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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

#1 To-Do: quietly change the world

Jacqueline Quillen

(June, 2010) On the very last day of final exams I submitted my last take-home assignment at 3 PM, and finally finished college. I had been counting on the excitement and relief of this moment for the longest and also the most stressful time. Even my roommates anticipated this moment all week long and kept encouraging me.

I was shocked to find that the feeling of relief was much worst than I expected. My brain felt relieved for finishing all that strenuous work, but at 3 PM that Friday I suddenly felt this massive weight in my chest that traveled all the way down to my stomach, where it then felt like a giant football just resting there. What was wrong with me? Then it hit me Ė I have no more to-do lists.

As I mentioned before I have an obsessive compulsive tendency to write to-do lists, and rarely do these to-do lists work the way they are supposed to Ė write down a task, do the task, cross it off the list. My "Finish College" to-do list, however, successfully worked in this way, which completely threw me off. At 3 PM on every previous Friday I would make a to-do list for the weekend. But on this particular Friday, on this 14th day of May in 2010, I had no to-do list to write, and yet still felt panicked that there was so much to do.

As I analyze this screwed-up mentality, I have come to the conclusion that college, though wonderful, made me almost insane. Think about it Ė I work well under pressure, so I spent a lot of time procrastinating until my brain was at its peak to produce good work in a limited amount time; but then I spent more time stressing myself out by writing forever-long to-do lists, which served the sole purpose of sitting on my nightstand as a dust collector. Donít get me wrong Ė a to-do list is very beneficial and I am one who needs to write everything down in order to be productive. But who in their right mind writes five of the same to-do lists Ė with some minor differences, to give myself some credit. Therefore to keep my sanity I will never resort to using to-do lists the way I did in college, but rather make and use a to-do list the right way.

The heavy pressure I felt after finishing college eventually went away when I saw my family for graduation weekend. I knew they were proud of me, but just seeing them there made me feel proud of myself. My grandparents were proud of me for being their first grandchild to graduate from college, so it meant a lot for me to have them there.

My mother keeps worrying because I donít have a teaching job or an acceptance letter from grad school yet, but it is all in the working and what is meant to happen will happen. The amazing part is that I am the one without a job, facing an extremely competitive job market, and yet I am calming my motherís nerves, telling her that everything will work out. I guess I have that mountain peace that makes me want to live the most out of every day without wasting time worrying about things. Thanks Mount! Can you send my mom an application?

Some people (like my mother) may think Iím being unrealistic and not taking this job market seriously. They are wrong; I am definitely aware of how serious it is. I spent last Fall researching the job market for college grads and writing about hot topics for fellow Mounties. After every article I wrote I would frantically look for job openings that I could apply for. I know itís not a joke, and that I have to work hard to succeed, but I know I will be okay no matter what happens. Iíve faced rejection. Iíve picked myself back up. Iíve graduated from college in four years after changing my major twice and withdrawing from a full semester of classes. But most importantly, I have never forgotten where I come from, where I am, or where I am going. I have my goals and Iím going for them. Itís not going to be easy, but it is, after all, the hard work that pays off.

The New York Times recently featured an article about the difficulty college graduates are facing finding teaching jobs. The article notes that 90 education majors who just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania are jobless, partially due to the hiring freeze in the Philadelphia public school system. Many cities are on a hiring freeze for teacher positions, but the applications still keep flooding in. This obviously scares me because I do not even have an education degree Ė that is what I am working towards either through a teaching job or through grad school.

The sad thing is that even teacher-education or teacher-service programs that place teachers in under-resourced schools have to be so selective in their acceptance process because of the amount of candidates who apply. According to Winnie Hu with the New York Times, "The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors, and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression."

In the Commencement Address to the Mountís class of 2010, President of Catholic Relief Services, Kenneth Hackett, did not bother candy-coating the harsh reality of the job market for the graduates. Hackettís message to graduates was about taking what we have learned from our institution and bringing it out into the world. Though not all Mount graduates are Catholic, everyone chose to graduate from a Catholic institution, meaning that our education was grounded with a strong foundation in morality and ethics. Hackett advised us to be meek in our lives, reminding us of the beatitude, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Usually when we hear the word Ďmeek,í we do not think of inheriting the earth. Hackett said the opposite of meek is arrogance, which definitely gets us into to trouble. But to be meek means to approach a problem ready to learn what it is that might lead to a solution, and to approach people with a willingness to serve and help in whatever way needed.

Hackett gave us the "right formula for business," which is to serve others. He said that our motto should be "What can I do to serve you?" "It will put you in the right relationship not just with your customers, your co-workers, employees but more importantly with your friends, with your spouse, with your children, and with your God." For me, and I hope for the rest of my graduating class, this was the most whole-hearted and useful advice that not only every college grad, but every person in the world should hear, understand, and put to use. Our world today is suffering because people do not live by this motto. It is common sense and also the golden rule Ė do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Read past editions of Jacqueline Quillen's Four Years at the Mount