Posted by: Alice Inc. | May 31, 2009

Fall into the Gap Year


When god closes a door, he closes a window to keep the central heating in.

When god closes a door, he closes a window to keep the central heating in.

At our graduation from Cornell University in May of 09, our dear old President Skorton — who’d felt the blow of these economic times when he volunteered to forgo a salary increase, forcing himself to live off a measly 427 grand — reminded us that only 20% of college graduates this year who applied for jobs got one.           

You have found the majority.

Hey there, youuuu. Welcome to the virtual equivalent of our moms’ couches. We’re post grads, we’re Ivy Leaguers, and we are considering marrying the diploma-less technicians at Apple Stores for the health insurance. We’ve come from the Big Red of Cornell and fallen into the Big Red of student debt, with no visible way out. We’re the delirious young’ns in the unemployment line, still wearing our cap and gown, clutching our diploma and rambling to ourselves, or to anyone nearby that, “I’m going to Cornell in the fall. Once I graduate, I’m going to make it big!” That’s right, kids… we’re overeducated and unemployed.

 I started realizing my own inadequacy for employment back in the fall, when Gap, Inc. didn’t hire me for their business program based entirely on the fact that I didn’t know the equation for pricing off the top of my head. I sat stunned as the shrill voice at the other end – probably the same voice that announced the dress code for the theme mixer with Tau Psi Zeta back at Texas State – told me, “Well, it’s obvious that you’re very creative, but how are you going to price our line of sweaters.”

Suddenly, my collegiate bubble was popped by the hailing shit of the real world. I had received a 5 in AP Calc in high school, earned an A in Calc at Cornell, and rocked my micro and macro econ classes. I have a near photographic memory. On top of that, I had captained six 3-hour basketball practices, written a column for the Cornell Daily Sun, and written an 8-page paper on Hume’s philosophy of perception – in the past week. And I remained gravely unqualified for the glorified position of generic-sweater-pricer.

Over the year, I had numerous conversations with brilliant, active, admirable people. People I want running my country, or pricing my sweaters, or whatever they choose to do. Hotel School Presidents, Cornell Daily Sun Editors, Econ geniuses, captains of athletic teams, feminist leaders – they’ve all been transformed from starry-eyed school leader to curve-backed, listless unemployed.

We know. We’ve been told. I feel like I’m in seventh grade again, behind the curtains of the auditorium with Alex. “It’s not you,” he said, furiously cleaning up his Nanopet’s shit. “It’s the economy.” Regardless of why Alex based his relationship decisions on the rise and fall of the stock market, we, those pawning off our silver spoon to pay for our Starbucks double shots, keep hearing it every day. “It’s not you, it’s the economy.”

I held Alex down and made him kiss me. I could, because my father was a Yetti, and I was a 5’11 seventh grader. But no matter how much we grope and grab at Yahoo Hotjobs,, and every other employed person we meet, we can’t sexually assault the economy into submission. Layoffs, cutbacks, and hiring freezes have taken the autonomous power out of the hands of college graduates. No matter the force of our efforts, our fates are no longer in our hands, but rather in those of Tina, the HR specialist from San Francisco who humps the pricing equation each night. Or, perhaps worse, the digits of the tiny numbers on the last page of USA Today’s Money section.

I know that people have it much worse than we. I couldn’t imagine being a mother of three, having to come home and tell my kids that I’ve been laid off. But I do believe there’s a story here. It’s one shared by many one-hopeful college graduates around the country, and one that is too-often told through numbers like 80%, rather than autobiographical words. Each of the contributors to this blog are intelligent, active, well-educated, and jobless. In the shredded remnants of my collegiate idealism, I believe this country should have a place for them, or make one.

But until that point, grab your Easy Mac or Ramin, curl up with your favorite stuffed animal from grade school, and watch them struggle. Bahahahaha.

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