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Deep Thoughts about the Presidential Election

Good afternoon, everybody except Pat McCrory:

I’m here with 18 deep thoughts about all three presidential debates and the general election, because sometimes 140 characters won’t cut it. Also I was on a flight during the debate, and I didn’t have the chance to grace the Internet with a live feed of my opinions, so here is my offering of afterthoughts:

  • University of Nevada at Las Vegas is the same institution where Tomi Lahren earned bachelor’s degrees in bigotry and yelling; so if that’s what you’re into, I have two words for you: “microphones” and “micro-aggressions.” They’re both real. Learn about them.
  • Heads: Hillary. Are we really using a coin toss to decide who leads a televised political discourse? Ohhhhhh, I get it; we’re just trying to emulate George Washington rolling over in his grave after warning against a two-party system. “I think they get the point,” his metallic profile screams as his forehead smacks the back of Martha Raddatz’s unwavering hand. Really, though—a coin toss seems to be pretty juvenile; what is this, a locker room? Oh wait.
  • Somewhere in America, Trump and Brock Turner are hanging out in a locker room, snapping a sweaty towel at some poor kid’s ass, while Pat McCrory waits by the door checking birth certificates and hall passes. This kind of behavior isn’t just an affront to women, or athletes, or coaches who have valiantly defended the sanctity of their locker rooms: it’s sexual harassment and a violation of civil rights. Billy Bush lost his job over it—why hasn’t Trump?
  • Politicians withdrew their support from Trump after the audio leak, citing legal relationships to women as their reasoning. Oh, so now you want to be a decent human being? Then just be one, regardless of whom files taxes as your dependent. Wake the hell up—you don’t need a wife or a kid or a sister to have a moral compass.
  • Hillary is literally me every time someone asks me a question they could have looked up. She is so over having to fact check everything for you. “Google Donald Trump Iraq.” Okay, okay, geez.
  • We never found all the remains of Malaysian Flight MH370, but CNN found living, breathing undecided voters? If the media is rigging the election (it’s not), it’s because CNN harbored them in an underground lab with no Wi-Fi, and then brought them above ground to ask pre-written questions at the second debate. How else would you explain that before election season, this was Ken Bone’s only tweet?

kenbonetweet

  • If you’re an uncommitted voter asking a question that you’ve practiced a zillion times in the mirror, how do you even stand the pressure? Do you picture everyone naked, or do you blackout, like in a high school project presentation? Need to know.
  • I do not envy the moderators in the slightest, but I do think they should teach a class on crisis communication, considering that’s where we are at this point in the campaign.
  • Clinton was just dubbed a nasty woman by someone who also claimed, “nobody respects women more than I do.” Not going to name names.
  • Three a.m. tweets follow the same rules as three a.m. drinks: nothing good can happen. Adults need curfews too.
  • Trump says Muslims have to fight Islamophobia themselves via “see something, say something,” which basically makes him an 8th grade gym teacher who says, “a little bullying is good for ya!”
  • Okay, let’s play charades: one word, six letters—it’s the largest city in Syria. Still no idea? Here’s a hint: Gary Johnson doesn’t know either. It’s Aleppo. If you don’t know, now you know, but you might still have an extremely minimal grasp on American foreign policy as it relates to one of the largest security threats and saturated discussions currently on the political stage. BFD, I didn’t know either, says every 39-year-old Facebook user from the safety of his mother’s basement. Yeah, well, you’re not on the ballot for POTUS.
  • What even is on the ballot? Progress and democracy, according to the latest Hillary ad featuring Obama as her BFFL. “There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t count,” says POTUS. Also, state and local elections are happening. Learn about them; vote for them—they influence a lot more of your day-to-day life than a president ever will (See also: Pat McCrory’s track record).
  • Alright, this post has been pretty anti-Trump, so for the sake of journalism, I’ll offer up a criticism to Queen Hillz: Stop giving in to Trump’s antics. You are better than this and you know it! You won’t get votes from slamming other candidates. That’s Twitter’s job, and they’re doing alright—the debate emoji even looks like a toilet. Keep doing the homework and winning the coin toss, but stay on the high road (and I’ll meet you there for #HillHal2032).
  • A lot of Americans don’t want to vote for either of these candidates, but they don’t realize that this is the most dangerous decision of all. You, one of the 324 million Americans can vote. You know who can’t? Prisoners, undocumented immigrants, refugees, unregistered voters. That’s a lot of people. You have a privilege. Use it.
  • Here is a list of things that are treated like partisan issues that should be bipartisan (aka: this shit matters; your political party doesn’t): women’s rights, child nutrition, affordable health care, safe housing, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ inclusivity, climate change, minority rights, homelessness, Black Lives Matter, maternal health, veteran suicide rates, the presidential election.
  • Trump won’t reveal whether he’ll accept the results of the election, which means he still thinks he’s on reality TV, and we’re all puppets at this point. Seriously though, what other choice does he have?

