MCCULLOUGH: Graduating to a new era in life

Will McCullough

Summer brings forth a fear of the season that strikes in the heart of many: summer jobs. Usually involving a tremendous amount of work, relative to the mood of the season, summer jobs are, in most cases, dreaded. After the long, arduous process that is a school year, all anyone wants to do is sit around and do nothing. This provides a sharp contrast between desired feeling and necessary work.

To this end, Easter break brought some of the most painful inquisitions from my parents to date. Even though I have secured some type of employment, it starts in August, which conveniently leaves the months of June and July open for summer employment. For the past four summers I have worked as a grounds keeper at a country club. The waking hours vary from 5 to 6:30 a.m. Additionally, although suburban Philadelphia’s weather pales in comparison to that of Southern California or Florida, the summers here eventually provide a climate that would be traditionally relegated to the Sahara or Gobi, which, I am sure you can imagine, go nicely with outdoor labor.

At some point in late June usually carrying past August into September, the freshness of spring succumbs to stifling conditions. This quickly replaces the jubilation one temporarily has for the ending of school with an intense desire to go back inside the nice, cool, air conditioned environment that is the classroom. Put another way, there comes a point in every summer when school seems entirely welcome rather than emphatically rejected.

When does this inevitable desire for school cease to take hold in mid- to late-summers? Temporarily it will end the May of everyone’s graduation year, but beyond temporarily when will the desire for education, not solely that in an academic setting, extinguish? If we take the individual summer as a microcosm, when things become too much to bear, one would theoretically desire to revert back to an educational experience.

This probably is not the case for many. Many, if it were socially acceptable, would choose the collegiate years as a career rather than an avenue to achieve higher education or a means to secure some type of compensation. This results in an everlasting extension of adolescence; formerly, responsibilities were undertaken at a much younger age rather than education taking the place.

Please, I am certainly not advocating an attitude of nostalgia for a time passed. When do summer jobs, even the more grown up version of summer internships, turn into real jobs? After graduation, people have to report to their new employers as early as June 15, less than a month after graduation. I am guessing that the stifling sensation, which precipitates a desire for school, will return in less than a month. Perhaps as a “cop out,” I will turn to some lines from a film that largely deals with this issue, “Billy Madison”: “Back to school. Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool. I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight. Ohhh, back to school. Back to school. Back to school. Well, here goes nothing.” After years of acting like a child, William has to return to school, albeit for an absurd reasoning, but he returns eventually because of the recognized need, not desire, to do so.

There is a significant gap when this desire is not only denied but also completely invalidated. At the point of actual gainful employment, you no longer are an endlessly extended adolescent masquerading as an adult, you have become an adult with adult responsibilities masquerading as an adolescent. Somehow, you must balance this intense desire to continue your youth with a direct, often urgent, need to continue youthful education.


Will McCullough is a senior English major and economics minor from Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].