College loans and job-search groans

Where did all the good, high-paying jobs for B.A.’s in English Lit go all of a sudden? Four years of my life, wasted.

Actually, the years weren’t wasted; I was. Now I’m going to have to move back into my parents’ house. Well, not my parents’ house, because they don’t have one anymore. They’ve moved back in with their parents. So I’ll be living in my grandparents’ house with them. It’s like living in the world’s worst frat house. No binge drinking allowed, and they expect me to be out of bed by 6 a.m. How did things come to this?

We didn’t have the biggest house in our subdivision, but my siblings and I each had an extra bedroom for our toys and clothes, and the four-car garage had plenty of room for our golf clubs and kayaks. Dad put in a pool, and Mom had the kitchen redone to look like an Italian palace she saw on one of our twice-a-year cruises. Then, all of a sudden, we’re broke. I never did figure out how that happened. Where did all the money go?

Grandpa is an electrician, and Grandma never worked outside the house. They never went to college, they never take vacations and they still live in a tiny house they bought when they were first married. With cash, Grandpa keeps telling me, he doesn’t owe anyone a penny. Well, duh. He never buys anything. Anybody could do that. Gramps says, “What do I need a big house for?” He needs it so that my parents and I don’t have to keep bumping into one another, that’s why.

I don’t know why he and Grandma seem so happy. They don’t have anything. His car is from the ‘90s! There’s not an HDTV in the house; they don’t even get basic cable. He’s never heard of “Halo” and “World of Warcraft” or beer pong. He wouldn’t know an app if it bit him on the face. He doesn’t know how to text, yet they still let him drive, even though he’s in his 60s!

Me, I’m $130,000 in debt, and no one wants to learn about Chaucer. I should have majored in something more practical, like astronomy or anthropology, where the big bucks are.

I went to Starbucks yesterday to catch up with some of my classmates, who aren’t having any better luck finding a job than I am.

“The whole market for M.F.A.’s has disappeared too,” Faberge told me. “It’s as if no one wants curators for private art collections anymore. I’ll never be able to pay off my student loans. If only I had learned how to use a tattoo needle. That’s where all the money is in contemporary art. But my parents don’t understand. They think instead of spending $16 a day at Starbucks, I should be working at one. Like that’s going to pay my bills. They are so stuck in the past.”

“Why don’t you just start painting and sell your stuff for a couple million dollars a canvas?” I asked. “After all, you have a degree, and a lot of way famous artists never had a degree.”

“Good idea. And why don’t you just go home and knock out a few best-sellers?”

“I studied English, not writing.”

“You couldn’t go read Dickens at the library for free? You had to go to college for that?” Faberge is totally lacking in the sympathy department. He and my grandfather would get along well.

“Why would anyone read Dickens if they didn’t have to?” I replied. “That’s the whole college experience — doing things that make you miserable. My cousin Billy wouldn’t do it. He and I are exactly the same age, and he spent the last four years learning how to be an electrician with my granddad. He could have gone to college, but he’d rather do something he likes. It’s going to hold him back the rest of his life.”

“Wait a minute,” Faberge said. “Didn’t he just get married and buy a house?”

“Yeah, a little one.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“No, but he said there wasn’t enough room for me to move in with them.”

Jim Mullen’s newest book, “How to Lose Money in Your Spare Time — At Home,” is available at You can follow him on Pinterest at

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