We heard about “how bad the economy was” when we were finishing up our senior years of college, but never did we actually think this would impact our lives. It’s clear that me and my fellow “20-somethings” have a naivety that we carry around – it’s definitely a generational thing. It’s as if we were always in a protective glass case, where no harm could get to us. No matter what the problem or issue at hand, it was always someone else’s problem; someone else’s “boat” that was sinking. It was never actually our own.
In college, I blocked out the noise about rising unemployment rates, massive corporate lay-offs and a declining economy. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about the world around me, it was because, subconsciously, I was protecting myself (and my innocence) from reality. I knew that as soon as college ended, things were going to become very real, very quick. And even though I didn’t want to admit it, I also knew that the end of college didn’t necessarily mean “employment.” The traditional “next step” we’ve seen our parents and older siblings take into the workforce after graduation is no longer traditional. All of the hard-work, long nights at the library and 30-page study guides that got us As in the classroom no longer guarantee us anything in real life. Even our golden ticket – our prized diplomas – don’t guarantee a spot on that corporate ladder.
Suddenly, the future after graduation looked scary. The next stage of “growing up” really meant a stage of uncertainty and risk, not a shiny, new job full of responsibility and authority. While I was lucky enough to score a paid internship (which eventually has lead to an amazing job), I also saw my close friends suffer and struggle though tough times. Stress caused from job hunting and interviewing combined with the stress of trying to balance a social life while still maintain economic stability was almost impossible. Seeing friends suffer through it was painful, and while I tried to be there for them, I myself was trying to adapt and figure out life. It was difficult to process it all at once.
My parents have always supported me and I honestly can’t thank them enough. Because of them, I’ve been able to succeed and overcome my small financial failures (some of which I am still working those off) eventually coming to terms with this lifestyle change. I am very much still learning how to manage my money and find that comfortable balance between being financially responsible and being a (very) social 20-something year old. In college, my AmEx was a magical piece of plastic that, with one quick swipe, could get me whatever I wanted.
There was really no stopping me and my spending in college. And while I regret it to some degree now, as I attempt to pay my debt back, I thank my parents for supporting me enough so that I could have that fun and “live it up” without really worrying about money. I also commend them for “laying down the law” once I graduated, insisting that I learn how to get myself on track so that I can begin to save money.
The New York Times’ report on my generation and being a “20-something” was dead-on, addressing issues that were so exact, I found myself nodding in agreement while reading each paragraph. The story brought back a plethora of emotions too, and made me take a moment to reflect on the past and look at how far I’ve come.
Yes, times were tough following graduation. Even two years later, times are still tough. The only difference now is that we’ve begun to understand how the world works. We’ve begun to accept the fact that life right now is full of uncertainty. To cross this bridge, we have to continue down this unpredictable path ahead of us. The “rules” or traditions from the past are out the window. Us “20-somethings” are writing a new set of rules – rules fueled by both the advances and changes that have taken place around the world, influencing the way we live daily in society.
This period of time as a “20-something” is far from easy – I’d say it’s probably one of the hardest periods of life that one will go through. In that respect, I have learned that in order to stay positive (and stay sane), it’s imperative that us “20-somethings” focus on each step of personal progress we make. Staying optimistic and concentrating on the little things in life that make us smile is essential for both our personal health and growth. Taking time to realign your goals and focus on yourself has never been more important.
I am far from perfect, but at least I am not where I was before. Not too long ago, I was in a bad place where my fears, negative energy and demons suffocated me. Every aspect of my life, from my job to my friends, suffered negatively from it. When I look back, I am thankful to be where I am now.
While this period of life as a “20-something” can be tough, it is also a time to live and learn…