I don’t do manicures often because I’m usually too restless to sit there for too long. I did, however, break down and had a gel manicure with a gift certificate I received recently – maybe someone is trying to tell me something!
While sitting at the “drying station” I met two young girls. One had gotten a really cool gold and black design on her nails to match her prom dress – the event, of which was that evening. She was so very excited and chatting happily with us and her mother who sat next to her. I asked what she was doing after graduation – whether she was going to college. She said emphatically, “Oh no, I’ve never even had a job, and I feel like I should work for a while first.” I tried to make sense out of her statement, but smiled half-heartedly. I wanted to say, “No, no, no! Please try to go to college and get some kind of degree! Start at a community college if you want, but go right away while you’re young. Go now!” I know firsthand how hard the world has become. How awful the job market is no matter how much the politicians try to pull the wool over your eyes with their banter about how things are getting better and how unemployment is down. The competition is voracious. They will literally eat you alive! People will ignore you. You will feel invisible, even when you’re qualified and have the experience.
Then the girl sitting across from us spoke up – she was 25. I know this because someone asked if she were going to the prom as well, and she snickered and told us her age. Turns out she graduated from a great university a couple of years ago. She has a degree in criminal justice but hasn’t yet found a job in her field. She said she had recently taken a civil service exam to try to get into something…anything. She told the younger girl to dance the night away and enjoy the prom and her last days in high school. “It is the time of your life,” she said, “and if you go to college, that will be so much fun, too.” She looked sad. I had a feeling she was thinking that after that it’s all downhill. Struggling to get a job had taken a toll on her as it has on me. I don’t know what the answer is. Work or go to college? College isn’t for everyone, but without it, how can you compete at all?
The younger girl looked at mom and said dreamily, “Besides, I’m going to publish a book and make lots of money, so I won’t have to go to college.” I choked inside. I used to believe the same thing. I wanted to take her by the shoulders, look her square in the eyes and tell her that the reality of that happening was next to nil. That there were only a chosen few who got to live that life and have that dream come true, especially without the experience of what you learn in school. But I didn’t say anything. Youth need to have their dreams and their ambitions. They don’t need to be told how difficult it is out there as they excitedly prepare for the night of their life at prom.
I just smiled and wished her well and told her to have lots of fun at the prom. She smiled brightly back at me with starry eyes and off she went. I hope all of her dreams come true.