Anti-advice column

October 10th, 2013


If you ever take any advice from any of my columns, let it be this: Don’t take anyone’s advice. How’s that for a paradox? While it can be nice sometimes to get guidance from an older, wiser role model figure – whether it’s your grandmother or Google – most of the time you’ll find that whatever advice you get can and will be countered by equally rational counsel.

As a 21-year-old student approaching graduation and experiencing a quarter-life crisis, I spend a decent chunk of time reading thought-provoking articles and lists on Thought Catalog and similar sites that offer advice that ranges from uplifting to mediocre to flat-out stupid. Furthermore, I’ve had discussions with family members, professors and friends about my post-graduate prospects and whether or not I have any. While it’s up to every individual how much stock they put into others’ words of guidance, tread lightly, and prepare to have some of the following contradictions thrown at you.

How many teachers and parents and motivational posters, pencils, calendars and coffee cups have told us to be dreamers? If there’s one cliché piece of advice we have all received, it’s to know that you can do anything you put your mind to. The only thing holding you back from reaching your grandest goals is yourself. However, we’re also told that it is important to remember to not consider yourself an exception to the rules that govern life. You are setting yourself up for failure by believing that you will be the one to change the world, when you’ll probably just end up working a nine-to-five office job in a cubicle. Lesson: Dream big, but it won’t get you anywhere.

Speaking of work, if you ever want to make anything of yourself, they say, you need to buckle down and focus on school 25 hours a day, eight days a week. You’re paying an exorbitant amount of money for a quality education, and every class session you skip is going to cost you a big chunk of change and your first-born child. But, you’ll hear, don’t forget to have fun. Your college years are the best years of your life, and making memories with your friends is what really matters in the grand scheme of things. Lesson: Put your nose to the grindstone, but live it up.

Once you do graduate college, you need to be sure not to fulfill the prophecy of the most recent label slapped on millennials: the “boomerang generation,” an adorably clever name that refers to young adults who leave home for school, then move back in after either attempting to live on their own or not even going that far. You’ll hear that if you don’t live on your own right out of school, you will NEVER leave. EVER. You’ll literally die in your parents’ house if you ever step foot back in your childhood bedroom. On the other hand,  so-called experts are quick to point out that it is highly economical to make this move, especially when you’re focusing on your job search. Living with your parents will save you money while you begin to make a plan to get on your own two feet. Lesson: I can’t even figure this one out. Don’t live anywhere, I guess.

Here’s some advice you might actually benefit from: think for yourself. If you think you’ll be better off living with your parents after graduation, go for it; if you consider that exam more important than your social life, stay in tonight; if you realize there is a one in a billion chance of getting your dream job, settle for a more realistic option. If you go looking for answers in other people, you are likely to end up disappointed and confused.

At important turning points in your life, everyone is eager to offer life advice that they genuinely believe will help ease the transition. Don’t get me wrong, I know that peoples’ intentions are benign. Nobody, I hope, sets out to bombard post-graduates with advice designed to cloud the already gray waters.

I am 100 percent terrified about what is going to happen to me after graduation, and I have heard arguments both supporting and discrediting this feeling. Rather than being volleyed back and forth between those who promise me I’ll be homeless and those who guarantee I’ll get a great job in a big city, I’m going to hang out in the middle, and try to figure it out on my own. If you’re in a similar conundrum, think about taking my anti-advice.