Graduation Nightmare

So I was at the beach when somehow I was rounded up and placed on a bus. The understanding was that I was being taken somewhere where I would be killed.

Somewhere on the journey, I summoned my courage and jumped off the bus onto the highway. There I wandered until I found a gas station. I was thirsty and all I wanted was orange juice, but I couldn’t find any in the store.

Outside my classmates were preparing for graduation. In my dream the graduation was at my old high school, which happened to be just down the road. Eventually everyone started leaving but I still hadn’t started getting dressed.

Finally I pulled out my cap and gown, but I put the gown on backwards by accident and for some reason I had to detach a veil from the back of the cap with a zipper. Then I sprinted for miles and caught up with my class.

Cheerleaders were already on the field doing an expressive dance. I found my family up in the bleachers and sat with them. My mom noticed that my watch was running on the wrong time and wanted me to fix it.

Then in a bizarre climax, a girl from high school I marginally knew came up to my mom to thank her for several ceramic bowls that she had given her, but requested a plate to go with it so that she could eat a waffle. My mom said she would see what she could do. Meanwhile I was furious because I thought the girl was being ungrateful and rude for asking for additional gifts.

The last thing I remember was moving to sit away from my family, watching the cheerleaders, still brooding about the plates and the bowls.

Then I woke up.

Now I have to finish my assignment that’s due at 3:30.

If anyone would like to interpret this dream in the comment section feel free to do so.


Don’t follow your dreams.

That’s what Jeremy Reff might tell you. Reff is the round-faced, jovial vice president of corporate outreach for D.E. Shaw & Co., an investment firm based in New York City. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University in 2004. With a degree in English. And a specialization in modernist poetry, of all things.

Reff wears signature college bro plaid and jeans to work, and his shoulder-length hair and unshaven scruff might look more familiar in the quad than on the polished floors of a New York investment firm. He admits he used to fantasize about holing himself up somewhere to craft achingly beautiful poetry.

Now the closest Reff gets to such existential ecstasies are his lectures to the firm’s young recruits, where he discusses the importance being a lifelong learner and a responsible citizen.

So how the hell did this guy end up in finance? And why does he encourage other humanities graduates to abandon their lofty academic goals and follow the same path?

  • Reff got a job straight out of college at a firm he hated. But he soon quit, joined D.E. Shaw, and fell in love with the company’s values. He cautioned questioning youngsters to ask themselves what kind of people they want to work with when applying for jobs. “Are the people leading this company excited about the things I am deeply interested in?” Reff asked himself when he considered a position at D.E. Shaw. Evidently, the answer was yes.
  • I should mention that Reff and his colleagues are allowed to dress casually. Apparently there is no stigma attached to looking like a total hipster in the D.E. Shaw office, so what’s not to like?
  • You should know that your dream job is similar to a unicorn: You will probably never find either of those things, so stop looking now. “I think that there are unicorns out there and that they’re fantastic, but mostly they’re just painted horses,” Reff said. In other words, abandon those unicorn dreams and settle for a dependable 9 to 5.
  • Don’t go into academia. If you do, you will watch the circle of people you associate with grow smaller and smaller, until you are only capable of discussing your upcoming book on the racial politics of postcolonial Bolivian sculpture with the five people on this planet likely to read it — other professors in your department.
  • “Academia often provides a culture in which you don’t interact with a lot of people from different perspectives … In graduate programs and beyond you sort of specialize and you start having smaller and smaller conversations with people in your subfield,” Reff said. As opposed to the world of finance, where your colleagues will all be so very diverse!
  • Don’t pursue your passion as a career. Once you start getting paid to perform a task, that type of project will forever be linked with dirty capitalism in your mind: All the intellectual passion will disappear behind crushing pressure to make a few bucks.
  • Friends used to ask Reff, a notorious bookworm, whether he would consider a career in publishing. He always had the same answer ready: “No — I love books, but I wouldn’t want to go into publishing. I also love sex, but I wouldn’t want to go into working in a bordello.”
  • Ultimately, no matter which job you land after college, Reff said it’s healthy to ask yourself one important question from time to time: “What do I want to be doing next year?”

Well, Jordan and I have got the question bit down, and as for the rest … ahem, one step at a time.

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— Arielle