My father, a 1986 Harding alumnus, had a column in this very publication titled “Given to Extremes.” He wrote a piece called “The Harding Epic: Journey to Find a Real Job.” Though the piece was published in 1985-1987, the pain-soaked satire rings true today. Inspired by my father and guided by the words of William Blake’s “The Tyger,” I continue: As college students and millennials, we are cursed before we start by judgments and expectations.
The comparisons grow more crippling every day. No, I have not been in the trenches. No, I did not know what it was like in your cloud of smoke. “In what distant deeps or skies / Burnt the fire of thine eyes?” I do not know your battles, but I know mine. I am looking down a different barrel.
I know I have to go to graduate school in order to practice in my field and in order to be taken seriously. I know I am completely dependent on my parents for that to happen and for many other things. I know I am supposed to compete and be the best at whatever I do in order to be respected.
“On what wings dare he aspire? / What the hand dare seize the fire?” But amidst the chaos of details and applications, I know I want to save just about everyone on this planet, because the world seems smaller every time I open Twitter. Two words, real world, are an enigma and a weapon of fear. “What the hammer? what the chain?” There is so much we can see as soon as we decide to look for it. News, good and bad, is a touch away. Pain is all around us, and yes we are privileged, and that was given to us. A product of generosity. We are grateful. If nothing else, we are grateful.
However, you have to understand we bear the weight of the future now. We feel it, every one of us, just as you did. The world is breaking in different ways today than yesterday. There are different solutions. There is more listening to do than talking. There is more healing than fixing. In these holes, there is room for writing, painting, singing and dreaming out loud. “Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”
Sometimes, I feel like I should be taller when I stand up. Most of the time, I feel my reach will never go as far as I yearn. I can go anyway. I can start small. Or big. You can make phone calls from a cubicle and change the world. You can cook good food and make someone warm for a while. You can go to Alaska and give tours from bush planes. You can work for the BBC directly from London. You can write a book or a screenplay. You can teach children to sing. You can hold a grandmother’s hand while she learns to speak again.
So as we look for, hope for, pray for and yes, work for real jobs, know we have dream jobs too. Know that we are thinking big but feel small, and we want to make a difference that lasts. We climb atop our ambitions and quest forward, armed with curiosity, good will and knowledge. We know what we face. You have told us. “What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” Be we Lambs or Tigers, we are, as a generation, unprecedented and unbound.
The ground is ours to beat, limitless. This is a heroine’s journey. This is my Father’s world. I only want to make it better if I cannot make it right.
Written by Suzanna Thompson