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Forget Debt, I Hope I Won't Be Graduating in Mountains of Doubt

College taught me to believe in human potential, but in post-grad adulthood, it's all too common to express doubt in another's ability, and to do so as if it were some sign of wisdom.
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Now that President Obama has pushed legislation through Congress that will ease student loan penalties and increase money for Pell grants, I'm relieved that my classmates and I will not graduate in gargantuan piles of debt. Instead, I'm concerned about having our youthful enthusiasm mired by a far worse enemy sharing the same consonants: doubt.

Doubt -- that concept made famous by Meryl Streep in the 2007 Academy-Award nominated film of the same name -- is a fixture of popular culture and modern life. But I only recently became personally acquainted.

You see, I am about to leave college, otherwise known as the most perfect non-consecutive thirty-six months of my life. Here, I was treated to a host of intellectual delights and a meal plan. I was coddled and I was well-fed. I had friends, resident advisors, professors, and other people I paid to care about and believe in me. Everywhere was inspiration and hope.

And now, six weeks out from graduation, I find myself feeling such doubt. Doubt about whether post-grad life can ever live up to the precedent of the last four years. Doubt about whether I can ever live up to the promises I made to myself about "seeing the world" and "doing good" and "writing the next great American rom-com." Doubt about whether that ever-present knot in my stomach is clinical lactose intolerance or just anxiety.

I'm not opposed to feeling doubt in all circumstances and after all, a little self-doubt can go a long way. There's no motivator quite like insecurity. (Just look at Einstein--with hair like that, you'd have to compensate with genius!) And, it's normal to be apprehensive about overwhelming change. Doubt is a natural course for the reflective mind, an important part of self-realization.

But, I cannot understand or tolerate doubt that exists only to deflate the dreams of others. People -- adults and some prematurely sour adolescents -- often disguise this mean-spiritedness as "skepticism." And these self-appointed skeptics will take you and your imaginative dream to task just for fun, just for the pleasure of embarrassing you when you talk animatedly about your desire to caravan across the Sahara or learn how to fly hot air balloons. These doubters ask such annoying, pragmatic questions as "How much does that cost?" "Do your parents know about that?" and "Isn't that country on the State department watch list?"

This kind of limiting caution and doubt are all but the mottos of a guarded adulthood. I'm all for food safety, but I don't much care for the FDA's pessimistic slogan, "When in doubt, throw it out!" Must we always be suspicious of one another? Why do we have such little faith in our fellow man?

College taught me to believe in human potential, but in post-grad adulthood, it's all too common to express doubt in another's ability, and to do so as if it were some sign of wisdom. We are expected to hold up our nose at any creative idea that is "unrealistic" or "implausible." We are beholden to impersonal facts and statistics more than we are to a friend's dreams and plans.

I'm afraid that as I grow up, I will find myself repeating the bitter words of my (imaginary) Great-Uncle, who cuts me off mid-fantasy by saying, "That isn't the way the world works, Cookie."

"Don't call me, Cookie!" I say in return, objecting some to the gendered and condescending nickname, but more so to his overreaching negativity. He might have sold me on Cuban cigars, but he can never sour me on the world.

Come May, we graduates will look naive and goofy in our mortar boards and gowns, carrying newly minted diplomas and a false sense of confidence in our dreams. Our "Yes We Can" spirit may seem silly in this age of economic troubles, our "Can-do" outlook might be nauseatingly hopeful, but please, whatever you say to us, whatever unsolicited advice you might offer--try not to doubt us.