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My younger sister has always been a real size queen about presents. Last Christmas I bought her a gift certificate to H&M, but I put it in a really big box. I taped the little gift-card holder to the bottom and filled it with crumpled newspaper and a heavy log. She saw the 20” x 24” situation and got pretty excited, shaking it every now and then for a week or two before the big day, trying to guess at just what on her wish list might be crinkling and clunking around in there.

Given the mysterious and inconclusive lead-up, the reveal was priceless. She mostly thought it was funny, but I watched her excitement turn to confusion, then dismay, and then excitement again, diminished this time, tinged with the disappointment of not having received something larger. Still, I thought $25 was pretty generous for a guy with no job.
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As a college student, I frequently met the question, “What do you want to do when you graduate?” or, even more generously, “What field do you think you might want to go into?” or, more often in my senior year, “What are your plans?” As a graduate, the Future has dropped off the face of the Present, and the questions have been reduced to the disappointingly broad and immediate, “What are you doing?”

No longer afforded the luxury of plans and the grace of aspirations, the graduate’s future is happening, now. No longer is it a matter of choice and planning, but rather one of presence and stasis. Where are you now, and what are you doing?
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Since the dawn of dot-com career sites, a job search entails little more than an endless browse—the online equivalent of wandering past every shelf in a bookstore, head cocked to one side, scanning the bindings. Looking for something, but the author’s name hangs just past the tip of the tongue. Unemployment is at 9.1 percent; in a surprising twist, I’m dying to be a part of The Other 90.9.

The slow burn of online job searching opens the door to a certain degree of poetic license, if only to assuage the litany of nouns that couldn’t possibly apply to sad, sweatpanted, page-refreshing you: analyst, executive, coordinator. The last thing I coordinated was the programming on my DVR (when you wake up after eleven you miss all the morning Frasier reruns). And so, the unemployed multitudes arm themselves with vocabulary and a generous belief in their abilities and wonder aloud into the wee hours whether “head photocopy intern” might be better expressed as “director of photography.” (My favorite such semantic upgrade is my boyfriend’s translation of “busboy” as “waiter’s assistant.”)
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