‘Good Luck Exploring the Infinite Abyss!’
May 12, 2008
That line from “Garden State,” bellowed from Andrew Largeman to an excavator, is as close as it comes to exploring post-graduation life. Even though Zach Braff delivers that line with an introspective look and a swagger, there is a deep insinuation of naivety. It seems as though if that sentence was said to a college graduate, a clear image comes to mind. I see an old man looking at a young man, a younger version of himself, or at least, that’s the way he sees it. Knowing that the boy had just spewed idealism all over the old man in a sentence prior, the old man both acknowledges his hopefulness of his newfound world yet knows from experience that this young man’s quest could turn more toward futility than ideology.
Yea, that seems about right.
Thankfully, grads are given a slew of other advice from movies, books, etc. rather than my stand alone fictionalization in a Graffiti article. An awkward but broach-able topic, post-graduate life is a tough subject to make a work of art around. Everyone has different experiences, no one wants to look back at a time when their life was full of indecision and panic, but somehow movies get made and books get published - even it it happens sparingly.
So if you’re struggling with what to do next and need some guidance/laughter/heartbreak about the whole clusterf%$&*, give these distractions a chance to change your outlook or even add to your dread. Get in touch with those emotions of anxiety and elation that comes with dealing with a world completely different then the one you just spent the last four years in. Here’s some suggestions ...
Garden State — In Zach Braff’s directoral debut, “Garden State” defied expectations and became a lighthouse for a young population of forlorn vagabonds. As Andrew Largeman, Braff plays a character that is living a life that is without a doubt directionless and full of uncertainties. Coming home for the first time in years to attend his mother’s funeral, Largemen meets childhood friends and rediscovers that the only real direction is one that it focused on happiness, and not on setting up a future where he will be happy; evident in the last scene with the undeniably smokin’ and charming Natalie Portman. Why you should watch it? Because it makes you feel good; real good. It’s that “good” that immediately reminds you that you’re life isn’t actually that bad.
Kicking & Screaming — No, I’m not talking about the Will Ferrell version where he’s this “hilarious” soccer coach who is so “hilarious.” I’m talking about the film by director Noah Baumbach about college friends who just can’t leave the fold. They have degrees, they dress in suits and have eloquent and thoughtful conversations but they find it hard to ditch campus. And even though their wardrobe was unbelievable in the film, the situation is not. I knew many people who couldn’t move away from their college town because their identity was so tied to it. Why should you watch it? You hear these friends speak and even though they have elements of being total assholes, you connect with them and that alone makes you feel less, well, alone.
Into the Wild — Whether you watch the movie starring Emile Hirsch or read the orginal Jon Krakaeur novel by the same name, pick up the message in this work. Christopher McCandless, after graduating from Emory University, leaves his possessions and donates his savings to charity to explore the wilderness of Alaska. Channeling the overwhelming urgency that a graduate faces, McCandless is not a seen as a delusion to graduates but instead an option. He represents the fraction of serious contemplation in a remark like, “Screw it man, I’m just going to live in a log cabin somewhere.” Why should you watch/read it? Because, like many movies with similar points, it reminds you of how good you have it. Most likely you can put food in your stomach and don’t fear attacks by wild animals. It shows you that confused doesn’t lost doesn’t exactly mean you have no direction.
“Either/Or” by Elliot Smith — Regarded by most to be the champion of melancholic enlightenment, Elliot Smith is an appropriate bedfellow when it comes to anxiety. “Either/Or” is a great album to get you out of this helpless funk - by throwing you headfirst into it. Songs like “Between the Bars” and “Rose Parade” make you want to pace around the room while “Say Yes” and “2:45 AM” will make you cry like a little child. But these are good, necessary cries. Dealing with post-college life is not always an attempt to make your life into lollipops and rainbows, but instead to get you to come to terms with life as pure raw energy; able to give and take respectfully. That, and this is a damn good album.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera —This novel is about 1968 Prague, but hear me out. Kundera is celebrated and notorious for his exploration into decision making in this book, and I wholeheartedly agree that this novel be a requirement for grads to read. With a foursome of characters, Kundera displays how decisions are “light” and somewhat inconsequential. However, our lives moan under the “unbearable” strain of existing, “being.” While the subject matter may not exist within the realm of student loans and possible living situations, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” helps the tension and stress of young decisions.
Hopefully these additions find you well and can both ground you in your decisions and give you hope to try new and difficult things — which is what every decision from now on will be.
Contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org
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