An open advice letter from an SSDP alum

An open advice letter from an SSDP alum

Dear SSDP alumnus,

Congratulations on your recent, impending or long forgotten graduation!

If you are looking for helpful advice regarding job interviews or resume building you will surely have better luck scouring a reputable source such as Buzzfeed or Clickhole and compiling a list of Do’s and Don’ts for ‘adulting’. The first should be to stop referring to menial tasks that contribute to your sustenance and survival as ‘adulting’. My advice? Stop writing your resume altogether. Instead, live your life and let the resume write itself.

Instead of discussing the awesome things we all know to be true about SSDP, this blog post aims instead to elucidate all of the awesome things you know, or don’t know yet, about yourself. As a recent graduate you may find yourself at a four-dimensional crossroads seeking to determine what your future will hold and where it will take you. The first step is figuring out what to do with all of the time you will no longer be dedicating to term-papers, research labs, and cramming “knowledge” into your temporal lobe. Hint: night time is traditionally for sleeping whereas daytime is for doing things other than sleeping.

The multi-faceted purpose of higher education is up for debate and under intense scrutiny now as much as ever. Mounting financial debts and open-ended degrees in the humanities are causes of existential dread for many of us, even years after graduating. Ideally, the returns on your investment will manifest in a well-educated world view, a structurally sound basis for intellectual growth, and the resources and knowhow necessary to secure financial stability. On the other hand, you may have learned that monetary systems are a contrived notion and nothing of worldly value will bring you lasting joy. In either case, this advice should provide you enough guidance and reassurance to alleviate societal pressures to begin, advance, or surrender to your career.

If you are hunting for a job it stands to reason that you want to have the most robust resume, chalk full of hefty work experience, a polished skill set, and the dankest references.

SSDP comprises some of the most visionary and enterprising youth activist leaders. Whatever your accomplishments may be, they are not to be downplayed. Your resume is likely an incredible list that not only illustrates what you have accomplished but sets the stage for what you can be expected to accomplish in the future.

Moving forward through time, your world and worldview will inevitably look a bit different each day. No matter what you are doing to occupy your time, your resume will look very different in five years than it looks now. The age old conundrum of needing 2-3 years of experience to secure an ‘entry-level position’ is an elementary paradox once you understand the transcendentalist belief that all experiences are good experience. If you’re having trouble finding such gainful employment and resume builders, then look instead to find meaningful employment and work on projects that interest you. Host a weekly open mic, publish a zine, or volunteer to organize around an important local issue. Years from now you’ll be prouder to showcase your experience producing a podcast than your experience working in a call center.

You have absolute control over what you will experience. You may find that jumping immediately into a 9-to-5 soul-sucker may provide financial stability, but it may not be provide a dynamic environment to grow into your own. Of course, the straight life and the fast life have never been mutually exclusive. Life is inherently a juggling act, but you get to decide whether you are juggling balls, bowling pins, or flaming chainsaws. You also get to decide how many objects you can keep in the air at a time.

If you do not trust the author on his ideas of free will, then take it from a puppet. “Do or do not there is no try.” – Yoda. The duality contained within the puppet’s deterministic double speak at least indicates that you have an option. Sure, you can definitely do, but you can just as easily do not. Whichever route you take, just be sure you have a contingency plan. I recommend this not because I anticipate you to fail at some point (I know I have) and not because your Plan A will not prove fruitful. I emphasize the value of having a Plan B because it may have been your Plan A from Day 1, and it is hard to be fully cognizant of that fact. Your auxiliary aspirations, whether artistic, political, or creative, can and will serve a specific role in your professional life. For many, the value of a side hustle extends beyond its role as supplementary income. Instead, it serves as a daily escape from the attempts at organizing oneself within the chaos of the working world.

Whether you have one Plan B, or many Plans B, C, D, etc, do not think of it as an ‘escape plan’ but view it more as an ‘evasive maneuver’ should you have a change of heart. If drug policy reform really does not work out for the author of this blog post, you may see him happily pursuing a career playing acoustic blues guitar.

If you want to travel the world, start looking at flights or bus tickets now! Take day trips to peculiar corners of your state. Travel consciously, respectfully, and with a deep desire to broaden your worldview. Make sure each step in a new land is heavy with intent. If you want to bum around town, remain curious and never view your situation as static. Find whatever it is you have never seen, heard, or experienced in your hometown. Don’t look for a niche to fill but carve your own. The author has found peace, love, and happiness in the heart of Detroit. You can find those things anywhere, for they flourish everywhere.

Regardless of your situation, never get comfortable in any position or path you may find yourself. Likely, you have already chosen a harrowing and righteous path as an activist which means comfortability is not an option. So keep in mind that standing still is the only truly directionless action. Even while sitting still, you can find a way to fly by the seat of your pants. When you find yourself intermittently floating in limbo just remember that the best option is always forward and up.

Nick Zettell ’09

This blog post is part of our annual SSDP Alumni Association membership drive. Join the Alumni Association before Friday, May 26 and be entered to win a free SSDP2018 conference registration or a $50 Amazon gift card!