Because of COVID, Clare had been home since March of 2020. Recently her college invited her back to campus for the last two months of her senior year. When she left La Crosse to return to Grinnell, I hadn’t planned to write about it in a blog. Other than stating that the punch to my gut felt like the one I took when she moved away as a freshman, I had nothing else to say. 

Last week, however, something happened that merits mention. Clare called from school to tell me she was applying for a job that excited her. A parent of a senior in college shouldn’t be surprised by this, but it represents a significant shift in Clare’s thinking about the next stage in her life. Before she left for Grinnell two weeks ago, her plans had been to graduate in May, find a summer sublet in Madison, get a temporary job to pay the rent, and only then begin to think about the future. Now I realize she is willing to consider a professional position if the right one pops up.*

The glitch for me, although probably not for Clare, is that I am not sure I am ready for her to start a career. I’ve always thought I did not want her to rush into 30+ years of gainful employment, and now that she is applying for a career-type job, I am sure of it. The primary reason I helped her to avoid exorbitant college debt was so she could travel, dabble, and goof around before tying herself to anything permanent. What happens now if she is offered her ideal entry-level position right out of the gate? Obviously I am overreacting. Clare is applying for one job. If she wants it, I hope she gets it, but part of me doesn’t want her to close doors to aimless adventure before those doors even open. 

How things have changed in a single generation! All my dad ever wanted to know was if I was ever going to get a real job. Now I feel almost the opposite, wanting to tell Clare to value time over work, money, and career. My problem is that I am part my dad and part not. The part of me that is him says that if Clare starts a career now she has committed to the long haul without a chance for sabbaticals or abrupt shifts in a career path. The part that is not him is a bourgeois confidence that Clare can goof off now because the job will always be there. Neither of those two sentiments are necessarily correct.

One of the very best movie quotes ever is when the ne’er do well John Goodman character in Raising Arizona tells Nicolas Cage, “You’re young and you got your health, what you want with a job?”

* The specific job is irrelevant, as this blog is more about my feelings than Clare’s career path – but the job is traveling the world installing complicated software and training people to use it. The appeal is that it combines Clare’s computer skills, her teaching experience, and her passion for travel. 

Steven Simpson