Coming to grips with one’s changing identity and environment, moving from student to something else and from college town to somewhere else, can be anxiety provoking. This prompted University of Pennsylvania senior Dayana Mustak to tape interviews she conducted with some of her friends and mentors about this process she refers to as “adulting.”
“I was basically asking people about whether they were ready to leave [UPenn], and if not, why? And how did they know they were ready to leave?” And she asked, “What did we get out of college that makes us ready for the real world?”
Mustak, an economics major with an interest in broadcast journalism, also interviewed University Chaplain Chaz Howard for this personal project.
In their conversation, she said: “One of the things that makes me feel ashamed, if I may, is that I won’t be getting a high paying job in finance. It’s not really about status, but it’s also this degree of perceived financial stability and security.”
Mustak has applied for a journalism internship with National Public Radio this fall.
“There is a notion in the back of my mind that a Penn degree promises to get you ahead in life, and yet I feel that I’m falling behind sometimes because I’m not set for life with a signing bonus. What would you say about that?” she asked the chaplain.
“I think a lot of students, present and past, have wrestled with that feeling,” he responded. “Shame, as you said, or feeling unworthy or that I let the team down. The first thought I have is where’s that feeling coming from? Are these familial expectations?”
“Most of that is sort of self-imposed. The overwhelming majority of parents want their kids to be comfortable and eat and pay rent. We want our kids to find joy,” he said.
“Of course there is always the proud parent who puts the sticker on the back of the car that says ‘Penn.’ And tell our friends our kids are going to be a Supreme Court justice or billionaire. But if there is true joy and fulfillment, I’d say 95 percent of parents would say as long as you’re eating and happy, I’m good.
“Still,” he continued, “when I graduated, one of my best friend got a six-figure job and right out of school I moved to Boston and was a janitor and worked at a bookstore to try to take a couple classes at a grad school, making like six dollars. There were some moments when I would meet up with him and he treated. I loved the generosity.
There is something very humbling or humiliating about that, which isn’t easy.
“The challenge is to chase joy.”
WHYY Morning Edition Host Jennifer Lynn recorded Mustak and Howard talking about adulting. Listen to their conversation below.