Someone asked me the other day what it felt like to have only four more years on my parent’s health insurance plan. “Well, you know it’s going to happen, I guess.” I said. My mouth opened, and I answered, but my heart had already dropped into my stomach.
I’m about to graduate college. I have three resume drafts, a half assed Linkedin page, and a really sad attempt at a portfolio of my “professional” work. I have open tabs on my computer of job descriptions that are my maybe possible future career. Every once in awhile, I start applying to one but then my palms start to sweat and I picture myself sitting in an office chair in a cubicle and everything’s veiled in off-white and gray and it’s like the modern horror movie version of “Office Space”.
I have to start all over somewhere else. Or I guess I can choose to not start all over and stay in Burlington, but then what? I’m being asked very serious questions about my life that I have no answers to. As soon as someone finds out I’m a senior in college, it’s a casual game of twenty questions regarding the next ten years of my life. What do you want to do professionally? How are you going to pay off your student loans? How are you going to support yourself? Are you going to move out of Burlington? Are you moving back in with your parents?
For the record, I’m not sure. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I have no clue how I’ll ever have the funds to pay off my debt, never mind have the funds to financially exist on my own. I want to move out of Burlington but I don’t know where to and I sure as hell don’t want to move back in with my parents. Does that answer everyone’s questions.
I feel like I’m dangling by a string and someone’s standing above me with scissors saying, “Alright, make sure you aim where you fall or else this could really fucking suck.”
These future professional woes are looming over me and seeping into my daily life. And, I’ll be honest, I am not ready. Not only do I lack a tangible plan for after college, but I have, like, ten papers to write and I’m spending my money on clothes, alcohol, dinners out, short term pleasures. If we’re being real: I should be saving. It’s this insane vicious cycle that I can’t visualize the end to because I’m so stressed out about how I’ll ever manage to be a functioning, financially independent member of society and these short term pleasures make everything feel okay, at least for a little bit.
Speaking of which, do you know how much it costs to be a self-sustaining member of society these days? (If you don’t there are calculators online for you to add and subtract to see just how much your future lifestyle could cost, and trust me, it’s terrifying.) To provide some fiscal context to what millennials like us are dealing with, Business Insider recently published an article called “How much it costs for a single person to live in 24 major cities.” Let’s say you want to go to New York City, can’t be too bad right? Wrong. Do you have $40,000 to spend per year? Yeah, you heard me. The article states that, “Single people residing in the New York City metro area, for example, might want to allocate $3,627 for monthly expenses, which amounts to over $40,000 a year.” Add onto that college loan repayments, the short term pleasures – clothes, alcohol, dinners out, etc. – and you’re looking at a cost of living that no graduate working an entry level position can afford.
Maybe this is why 15% of 25-34 year olds are moving back in with their parents. Loans are at an all time high, tons of graduates are underemployed, and we–the future graduates of america–are expected to somehow just not freak the fuck out out. We are expected to live on our own. So let’s say you don’t move back in with mom and dad, cool, lucky you, right? Even then, that doesn’t mean that you’re not being financially helped out a little. According to an article published in Forbes titled “Nearly 60% of Parents Provide Financial Support To Adult Children.” (clever title, Forbes.) So you don’t move back in with mom and dad, but they still support you and you’re on their insurance plan until you’re 26. Good. Awesome. But then what?
I know liminal stages like this are supposed to be hard and awkward. Your 20s are supposed to be for exploring the unknown and making something of yourself. Yet, I feel too old for some of these life events and not old enough for others. My friends and I were talking about how lucky we are to have simple restaurant jobs that we can work when we’re tired and hungover, but what about when we all get jobs that we can’t work when we’re a little tired and hungover? What then? Here I am trying to calmly construct my resume to represent my professional self while watching my bank account dwindle because I’m working an unpaid internship alongside a minimum wage barista job and I’m spending all my money on vodka shots and morning-after bagels in attempts to make lasting memories with my friends. I’m not sure what order my priorities are supposed to be in and I’m wondering if that means I’m screwed.
I have fiscal burdens that I don’t even understand and I have to graduate and not fuck up my early 20s because there’s a standard set for me and my fellow millennials. The older generation is watching all of us, ready to pass on general societal responsibilities and cross their fingers that, as they enter retirement and we enter “the real world,” we won’t metaphorically (or literally) make everything burst into flames.
This in-between stage really fucking blows. I’m standing on the edge of this cliff marked “Post Grad Life: Danger” and I’m dangling by that string and someone is about to cut it and I’m about to fall headfirst. I have so many decisions to make and I’m changing into this new version of myself and it feels so forced because my senior classmates and I are trying to deconstruct our current selves and live up to the societal expectations created for us. I need to get a job after graduation, I need to financially support myself, and pay off my college loans, but what about right now?
Right now, I’m overtired and over-caffeinated and “adulthood” is not-so-patiently waiting for me to get my shit together.