TL;DR: Vote for someone who cares about human quality of live.

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Call Your Mom: A Tarheel Alumna’s College Advice

I visited Chapel Hill during move-in weekend, not because I am starting grad school, but because I wanted to pretend that was the case. Just about every person I ran into asked me one of the following questions, if not all:

“What are you doing here?”

“How is real life?”

“Do you miss college?”

To each person, I just wanted to scream “DO NOT GRADUATE; IT IS NOT WORTH A SALARIED POSITION OR ANY OTHER FALSIFIED PERK OF ADULT LIFE,” but I didn’t. Because that isn’t true. There are exciting parts of adult life (can someone please tell me what they are???).

Everyone has a right to their time in this magical, heavenly zip code, but entering the real world is part of paying dues toward whatever force helped us get to this point (I think that force is actually just parents and federal funding?). As much as I’d like to pretend I’m a freshman again, and as much as I still look like one, all I can do is offer my thoughts to those who are entering college this month:

  • No one will care about you unless you care about yourself. This is the most important thing I learned in college, and I’m starting out strong because you should too. Show up to class, ask for help, stand up for yourself, call your mom. No one knows to stand in your corner if you aren’t directing them to it. Be a flashing neon sign for yourself.
  • Say yes, until you need to say no. Saying yes is the first step towards growth. Go out, even if you have class in the morning. Get lunch with your one weird suite-mate. Sign up for all the clubs. You can always unsubscribe later. You can always change your mind, as long as you started by saying yes. If you start with “no,” the opportunity will likely be gone.  
  • Build a wardrobe. You can’t wear cheap crop tops forever. Not just because they are fads, but because by the time you get through this school year, they will literally deteriorate. Invest in a few items that will last: black pants, a heavy coat, a real leather bag. Don’t wear them to parties.
  • Swipe right more often. People deserve a chance.  
  • You don’t have to explain yourself. If you’re undecided, if you don’t know what you want to do with your creative writing major/political science minor, if you don’t want to dance with that guy. You don’t need a reason. “No” is a complete sentence. So is “I don’t know.” Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.
  • Everyone learns differently. You will either A) do the reading as it is assigned all semester long, or B) you will skim it all at the very end. One of these will seem like a good idea, and the other will give you severe anxiety. There is no shame in either, but both require planning similar to the five stages of grief: denial, resentment, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Option C: deny deny deny.
  • The Sunday-morning ritual of rehashing Saturday night’s antics is arguably the best part of every weekend. This does not happen in adult life because you and your pals cannot all crawl into one person’s bed; you will not all live in the same residence. Non-stop quality time is not only very unique to college living, but is also hard to recreate after graduation. Cherish it.
  • Don’t buy the textbook until you know you’re going to stay in the class. Alternatively, borrow someone else’s all semester. Note: If you are constantly borrowing books, make sure you’re lending yours too.
  • Take care of your body, but also take care of your mind. Obsessing over your health (counting calories, extreme dieting, exercising too much) leads to anxiety, which develops all kinds of problems in your social, personal and academic life. It’s not worth it. Your body is working really hard to take on its official adult form, and for a lot of people, that continues well into the next decade. Be good to it; it’s the only one you have.  
  • Read for pleasure. Do it over the holiday break if you can’t make time during the semester, but the active choice to read something that isn’t assigned will expand your mind in ways that professors wish they could.

