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Higher Education

Is 2003 1991?

OK, so I am sure I’m not the first to make this observation. 2003 is starting to remind me a lot of 1991, the year I graduated from college. George Bush is president; we are in Iraq; the economy is in the crapper. For those of you who will be graduating this year…my condolences. If your situation turns out to be anything like mine…well, you’re in for an interesting ride–let’s just leave it at that. I will say this. Coming of age in difficult times such as these teaches you things that cannot be taught otherwise. Most of today’s college grads are really only conscioius of the nineties. The 90’s were mostly good economic times, good political times. The most we had to worry about was who was sucking whose, well you know. Anyway, clearly since 9/11 we’ve had more tense times for a variety of reasons. Growing up in the late 70s and 80s the economy was always bad, we worried about nuclear war, and we had to deal with disco. So maybe we were more prepared for 1991 than you are for 2003. Gen Xers were born knowing life sucks. In any case, this is not advice, but it is what I figured out. Back in 1997, I started teaching at Georgia Tech, an elite engineering school. It was the height of the Internet boom and all these engineering students were pretty confident about their future. I hope they’re doing well, but I’m sure many of their jobs have been outshored, if not disappeared altogether. They were excited about living in the world of high consumerism, buying designer this and that, driving SUVs, having the latest tech., etc., etc. I don’t think 2003 will be like this. When you’re working a temp job, sharing an apartment with three or four people, and feeling like you’re still in college, spending sprees at the mall don’t sound all that exciting. In fact, malls kinda make you sick. All those commercials, videos, tv shows, and movies selling you the latest look seem way out of step with life. I guess this is why grunge music just hit the right chord in 1991. So if you are graduating in the next few months, there’s a chance you might find life a little challenging. Then again, maybe you’ll find a job right off, get married, buy a house, have kids… whopeee! But if you’re in the former category, I can sympathize. Think of this as your chance to define a path for yourself. You’re done listening to your parents, to your teachers, to “peer pressure.” All of that’s behind you. And lo and behold, what did it all add up to? Nothing, nada, a temp. job, a room in an apartment, noodles, and beer money. I guess that means you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.

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