near the edge

Nary a day goes by without some clever fellow popping the dreaded question: "So, what are you going to do when you graduate?"

The official answer is: "Oh, I thought I'd take my hard-earned degree and get a job in my field. Then I thought I'd make an astounding discovery and win the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer and Oscar for best supporting actress by the year 2000. I'm sure National Geographic will snap me up. And I'd like to marry and raise 2.5 kids and a St. Bernard in suburbia. Then die, in my sleep of course. That's the plan."

The unofficial response is: "Hell if I know."

Oprah Winfrey once said, "When I look into the future, it's so bright it burns my eyes." I hate to be a doomsayer, but some days when I look into the future, I'm mortified.

It's a scary world out there. Some people are still bound to the idea that anyone with a diploma is instantly hired, my mom being one of them. She never finished college. In my search for a respectable existence, we're both gaining a different perspective on today's job market.

Quite frankly, we all think employment in the white collar world is the only thing that justifies our time at the university. It's an extreme amount of pressure for fine upstanding young people who are about to face the bleak job market.

Without a job, you are vulnerable to being labeled a bum. Not a pretty destiny for those accustomed to eating on a regular basis.

I'm glad all this Generation X crap has blown over because I hardly think I'd ever sit on my butt for days on end, sipping Diet Coke and calling 900 numbers. I am way too defiant to accept mediocrity.

Still, I can't help feeling that my housing options are one step closer to cardboard every time I get a rejection letter.

Recently, a 90-year-old woman told me she was glad to be old because she had good times to look back on as the future became bleak. This is a woman who has lived through two world wars, the Depression and the Monkees comeback tour. Her statement made me wonder about my own future.

I want my time on earth to count. However, I realize the future holds more for me than just a job. Some days, I think I'd be happier working in a coffee shop or selling used books. Nothing like working for the Washington Post, but a satisfied existence I dream about.

You can't plan for the future with any success. Life is like a journey you take without a map. Just when you think you have your destination figured out, everything mid

changes. No one has complete control over where they end up. I think one day you wake up and realize that life happened to you while you were making other plans.

Because very few people end up where they planned in college, it's pointless to obsess about the future. You can't possibly predict where life will lead you take my mom for instance.

She was a "rebel" by rural America 1950s standards. She frequently stole the family Studebaker to go out partying. Her father was a God-fearing, pious farmer type. At the time, my mother wanted the furthest thing from a "good man" that she could find. She found my dad.

Dad had been "advised" to go into the Army for his GED by certain peeved officials in his hometown. Three years in Germany and several barfights under his belt, my dad had his fateful meeting with my mom in college. It wasn't exactly love at first sight. Dad looked up Mom's number in a listing of freshman girls called "The Bunny Book."

When he asked for a date, Mom said something to the effect of, "Well, maybe if you bathe." So romantic, I know. To make a long story short, he bathed, she didn't recognize him and walked past him in her dorm lobby. End of story.

Not really. They finally hooked up, love blossomed and they quit school. My dad went back to college after 20 years in the newspaper business and became, ta-da, a preacher.

Destiny is a funny thing.

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