This is an excerpt from Tiny Beautiful Things, a book given to me by one of two roommates who crawled into my bed every Sunday morning for all of senior year. I wish I could make everyone read it, but since I’m not a professor yet, I’ll leave this here:  

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.

You have to pay your electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got.”

You won’t know what you want with your life for a long, long time. Stop asking other people; stop asking yourself. The answer will come.

Just do life, as it is, right now.

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Class of 2016: Graduation as a State of Mind

I cannot overstate the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m ready to graduate.

On paper, it’s all there.

I have taken all the required hours, I have passed all the right classes, I have ordered my cap and gown.

Once I’ve turned in all my final projects on Tuesday, I’ll be home free until graduation.

Except I’m still not ready.

I’m not ready to stop having the mental solace of being surrounded by thousands of other twenty-somethings who are equally accepting of sleeping and crying in the library. I’m not ready to stop pretending I’m a freshman when visitors ask me for directions on Carolina’s campus. I’m not ready to stop filing as a student on my taxes.

Let’s be honest, I’m not ready to start filing my taxes regardless.

I am also not ready to let go of the identity that comes from being a student. I’ve never not been a student. What other identity do I have?

There is no way I could accurately describe the sheer terror I feel as I stare into the black hole of what appears to be my future after May 8. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready.

I am smart enough to know that I cannot articulate this feeling any better than those who’ve come before me. Maybe I should make this a post of inspirational lyrics from Prince songs that could apply to graduating seniors. Maybe I should list advice from my parents and famous graduation speeches. Maybe I should share a series of anecdotes that illustrate the trials and triumphs of being a Carolina student.

I could do any of those things, but instead I’m going to quote Amy Poehler from her book Yes Please!, because I think she’s a kick-ass human with valuable ideas and incomparable delivery. And also because I have seen the entire series of Parks and Recreation so many times that I feel I know her personally and I like to think she said this to me, and only me, as a friend and life-long companion:

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.”

Carolina has become my comfort zone. Leaving feels comparable to a death sentence, though I know that’s just my genetic pre-disposal to melodrama.

There exists a very intangible kind of togetherness in this zip code, on every college campus. A sense of belonging to this campus, with one another, to one another, for one another. This accountability, this encouragement, this comfort that we find in each other comes from the webs we create through dance clubs, honor societies, campus ministries, sports teams, a cappella groups. It is the knowledge that we are all on the same team.

Over the course of the next few months, our lives will look very different than they do right now. My friends will not climb into my bed every Sunday morning to discuss “what the hell happened last night?” We won’t live in the same house. We won’t be studying for exams. We won’t get the “ALL CLEAR” from Alert Carolina at 4 a.m.

We will no longer have these little webs of people to reach into whether we need a buddy for a McDonald’s run, or we just want to feel less alone.

I’m not ready to leave that comfort quite yet, but I don’t think we have to. Graduating is not synonymous with leaving it behind.

As the late Marina Keegan said in The Opposite of Loneliness, “the best years of our lives are not behind us, they are part of us.”

Holding tightly to my college experience is not going to make me live in the past, but harnessing the steadfast love and community and celebration of youth is going to prepare me for what lies ahead.

As I look back at what the past four years have brought me in adventure, academics and altruism, I feel as though I am about to be a real-world freshman, which brings me comfort as a status I have held many times before.

Graduating from college is just like every experience that scared me in the past. I never felt ready, but I have always been thankful that I did it anyway (and I’m always glad that my parents made me do it).

