst of writing essays, meeting deadlines and studying for exams, the future became a very distant utopia filled with countless possibilities.

The future has happened, and suddenly I have nothing tangible to show for it, except for my history diploma, which I don’t even have yet. I have no car, no job and no place of my own. This summer I will be home in the good old suburbs, working a dead-end job and living with my family—a world I thought I had left for good four years ago.

Though I love my family dearly, the prospect of living with them again fills me with dread. After having my own space for so long, I’m not looking forward to answering to my family’s questions on where I’ve been or how long I’ve been out. I’ll miss not having everything within walking distance and instead taking the subway when I want to meet up with my friends.

As for work, it took me four years at this university to figure out that I wanted to become a journalist. Now I just need to figure out how I’m going to get there. I’ve applied to journalism school and have yet to hear from the one I want.

The problem is that I, like many in my graduating class, never realized how exclusive the real world was. Beyond the walls of Queen’s, there are thousands who are fighting for the same jobs with the same lack of experience. Although we’ll be graduating with a Queen’s degree, despite what the posters and brochures say, there isn’t going to be a place for most of us in the real world when we graduate.

I’m not trying to diminish the value of a Queen’s degree—I still strongly believe it was my good fortune to have gone to this university. But now, I am more aware of the fact that my degree can only help me so much. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.

A friend of mine said this uncertainty was supposed to be what our early twenties were about, and as long as we each do something, we’ll be fine. The problem is that I don’t want to just do something in the future, I want to do everything now. I still want to write the great Canadian novel and become a foreign correspondent one day. I don’t want to end up in a job where I work nine to five without contributing anything meaningful to the world. I don’t want to find myself, 50 years from now, wondering why I never got what I wanted.

I hope on May 11 of next year, I will be at a different and better place than I am today.

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