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Voices of the Class of 2012: I'm done with college. Thank god.

Posted by Alex Pearlman  May 24, 2012 02:05 PM

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graduation hats.jpgThis is part of an on-going series from members of Boston's class of 2012. Check back throughout the week for more.

By Mike Flanagan

My girlfriend feels bad for me. She was telling me about the rigors of planning her graduation dinner, doling out invitations, writing thank-you cards, etc. Her parents rented out a part of the Abington Ale House for 80 of her closest friends and relatives. They took us out to Maggiano’s on Columbus Avenue after her graduation from BU on Sunday and racked up a hell of a bill.

My parents took us out to Joe’s American Bar and Grille at the South Shore Plaza after I graduated from Emerson last week. I got cards from my nana and godmother, and that’s about it. Nobody is planning a party for me. In fairness, I asked my parents not to.

“It really is a big deal, though,” my girlfriend insisted. “I feel like your graduation was so anticlimactic.”

Yeah, but that’s the way I wanted it.

It would be a hilarious understatement to say that my social experience at Emerson was disappointing. After I graduated from an all-male, mostly white Jesuit high school, I looked forward to entering a new environment of open-mindedness and diversity at Emerson.

Nope.

In my four years there, I was called a sexist because I held doors open for my girlfriend, a racist because I defended John Mayer for his sexual preferences (to me, it’s the same as preferring brunettes over blondes—for the record, I did not condone the “white supremacist” bit), and a homophobe because I’m uncomfortable with people singing vociferously in public where it’s completely inappropriate (like in a room full of people studying, for example).

My academic experience was a different story. I learned twice as much about writing than I ever thought I had to. Most of my professors were incredibly helpful and, I assume, will continue to be.

Still, I’m just happy to be out of there. Happy, but not overwhelmed with rehearsed nostalgia like most of my classmates. Just happy to move on.

Why wouldn’t I be? None of my few friends from Emerson are going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve been living at home with my parents for the past three years anyway, so it’s not like I’m suddenly cut off and scrambling to pay rent on my own dime. I’m already content with my identity as a townie.

Besides, I already have a job. It pays crap and it’s not quite full-time, but that’s more than most graduates can say a week after graduation.

I’m covering high school sports for the Patriot Ledger—a far cry from the music-related work I did for WECB at Emerson and do for TNGG. It’s not what I want to do forever, but if it’s the first step to someday getting paid to watch Celtics games, I’ll sit through as many unwatchable softball and lacrosse games as they want me to.

The gig has helped me gain confidence in my least favorite aspect of reporting: interviewing. The high school coaches and players actually want to talk to me and get in the paper, so it’s a nice buffer to help me transition into the real world of journalism where I’ll have to go against my nature and pry into people’s private lives.

The best part about my job at the Ledger, though, is that it allowed me to come off my hellish last week of finals and just relax for a minute. Even better, it gives me time to work on my own projects, some of which are just for me, some of which might make me some money someday if I apply myself.

I think it’s probably every burgeoning freelance writer’s goal, for example, to start his or her own publication. I’d love to start an online magazine that bears little resemblance to an actual magazine and reports on anything and everything about our culture from a unique vantage point. Unfortunately, Bill Simmons beat me to the punch. Now I’ll have to figure something else out.

But that’s the best part about my life immediately post-graduation—I have time. One of the many things about Emerson that didn’t gibe with my personality or lifestyle was its emphasis on speed, immediacy, and sexiness. I have trouble writing about anything unless I have time to let it settle in. That’s why I no longer put any stock in trends and have trouble taking 99 percent of new music seriously.

That’s why I’m so relieved to be done with Emerson. Now I can write and create things on my own time and terms.

Ironically, Emerson gave me more confidence in my talent and capabilities by making me feel like a sexist, racist, homophobic black sheep. I needed to see that self-proclaimed ‘non-conformists’ at Emerson are every bit as conformist as the lacrosse-playing, Jack Johnson-listening, white hat-wearing Jesuit schoolboys from my class of 2008.

Without that perspective, I never would have learned how to think for myself. I might have been on track to be a professional tastemaker for Pitchfork after graduation—someone who uses the word “indie” to describe bands like Radiohead and Modest Mouse with a straight face. Someone who loves that damn Gotye song this month and claims to have always hated it the next.

I know I want my work to be much more substantial than that, I just don’t know exactly what that work will be. For the first time in my life, I feel much better not knowing. And I don’t need to shed any tears for my alma mater to figure it out.

Photo by jeco (Flickr)

About Mike -- I graduated with a degree in journalism from Emerson College in December. I've done investigative work for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and covered beats in Bridgewater and Dorchester, but my passion is music. When I'm not blurring the line between obsession and enjoyment while listening to Pavement or Bruce Springsteen, I'm punching walls over the Celtics. Twitter:@mikeflanagan2.

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