Great people do things before they are ready. They do things before they know they can do it, whether it comes from faith, or confidence, or obliviousness to the risks. They beat on, boats against the current, as Fitzgerald famously said.

Graduating is not a death sentence, it is a life sentence, and I don’t mean the kind with the orange jumpsuits. Perhaps a pantsuit, or a birthday suit, depending on your skills and career path. But a suit we have been prepared for either way, by our parents, professors and peers.

It is a life sentence of which Carolina is but a semicolon – the punctuation that bridges the gap between one wholesome, invigorating, magical experience to another.

So let’s go, let’s do it. Let’s step into life, let’s bridge the gap between what we think we can do and what we actually can do. Let’s say yes, even when we don’t want to, even when we don’t know all the risks, even when we don’t think we have the courage.

Say yes. Go now. Be great.

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Southwest Airlines Removes Muslim Passengers, Abandons Basic Patriotism

UC Berkeley student Khairuldeen Makhzoomi was removed from a Southwest flight on Saturday because a passenger complained that he was speaking Arabic. The headlines just won’t quit:

“Arabic-speaking student removed from flight”
“UC Berkeley student kicked off Southwest Airlines”
“Iraqi refugee seeks apology after being removed from Oakland-bound plane”

The list grows as each hour passes.

There are a million ways to say it, but it all comes down to this: one human being expressed ignorance and intolerance toward another, and a major American corporation enabled it.

The company’s current slogan reads, “If it matters to you, it matters to us,” which is a little cringe-worthy, considering its latest behavior.

This is not an isolated incident, nor is it the first for Southwest. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said there were at least six similar instances this year. It’s April. And those are only the reported cases.

Last week, Southwest also removed a Muslim woman from her flight for switching seats. If you have yet to fully understand the concept or impact of white privilege, consider the number of times you’ve switched seats on a plane, a bus or a metro. Were you removed from the flight? Were you uncomfortable in a middle seat, or did you just want to sit closer to your boyfriend?

The ability to speak and move freely while traveling should be an American constitutional right, but for now, it remains a privilege.

After the press jumped on the incident, the company gave a cookie-cutter statement that failed to reflect their attention or care to the matter, “We regret any less than positive experience a customer has onboard our aircraft,” the company said in a statement. “Southwest neither condones nor tolerates discrimination of any kind.” A spokeswoman further stated that the company is unable to comment on the conduct of individual employees.

Non-sequitur, much?

Not to mention the employee who responded to the passenger’s complaint spoke Arabic and could have helped both parties come to an understanding, but instead treated Makhzoomi “like an animal.” Unsurprisingly, the employee was unavailable for comment.

Though Southwest’s primary focus is safety for all passengers, they just contributed to the real danger: racial discrimination.

Discrimination anywhere is discrimination everywhere, and for an international airline to participate in and allow intolerance toward one customer on behalf of another paints a rather depressing, daunting picture of Americans and customer service.

How long must racial and ethnic discrimination last until we discover the line between the right and wrong side of history?

How long must we tolerate intolerance?

And yet, the most mature of all parties involved was the victim himself.

“I don’t want money,” Makhzoomi said. “I don’t care about that. The message of Islam is forgiveness. That’s all I want.”

Let’s imagine what the story would be like if the newswire headline had actually been “Muslim Student Refuses Money, Seeks Apology for Discrimination.” How far would the story have gotten? Would you have clicked on the link? Would you have shared it online?

I applaud and admire Makhzoomi for his tactful response; I cannot imagine what I would have done in his place. To him, I say thank you, for expressing compassion in the face of adversity.

To Southwest, I say shame on you. This isn’t an isolated incident. As a leader in air travel, you have the resources to make passengers and employees better educated and equipped for safe travel. As an American corporation, you have much work to do on your brand status, your practices and your mission. Get to work.

