I originally wrote this as a submission piece for another blog, but my depression and self-hatred decided to keep it hidden. What I've written is not new, nor noteworthy, but it's still an experience and understanding that the majority of us can relate to. My struggles add to my self-hatred, but I do my best to fight in the moments where I find peace with myself.
I like to think of my peers as the 2008 recession survivors. We’ve been forced into a new way of “adulting” that hardly anyone understands and few could predict. We no longer have a set guideline for how to settle into a stable career or family life. The majority of us are making it up as we go along because the rug was quite literally ripped from under our feet as we joined the “real world” with $30K+ student loans sitting on our shoulders. I hear stories all the time about someone who has two degrees, but still has to work two, or sometimes more, mind-numbing retail jobs just to afford food. I see friends (and myself) moving back in with our parents, not out of laziness or homesickness, but out of necessity. Our student loan bills are equivalent of a monthly rent check, rent that we could hardly afford in the first place. There’s a lot of shame that comes with this move. I have to remind myself that I’m lucky I have this option when so many don’t. With this sudden necessity comes quite a bit of guilt and disappointment. Not many want to move back in with their parents, but so many of lack the choice. You feel like you’ve not only let yourself down, but them too. You each had high hopes for that degree to set you up in life, but it’s put both parties in a tight situation with uncertain end.
Our parents generation will never understand the stress or the anxiety that comes with this new way of becoming an adult. It’s hard for anyone to understand what it feels like to graduate (if you’re lucky) college at 23 years old and suddenly be thrown into a monthly payment bigger than you’ve ever been responsible for in your life. It wouldn’t be so daunting if the only employment opportunity available to you wasn’t a $8.00-$10.00 an hour retail job. For most people we’ve also built up some credit card debt due to lack of living (surviving) funds during our college years. So, more bills are waiting to join those $400 (or more) monthly student loan payments. Suddenly, life is grim and desperate, and you’re extremely underprepared for it.
This generation has created a middle step, a limbo, for ourselves because we can’t seem to get ahead in our chosen careers, or attain financial stability, long enough to make a significant difference. I hear of this mystical, idealistic thing called a retirement fund, but for most of us late 20 year olds that something we can’t to begin to think about. We live paycheck to paycheck and don’t have many sane opportunities to help us out of this pattern.
We are all trying to figure out our own new paths. It’s been proven time and time again that when one is struggling to survive you have two options: to fight or flight. In this sense, “flight” would be to continue working in a job you hate, but it’s getting you by to a certain degree so you remain. You could be waiting until someone dies and you get a little inheritance (morbid, but realistic), or you might have accepted this way of life as is.
If you choose to fight, your quality of life tends to drop and you work harder to remind yourself why you’re pushing yourself over the edge each week. The demand to work a day job that you hate during the day and a freelance job that follows your true passion whatever that may be is not a new one. However, from my perspective, freelance jobs are the reason to survive now. It’s our new way out of this situation. People turn to crafts, simple trades, small business models so they can create a new life for themselves. New mediums are becoming an ever popular and opportunistic way to create income while still maintaining a day job. Blogging, becoming a Youtuber, online marketing consulting - whatever it may be, we have become increasingly creative when it comes to generating income. Networking has changed for us too. With the ever developing social media platforms come new ways of putting ourselves, and our work - out for larger, more diverse communities to engage with and follow.
We’re the “Jack of All Trade, and Master of Most” generation. We are over-educated, emotionally drained young adults trained for jobs that disappeared before we had a chance to tackle them. I have high hopes for us all. I know we’re capable of moving past this and revolutionizing our own bright futures. We have to think of ourselves as a collective and not as individuals. We are all in this together and the changes ahead will affect us all one way or another. This type of struggle and cyclical torture cannot survive much longer, mostly because we won’t survive this much longer. I encourage you to approach this new way of “adult” life by helping and supporting one another. No one struggle is worth more than another. It’s time to revolutionize this 21st century way of life and level the playing field.