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Is there life after MUN?

(January 13, 2000, Gazette)

By Kelley Power

So, we survived the millennium changeover after all. No power outages, no computer crashes and, despite my most fervent wishes, no glitches at the bank to wipe out all evidence of my student loan. Apparently the only excitement we’re to be treated to is the beginning of yet another semester at Memorial.

I notice here that the written word is incapable of conveying the desired level of sarcasm and insincerity that I want to infuse into that statement. I think, then, that I should clarify exactly what I’m saying – the beginning of the semester provokes in me many potent feelings and ‘excited’ is not one of them.

Perhaps this sounds a little harsh; I admit that I’m surprised at myself for feeling that way. Usually I can find something to enjoy about attending university: the intake of knowledge, the personal satisfaction of succeeding or even just the on–campus socializing. If none of these manage to motivate me, then a simple desire to get the most for my money will.

But alas, even these tried and true methods of inciting academic enthusiasm have failed this year.

I’m left wondering what the problem is; what makes this semester any different from the dozen others I’ve begun in years past?

I have come up with only one plausible answer to this question and it may apply to any of you who are sharing my reluctance to begin the Winter 2000 semester.

No, it’s not that the requisite post–Christmas gym membership hasn’t yet had time to work its magic. Nor is it that Aunt Mildred’s generous gift of eau de toilette has left me smelling like, ah, a woman of ill repute.

While certainly legitimate grounds for cowering at home, neither of these circumstances is responsible for my lack of interest in going to MUN this winter. Instead, I credit my enthusiasm- deficiency to the awareness that, as I am graduating in April, life as I have known it since kindergarten is about to change dramatically.

I know, I know; change is not something to be feared. But think, for 17 years, my life – and the lives of other undergrads who came to university directly from high school – has been a series of eight or nine month stints in a controlled learning environment, each separated by three or four months of summer fun, revelry and merrymaking.

Now, after so many years of successfully practising responsibility avoidance, April’s graduates are about to be thrust into the cruel and unforgiving Real World. It is a place where failing isn’t just an F on your transcript, but instead goes hand-in-hand with such events as foreclosure – on your house or car.

Yes, the transition from the scholastic to the working environment looms on the horizon for all of us at some point in time; that is, unless one opts for the alternative: staying in school to accumulate multiple degrees while living with your parents until you’re 40. However, knowing the change must come does not make it any less daunting.

The entirety of my student career has been spent anticipating eventual escape from the confines of the classroom. Having the event upon me now, though, has made me stop and think about what entering the workforce actually entails.

First of all, one has to worry over the likelihood of finding a job in his or her chosen field. The fortunate ones who succeed in this will then move on to the acquisition of a home and car all while simultaneously paying off their student debt. Next comes the family, the white picket fence, the minivan, etc. The whole thing just reeks of the threat of discontent and conformity.

Granted, society has changed its views on how soon people should settle down to the normalcy of suburban life; one can finally be over 30 and unmarried without becoming fodder for gossiping family and friends as they review your waning matrimonial prospects.

And the measurement of success no longer based solely on finances; job satisfaction and maintaining healthy stress levels are also considered signs of prosperity in this age.

I suppose it’s fair to concede, then, that there could be worse things than having to assume a little responsibility in life. Most of us today have been able to choose which fields we want to work in. We’ll be able to decide when we want to settle down and where. Most of our parents never had it so good.

I think perhaps what makes the prospect of post-Memorial life most disturbing is the inescapable fact that, for the first time since choosing a field of study, you are required to make major decisions in order to set your life on a particular path.

University is like a roller coaster: you pay to get on the ride and, even though it doesn’t go in a straight line, you always know where the track ends. However, life after MUN offers no such reassurances or security. You may end up exactly where you planned or you could veer off in directions you never dreamed.

The optimist in me can’t help but believe that all you really need is some common sense and a healthy spirit of adventure to make it through post-university life.

So where does this leave us in terms of our reluctance to go back to MUN this semester? I don’t know what conclusion you’ve come to, but I think I’ve just been trying to come up with an elaborated excuse when my real problem is simply a schedule full of morning classes.

Welcome back and enjoy the semester.