If you’re reading this and you identify more with the woman who complained, I say think again! If diversity makes you uncomfortable, reconsider your flight to Oakland.

If you’re reading this and you feel compelled do something about this, I say (a) thank you for reading this far and (b) God bless you, you beautiful, complex, powerful human being! You absolutely can do something!

  1. Share the story on social media! Whether you read the New York Times, Washington Post, or some other outlet, get the word out. It matters.
  2. Call your mom and tell her about it! Different generations get their news from different places; it’s worth mentioning to your parents.
  3. Get involved! Hundreds of organizations exist to battle systematic discrimination. Take five minutes from your day to research how you can join one. Don’t have five minutes? Choose from this list: Council on American-Islamic Relations, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
  4. Ask questions. The best way to offer help to someone is to say “how can I help?” as opposed to guessing at the best practices.
  5. Own up. If you offend someone, it’s not the end of the world. But you do need to apologize. Take ownership by asking how to fix your mistake.
  6. Listen: A dialogue works best when both parties listen to each other. If someone you know or love is speaking out about injustice or intolerance, take the time to hear them, and let them know they are understood. Be human, with humans.
  7. Know that this is bigger than you. This blog post isn’t going to end an era of racial discrimination, but hopefully it will contribute to an intricate discussion that values people and ideas.

There is no quick fix to ending racism, but if we challenge each other to think critically about discrimination, we can be better than we are right now.

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Sorry Not Sorry: Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing

Five young women are standing at the front of my class, representing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder running a pseudo-press conference to answer questions about the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

For ten minutes, they have to answer to the rest of the class, which poses as hostile reporters unabashedly asking questions about the political scandal behind the crisis.

This is Crisis Communication.

The discussion intensifies as we, the reporters, accuse Governor Snyder’s communication team of being in cahoots with his corrupt politics.

I raise my hand to direct a question at one of the representatives who hasn’t yet spoken.

“The toxic water is primarily in neighborhoods of residents in racial minorities. Did Governor Snyder knowingly let conditions get so bad in those neighborhoods because he’s racist?”

She takes a deep breath, during which I whisper “sorry!” from the corner of my mouth.

The class chuckles. We’re all friends here, and we hate making each other take the heat.

She answers my question with poise despite the pressure, and moves on to the last few minutes of the simulation.

Our fearless professor takes the podium at the end of class while we pack up our books and laptops.

“Before you leave today,” she said, “I want to talk about something I heard during class.

From this point on, there are two words that are never welcome in my class again. They are ‘I’m sorry.’ I know you all like each other, and you empathize with those who are up at the podium, but what you don’t need to do is apologize for doing your job. Especially not for doing your job well.”

We are an entirely female class, not just because of the student gender ratio at UNC, not just because Public Relations is an increasingly female major, but because women are more likely to feel the need to take a class on crisis management than men. While more women than men enter the PR industry, it is still men who hold more of the upper-level management positions, and are more likely to be a spokesperson on behalf of an organization during a crisis.

Taking this class is part of how we change that.

Our professor continued, “In the real world, if a man had asked a hard-hitting question, he never would have apologized. He’s not worried about looking mean, or hurting feelings; he’s only concerned with getting the answers for the story. He cares about doing the job well. And so should you.

You are all women who are about to enter the professional world, and you don’t need to be sorry for how smart, and driven, and deliberate you are. Don’t apologize for doing your best. There’s no shame in it.

‘I’m sorry’ only puts you at a disadvantage. You don’t need that.”

The discussion over female apologies gleaned attention earlier in the year when comedian Amy Schumer included a sketch on her TV show, during which an all-female panel spent the entire time apologizing instead of highlighting their professional work. Editorials from Cosmopolitan and Refinery29 challenged women to count the number of times they apologize in a day at work. Gmail even offers a plug-in that prevents you from sending emails with the phrase “I’m sorry.” The point is, this isn’t news. We know we shouldn’t apologize so much.

So how do we stop?

