You don't get here by choosing it. For most people, it just kind of happens. It's what your parents did and what they want you to do. No, it's what they expect you to do. You look around, and everybody else is doing it. They expect you to do it too. So you do it. It's the path of least resistance, the least confusion, and the least risk. You're here now, almost thirty, making less than you thought you'd be at this age and wondering, “How did I get here?”
Survive high school. You think you're more intelligent than everyone else and identify as a smart underachiever. The reality is, so do they. You just don't see the relevance in trigonometry, document based questions, and literary critiques of Of Mice and Men, so you get disillusioned. End up with at least an 80 in every class because you can pull it off without studying. In the meantime, convince yourself that high school GPA doesn't matter, it's college that counts. Get a decent score on the SATs, go to the best college you can get into. Take out lots of loans. Way too many loans. You know enough math to realize you won't be able to afford college without loans, but not enough math to realize you won't be able to afford life after college with loans. Or maybe you're just optimistic.
Lose your virginity to him after prom. It was special.
Lose your virginity to her after prom. It was awesome.
You're a freshman. You get your first debit card. Money goes from the tangible to the abstract. Eat Chipotle whenever you want. Order Chinese straight to your dorm. There's rush events every night. Free pizza, free booze, and all the older kids want to be your friend. This could never get old.
There's a girl you like, and you ask her if she wants to come to this party with you and your friends tonight. There's a boy she likes, and he asks her if she wants to come to this party with him and his friends tonight. You both get excited.
You're at the party. People introduce themselves to you. They introduce you to other people. A hot girl starts talking to you, you lie about your age. A hot guy starts talking to her, she tells him exactly her age. She rolls her eyes, but you're cute so she lets you spit your game. He smiles at her and offers her a drink in a plastic cup.
Your nights end differently.
Your buddy knows a guy. You've always wanted to try, and everyone says it's harmless, so you tell him, “I got five on it”. Start smoking weed twice a week. Family Guy is a lot funnier when you're high. So are you. Class isn't so boring when you're high. Neither are you. Girls are hornier when they're high. So are you. Pretty much everything's better when you're high. All your friends love smoking weed and playing Super Smash Brothers. This could never get old.
Start smoking weed twice a day. Your schedule doesn't allow time for you to study every night, especially now that you have a fake ID and your roommate bought a killer bong. Besides, all your classes are just Gen-Eds, you can just pull an all-nighter before the final. That's what everyone else does, and it seems to work.
You should get a job. Starbucks is hiring but who wants to serve coffee to Koreans all day when you could be serving alcohol to douchebags all night? But wait, you have to barback first. Then doorman, then- ah fuck this. It cuts too much into your social life anyway, who wants to work Friday nights?
Classes start to get hard. You fail tests in your weed out classes because you were too weeded out. Calculus is bullshit, so is MCB. They tell you don't worry about it,“C's Get Degrees.” Yeah, it was just the first test. You can still get a B if you ace the mid term and the final, so who gives a fuck.
Hook up with someone out of your league. Spend the night together. Wake each other up, and then everyone else on your floor when you both cum. Exchange your real numbers. Ask the same questions you asked the first night you got drunk and hooked up. Start to like each other.
Your first college relationship. The sex is phenomenal. Nobody's ever fucked you like this before. Every day, every night, every Tuesday and Thursday right before you both have Calculus at 2:30. Sophomore year is a lot harder than freshman year, and your GPA is looking kind of low. You couldn't care any less about that, or anything else for that matter. It's called the honeymoon phase. She's not that great at giving head. He hasn't found your g-spot. It's okay, you figure it out together. This is so much better than Call of Duty. This is so much better than random hookups. Spend every second together, holding hands, making love, getting drunk, and smoking weed. This could never get old.
Sophomore year was a wake up call. You stop partying and study just enough to 3.0 your way into junior year. The relationship ends. You didn't think it would, but that's because you were naïve. They all end until the one that doesn't. You both move on emotionally, but not physically. Some nights it feels like the other way around. You start to realize there are more important things in life.
It's senior year and your GPA is looking kind of low. Those damn curve-breaking Asians are to blame. You enroll in some easy classes to boost your GPA. In the meantime, convince yourself that your college GPA doesn't matter, it's networking that counts. I hope you did an internship, because creating a Linkedin account doesn't count as networking. The career fairs start coming. With hundreds of companies, they all look the same to you. Bring a bunch of resumes and apply to two types- the ones you think you have a chance of getting an interview at, and the ones that sell themselves to you as a great place to work.
Your debt starts to look scary. Those numbers have a lot of 0s. When the four year ride ends, you know you'll have to start making college loan payments. But you don't know just how high they'll be, and you don't know how to calculate interest either. Speaking of interest, you might want to check what the APR is on that credit card. You've always made payments on time, it can't be that bad right? Among the many things you don't understand about credit cards is the irony that yours has the word “Freedom” in its name. But it's the most ironic thing in the world. Because graduation is here. You don't have to sit in on boring lectures any more. You don't have to go to morning lectures, study for exams or write ten page papers. You're done with all that. Freedom, right?
Freedom. Yeah, You get it now. Because you're anything but. And that's only half the irony.
Now you're twenty-four, living in your old room when the first loan payment comes. You're thankful to have any job at all, because most of it goes towards your debt. Things are tense between you and your parents as you wait to hear back from the interviews you got. Meanwhile, interest bleeds you like a fucking hog. It's been bleeding you the whole time, you just never noticed until now because the interest was deferred. Truth is, it cut a notch on you every time you decided to buy liquor instead of pay your credit card in full. Every burrito you ever got from Chipotle was another notch waiting to be cut into your skin after the Four Year Ride. The piper's come for his payment, and you're looking like Zsasz. You didn't think Freedom would feel like this, and you're right. Because you're a slave. Your chains aren't made of steel. Steel doesn't grow heavier every month. Yours do.
Chase. Chase Freedom. You'll be chasing it the rest of your life.
Take two steps back.
It's senior year and that resume is looking kind of sparse. Some of your friends did internships last year, but either you couldn't get one, or you didn't want to quit your job that actually pays. Your GPA is looking pretty good though. All that work you put in junior year really paid off. You still don't know what you want to do for a career though. All you know is the four year ride will be over soon, and interest will start piling up on those loans. You need a job to make payments, but you keep hearing about how awful the job market is. You go to your advisor, but she can't help you. She mentions grad school. Wait a minute, that's it. Grad school. You can defer payments as long as you're still in school. The economy will rebound by the time you're done, and you'll be ready and waiting with an advanced degree. You're not ready to leave the incubator yet, and this'll give you more time to know what you want to do. Your grades aren't good enough for med school. Math and science programs are out of the question. Engineering? Come on, be serious.
What about law school? Lawyers make good money right? Yeah, that's what all the schools tell you. Median starting salary, job placement rates. Plus the prestige of a Juris Doctorate. It's expensive but you'll make it back. Think of it as an investment.
Did you buy it? Did the school sell you? God can't help your soul if you went down this path. Did you know that 3Ls from Harvard are struggling to find jobs right now? Do you have any idea of how oversaturated the market is, or what billable hours will mean for your life? You've only yourself to blame, for the same reason you went down the wrong path every single time. You let someone else decide for you. You could have been a mouse on a wheel. Now you're just a rat in a cage.
This will get old. And so will you.