Now What?

Advice and insight from a professional poet.

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I’m graduating soon (BA in Art History) and I’ve never felt so uncertain as to what to do next. Should I get a full-time job? Should I go to graduate school? Should I do something like the Peace Corps? I want to take the road not taken.
— Amy, Syracuse, New York

Amy, keep your options open. Apply to full-time jobs, apply to the graduate schools, apply to the Peace Corps — but understand that not all of these will have an immediate positive result. As for a full-time job, I would apply to just about anything you see. Anything. Scan HigherEdJobs.com and CareerBuilder.com and Idealist.org and Monster.com on a daily basis and apply to the new posts and see if they respond (and if they don’t, it’s totally their loss. Totally). They say that in a recession, your best bet is to go back to school, but graduate programs are getting more and more competitive and schools might want you to have a little more experience under your belt. But you should still keep that option open. Apply to the programs that are affordable and compelling and I wish you the best of luck.  As for the Peace Corps, I’ve heard there’s a six month waiting list and the screening process is a little more selective because President Obama has made it so popular (too bad you didn’t join back when they let me in).

But if you want to take “the road not taken” don’t do any of that, because, I mean, lots of people have taken the Peace Corps/graduate school/full-time job road. It’s not necessarily bad if you take the road that other people take — I mean, Robert Frost did write a long time ago, in New England. He probably didn’t have access to many well-travelled roads that were perfectly adequate to nourish an independent, creative spirit. I think you just need to be willing to step outside of yourself. Keep learning new things and challenging yourself — take the road not taken by YOU. Here’s Kenneth Koch:

Aesthetics of Being a Road

It is long since you were a lane.
Now you leave off being a street
And don’t become a highway yet.
You are cautious
But cautiously exploring what it might be
To be wider than you were before
And go further, and be less familiar with trees.

This is an important time in your development as an adult. Savor it!

(And you know that movie, The Graduate? You probably should not develop sexual relations with your parent’s friend…No, not even if that happens. Bad Amy.)

(One more thing, if you do go to grad school, be aware that upon completion you might feel exactly the same way.) • 1 June 2009

 

Kristen Hoggatt lives, works, and writes in Boston, where she received her MFA from Emerson College. She volunteers at 826 Boston.

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