Songs for the Recent Graduate

Pity this season's graduating classes. Third Eye Blind's "Graduate" ringing in their ears, they leave behind Ugg-scuffed gymnasiums, trashed sorority houses and the familiar comforts of binge drinking, not for fame or fortune or stratospheric blog hits, but for the soul-crushing desolation of a static computer screen or a watched iPhone that won't ring. In the 1990s, pop group Cake made going "The Distance" sound epic and awesome. But anybody with a fresh degree or diploma to flaunt knows that's bunk -- the gauntlet of papers, exams and orals is torture unless you're some sort of sado-masochist. And to fight through all that just to discover that no one's hiring? Rough stuff, especially if the first call you got ...Expand ยป

Pity this season's graduating classes. Third Eye Blind's "Graduate" ringing in their ears, they leave behind Ugg-scuffed gymnasiums, trashed sorority houses and the familiar comforts of binge drinking, not for fame or fortune or stratospheric blog hits, but for the soul-crushing desolation of a static computer screen or a watched iPhone that won't ring. In the 1990s, pop group Cake made going "The Distance" sound epic and awesome. But anybody with a fresh degree or diploma to flaunt knows that's bunk -- the gauntlet of papers, exams and orals is torture unless you're some sort of sado-masochist. And to fight through all that just to discover that no one's hiring? Rough stuff, especially if the first call you got in weeks was from a TIME reporter researching a cover story on "the new, hyper-educated joblessness."

Reality bites, and the heydays of being guaranteed even a crap starter gig are long gone; it may be better to settle for an unpaid internship (Green Day, "No Pride") than to stew in your parents' attic (Fur, "Devil to the Lamb"), fantasize about making a mark via suicide (Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, "My Mysterious Death"), or medicate yourself into a coma to the plangent, ironically calibrated tune of Switchfoot's "I Dare You to Move" or Jack Johnson's juvenile-cum-toke-friendly "Upside Down." Ultimately, the best position to assume is one that combines positivity with realism and pragmatism: Push yourself out of bed to Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten," suit up to The Chemical Brothers' "Galvanize," roll up to the interview on time rocking A Tribe Called Quest's "Award Tour." Remember: Everyone is special in a unique way, there's a place for you (Barbra Striesand, "Somewhere"), confidence is usually infectious, and even pop-culture icons fall prey to "The Fear" that Pulp delineated so well way back in Clinton's boom-economy '90s.

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