The answer, in my opinion, lies much deeper than eliminating one phrase from our vocabulary.

In order to stop saying sorry, women have to stop being sorry.

It’s a huge change, but it can be done in small steps, provided that we make an active effort.

If you need a place to start, begin by helping others to be confident and self-assured. It’s contagious. The more you diminish others, the more they diminish themselves. The same is true for the reverse.

Apologizing is a symptom of feeling small. At work, at school, online, at home, it’s easy to compare yourself to others, or to put their needs ahead of yours. You’re not alone in this, but you are the only one who can change your disposition.

Be confident, be proud, be self-assured that you don’t need to start every sentence with an apology. Know that your ideas, your preferences, your emotions are uniquely yours, and that is reason enough to assert them without feeling timid.Take ownership of that.

Don’t be sorry. You can’t kick ass at your job and be sorry about it.

You have to choose.

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Born, Bred, Dead: Stages of an NCAA Championship Loss

 

It’s 11:37 a.m. and I’m waiting for the bus at the edge of campus. I’m still wearing last night’s clothes; my hair is in an unforgiving knot on the crown of my head and my makeup is smeared from a long night of tears after a Tar Heel loss.

My current physical state mimics the emotional state of every single person who passes me on the sidewalk.

The briskness of the late morning sends a shiver up my spine, a reminder that even God Himself is weeping with us in this incomparably depressed, heavy-hearted zip code. The bus arrives with a slow, screeching halt, and I board quickly, in an effort to get out of the cold and away from the painful gloom of Carolina’s campus.

It’s mostly empty inside. I sit at the front near two older men, one with unkempt curls falling over a faded windbreaker, the other with a Walkman and headphones that sat atop his ears, just high enough for his music to be heard throughout the otherwise silent bus.

They turn to me and say, almost in unison, “you must be cold.” I smile and reply that I had not expected the weather to be as heartbreaking as last night’s game, which is met with a few quiet chuckles, followed by a symphony of sad sighs.

I rest my head on the window above my seat asI  think back to the night before:

It was an emotional rollercoaster to rival all others, glorified by the sheer nirvana that came out of Marcus Paige’s last basket, only to be derailed by the crushing reality of Villanova’s last basket.

It was all over.

I had never actually experienced the feeling of my heart sinking all the way down to the floor. But there I was, among the other tens of thousands of students and fans, milling around Franklin street because my feet literally did not know where else to take me.

It was post-apocalyptic. Men cried in the arms of other men as He’s Not Here dismantled the overhead projector in their courtyard. A line of tortured fans formed around the block below Top of the Hill, expecting to drown their sorrows. The streets were flooded with grief.

No burning couches, no brave pole-climbers, even the police officers on duty expressed their desolation.

And yet, just ten minutes earlier, we had lost our voices to the utter astonishment of being tied with four seconds left. None of us even had our phones out to document it. That’s how invested we were in this moment. God forbid we get distracted by a text and miss the last few seconds.

Anything can happen in a few seconds. Anything.

The best advice I had ever gotten about moments like this was from the youth pastor at my home church, Reverend Susan Norman Vickers: a trusted leader and a loyal follower, a faithful friend and a vicious foe in a heated game of Spoons, a rare Duke and UNC fan. She seemed to have all the answers, but assured that she, too, was always learning.

Every time we had a lot of people together, whether it was a service project or group dinner, a church service or a casual moment fellowship, she would say, “take a minute to look around the room. Never again in your life will you be with these people, in this room, at this time, for this reason. It won’t ever happen again. Not like this, not exactly.”

There have been many times in my life that I have thought back to her instructions, that I tried to share it with others, but it was during this game that I finally understood the gravity of her advice.

Looking around the room, I considered how temporary this moment would be, how fleeting the fellowship was, regardless of the outcome of the game. Every single one of my people was huddled around a TV and a bowl of buffalo chicken dip, cheering on our alleged close personal friends playing their hearts out on a court down in Houston, during the most important, anxiety-inducing, enthralling basketball game of their college careers.It won’t ever happen again. Not like this, not exactly.

