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Spring 1999: Studentspeak

Etiquette and the future were on the minds of grads-to-be at the senior conference.

Spring 1999: Studentspeak

Etiquette and the future were on the minds of grads-to-be at the senior conference.

We came to the senior conference for two reasons: to gain a broader awareness of the issues facing us after graduation, and to demystify the procession of forks at the sides of our plates.

The formal dinner, the expected highlight of the weekend, humbled us quickly. Usually suave seniors, we stared at our plates, where fish, tails folded through their mouths, stared back at us. Salt and pepper learned to travel as a unit. Bread was buttered one bite at a time.

But if we were humbled by the code of our cutlery, we were inflated by the last of the keynote speakers, young Patrick Combs. His message was, essentially, that graduates should choose careers that truly make them happy, not ones they think they “ought” to pursue. Citing the example of a young man who loved to play video games and ultimately found a job doing just that, Pat showed us we really could reach our dreams, even if they took place on a screen.

Something seemed a bit lacking in his message, though. Something about encouraging seniors at a respected college to pursue careers that coddled the self, even if in video games, was a bit skewed. Shouldn’t his presentation at least mention making a wider impact on society?

“That’s great that you’re really passionate about that,” he told me, “but I think the first message everybody needs to hear is to make themselves happy, and if some people want to make helping their career, they can do that.”

So much for a broader awareness.

I think most of us felt no less nervous about the fate awaiting us after graduation and not quite certain how to go about the all-important act of networking. But we certainly knew how to manipulate our soup spoons: Tilt the bowl away from the mouth as you dip each spoonful, avoiding a circular shoveling motion. Sip delicately.

And if anything inappropriate is swimming in your soup, do not comment. The underpaid dishwasher, who is doing what he loves to do, will take care of it after the meal.