Greetings, graduates of the University of Montana's class of 2011. In the next few days you'll hear addresses about the promises ahead from newly anointed UM President Royce Engstrom and revered broadcaster Tom Brokaw. You'll sit through brunch with parents who will offer similar pearls of wisdom. But here's the rub: A large number of you won't, in fact, go anywhere. Missoula has this funny way of holding onto even the most promising aspiring executive. So settle in, class of 2011. You could be here awhile.
We were fresh UM grads not long ago. And we can't for the life of us remember what our esteemed commencement speakers said. That's because there are lessons you won't learn during all that pomp. Post-college life in Missoula requires a skill set usually reserved for scroungers in World War II P.O.W. flicks and survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It's grad-eat-grad out here.
Our first tip: use the powers of positivity as often as possible. If you're jobless, you're not unemployed—you're "fun-employed." A checking account is never empty, just interest-challenged. There's no shame in admitting the highlight of your Tuesday afternoon was catching an eight-inch rainbow on the Blackfoot; you were merely fishing for bait.
Of course, it always helps to surround yourself with people who are a little more successful than you. Practice your "I'll be rich someday" shtick and make it convincing. You might not have a job for your first year or so, but a good story can sway friends into thinking you're good for any money they throw down.
There's a lot of easy cash to be had around Missoula. One look at the bathroom wall advertisements around town should tell you how much demand there is for blood, plasma, and certain other "contributions." But you don't have to sacrifice the next generation to make ends meet. When Mom and Dad are tapped out, grab that guitar and start plucking near the Saturday markets. Or take advantage of the GOP's war on medical marijuana and mark up your product. It'll be in high demand.
We could offer an endless list of tips on winning "Survivor: Missoula," but the bottom line is you shouldn't feel embarrassed about sticking around Missoula. After all, this is one of the few towns on the planet where your garbage man has a Ph.D. in philosophy and your barista majored in international politics.
You'll find your niche eventually. So we'll leave you with one last nugget we doubt you'll hear from Brokaw:
As long as you have a tent, you'll never be homeless.