To have hundreds of thousands of people across the globe watching you put your heart on the line is something I will likely never experience. But to experience even a fraction of the passion, the perseverance, the pride despite the loss, I could not have been happier to be a Tar Heel born and bred.

Though this morning I surely feel Tar Heel dead, it is worth all of the fellowship of the past four years; it is worth the victories and the losses; it is worth the tiny infinity of our last basket during the 2016 NCAA National Championship game.

No three-pointer could take that away from any of us. Not even Nova’s.

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The Millennial Job Search: The Real March Madness

It’s almost April, and even though I’m atrociously near-sighted, I can tell that graduation is around the corner.

For the past month at the UNC School of Media and Journalism, my professors have graciously invited professionals to speak about the job search, look over our resumes, teach us how to leverage LinkedIn and even provide contacts for recruiters at companies of our interest.

While the resources and advice are incredibly helpful, it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed think about the other 1.8 million college graduates who are going to enter the work force at the beginning of May.

This is the real March Madness: staring my future in the face only to realize that it is a big black hole of uncertainty and indecision. My feelings toward this black hole can be completely summarized by the full-bodied cringe I experience every time someone expectantly asks, “So what are your plans for graduation?”

It’s not that I’m not trying to make plans; believe me, I’m trying. Personally, I’d rather spend my whole paycheck on Blockbuster stock than have to honestly answer “I don’t know.” Because not knowing is terrifying.

In an effort to internalize as much professional advice from anyone who offers it, I cannot help but quote the former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, who once speculated: “There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also known there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” The last of these is the most terrifying, but it’s also the most helpful.

Let me start with the known knowns:

I know that I am not alone. There are almost 2 million people graduating in the same week as I am, not to mention the ones who graduated last May but are still looking for work. As part of the largest living generation, I should feel a mental solace in this united effort for the job search, but after hearing what hiring managers think of incoming millennial new hires, I’m not so relieved. According Newsweek, we can be summarized by the following things:

  1. Millennials are entitled. They feel that after graduating, they deserve a job that they actually like, an income worthy of their college debt, a work environment that is supportive of their individual passions.
  2. They aren’t easily satisfied. Millennials hop around between jobs, take a gap year, pretend that we need an “Eat, Pray, Love” episode to find ourselves.
  3. Millennials are high maintenance. It wasn’t just a phase of high school. They need a praise from the boss, but they don’t want to be micromanaged. Millennials want a pat on the back but they also need room to breathe.

These qualities are glaring, and while they might not be written explicitly on a resume, they can still be interpreted before the interview even begins.

Now for the known unknowns:

As a member of the UNC School of Media and Journalism’s Class of 2016, I can confidently say that we are smart, driven, innovative. What we lack in experience, we make up for in skill. We are talented, we make good first impressions, we network, we leverage our resources, we bring more to the table than just a resume. But for some reason, that is not enough.

  1. What is enough?
  2. How do I know that I’m doing enough?
  3. What makes my “enough” better than another candidate for the job?
  4. What happens if I’m not better? Where are the 40% of millennials who are unemployed? Do they work waitressing jobs until they get wifed-up by a hot shot who comes in every day for lunch (See: My Big Fat Greek Wedding)? Is there a corporate Rest Home for Burnt-Out 25-year-olds all across America for all these applicants who sleep on stacks of unread cover letters?
  5. Is anyone reading our cover letters?

And lastly, the unknown unknowns.

The things millennials don’t know they don’t know. The things no one is going to tell you, because nobody told them.

  1. Moving back in with your parents isn’t self-defeating. They probably miss you, anyways.
  2. The first job doesn’t have to be the best job. The best job probably requires experience at inferior jobs.
  3. In order for people to care about you, you have to care about yourself.
  4. You can do this.
  5. We can do this.
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