Recently, I presented to my history class, “America in the 1960s,” a presentation on the film The Graduate. I watched this movie for the first time when I was 17 in high school. I could not relate to any of the characters and frankly found it disturbing that Benjamin had an affair with his parent’s friend, Mrs. Robinson, and then fell in love with her daughter, Elaine. However, my tune has changed. As I have matured and rewatched the film many times over, I have gained an appreciation for its cultural significance in the 1960s and how it spoke to a population of youth feeling pressure from an older generation to live a certain way. I cannot say that I relate to the actions of its characters, but I can relate heavily to Benjamin’s struggles to figure out what he wants to do.
After my presentation, my professor asked if the film was that relatable today as my group included modern critiques and reviews of young people relating to Benjamin. I do not think they were thinking of his affair. I thought of how I felt as a teen compared to a young adult watching the film. The film has many aspects that college students and recent grads experience today. There is a scene at the beginning where Benjamin’s parents have a graduation party for him and everyone is asking what he’s going to do. Benjamin hilarious says that he’s going upstairs. But that’s not what they meant. They meant what is he going to do with his life. I experienced something similar at Christmas. My parents host a Christmas party every year and all of their friends asked me the same question. I still had a semester left of college and I had no idea what I wanted to do, I still only vaguely know what I believe I want to do.
I firmly believe that I need real world experience in order to know fully, trial and error. The ability to blatantly state what you are going to do and what you want to do with your life is one I don’t think any 22-year-old has and yet every 22-year-old about to graduate college receives that question. So why do we ask it? Did they really know what they were going to do? I know it comes from a good place, they want to know where we will be and what we will be up to. But the existence of that question throughout my senior year is creating the notion that I need to know exactly what I’m doing.
But I simply don’t.
I know that it is okay if I do not know exactly what I will be doing the following Monday after graduating unlike some of my peers that will be starting their new jobs. And I expressed to my professor that this experience in the movie I lived in only months prior. While the film may not be representative of all recent college graduates, some aspects hit the nail on the head and therefore make the film still relevant today. The question of what’s next will forever be asked of us and the ability to be comfortable saying that we don’t know yet is one we need to work on.