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the you show, starring you
where new graduates are going from here
by jael mchenry (@JaelMcHenry)

School’s almost out. If you’re graduating, from high school or college or grad school, you’re going to feel a strong obligation to get sentimental.


But! But! You say. This is the last time we’ll X! Never again will we Y! OMG I can’t believe a month from now we all won’t be here in this room learning/eating/drinking/smoking/mocking/dodging Z!

Resist. Rise above. Don’t give in to the urge to get weepy about the olden golden days of three-and-a-half months ago.

Your friends and parents and always-slightly-disappointing commencement speakers will tell you this is the end of a chapter. It’s not. It’s not a book at all. Your life is not a novel. So don’t think of graduating that way.

Think of it, instead, as a whole new TV show. The You Show, starring you.

In some cases, you’re going to keep things as level as possible. You might stay in the same city, working for a company where you were a summer intern or the one you worked for before grad school, and move smoothly into another phase that has a lot in common with this one. You’re Matt LeBlanc going from “Friends” to “Joey”… okay, maybe not, because you’re going to succeed. You’re Julia Louis-Dreyfus going from “Seinfeld” to “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” Better? Yes, I think so.

In others, you’re going to make a radical change. You’re going to go from the big city to the suburbs, or the North to the South, or freewheeling no-class-on-Friday student to never-see-the-sunlight investment banker, or make some other 180. You’re going from a high school student who’s never lived anywhere besides your parents’ house jumping into life as a semi-adult out at college. Or you're a lifelong academic looking at joining the world of work for the first time. You’re the guy who played the dad on “Malcolm in the Middle” jumping into a lead role as a drug dealer on “Breaking Bad.” Or hey, maybe you’re Kal Penn, ditching a fourth-banana position on “House” for an Obama administration job. Not a bad swap. It feels risky, but good, to make such a leap.

A variation on this: you’re not just glad to be making a change, you’re ecstatic. You’ve been miserable in school and you couldn’t be happier to get out. If this is you, I imagine you’re probably Katherine Heigl, soooo hoping this is it for Izzie on “Grey’s Anatomy”, desperate for your character to die of The Cancer or The Brain Tumor or The Ghost Sex Flu or whatever, so you can leave behind the soapy network ensemble for a star vehicle of some -- any, really -- kind.

And there’s a third option, of course. Sometimes, what’s coming next is… unknown. You’re Kristen Bell after her character got killed off on “Heroes,” making ends meet with “Gossip Girl” voiceover work until the Next Big Thing comes along. You’re Jason Bateman after the cancellation of “Arrested Development.” You’re someone, anyone, from “Pushing Daisies”, hoping the next thing you do is as cool as the last one, but not yet knowing what that’ll be.

But no matter what your high school/college/grad school show was like (“90210”? “My So-Called Life”? “Veronica Mars”?) you’re moving on. Embrace it. The new show already has a timeslot on the network’s fall schedule, and it’s time to shoot the pilot.

A life without change is boring, right? Otherwise we’d all be “Law & Order.”


Jael is tired of being stereotyped as just another novelist/poet/former English teacher/tour guide/"Jeopardy!" semifinalist/bellydancing editor-in-chief with an MFA who was once an overachieving oboe-playing alto newspaper editor valedictorian from Iowa. She was also captain of the football cheerleading squad. Follow me on Twitter: @jaelmchenry

more about jael mchenry


another season, another reason
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topic: television
published: 5.3.02

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topic: television
published: 6.1.09


sandra thompson
5.4.09 @ 8:33a

Jael, in all your wisdom, you're offering really good advice! I loved the Law and Order dig! (I love Law and Order, too, so it's okay. As I tell my lawyer daughter when she trips me up on a point of law, Well, what do you expect from someone who learned all her law on Law and Order?) Ha ha ha.... it was funny the first time I said it. It would prolly be even funnier if a lawyer said it.......Sigh!

joe redden tigan
5.16.09 @ 9:51a

i agree about commencement speakers always seeming slightly disappointing, large task that it is. this one by david foster wallace to kenyon university grads came close for me though: http://samizdat.cc/shelf/documents/2005/06.29-dfw/dfw.pdf
I'm a DFW fan, though, which helps. (Hope that link still works...)

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