One year later…

It’s pretty easy to get down as a millennial these days.

Just spend a minute surfing the internet and you’ll likely find several stories like this one or this one or this one telling you all about how screwed our generation is.

After college we move back home with mom and dad. We will have as many as seven different jobs before we turn 30. We will struggle to one day own homes, and we graduate from college with an average debt of about $20,000. Add the worst job market since the Great Depression, and the future (if possible) looks even more grim.

All of this was on my mind as I walked down the hill last May. It was difficult for me to enjoy my graduation. I was proud of my accomplishments, but I was not excited for what was to come next.

In the year since, there has been a little of all that I dreaded. There has been stress and uncertainty, but I also never expected to be this happy. While my life isn’t perfect, the so-called awful world of post-grad life is a little bit more sunny and inviting than I imagined.

I vividly remember the last few moments in my senior year apartment in Lawrence. The furniture was gone. My belongings were gone. My roommate was gone. All that was left to do was turn in my keys at the office.

Hubs and I laid down in the middle of the living room and stared at the ceiling fan. I told him I didn’t really know what to do next. He said he didn’t either.

We talked about how no on really prepares you for this chapter. No one really tells you what to expect because, well, it’s different for everyone.

The uneasiness I was feeling wasn’t just about finding a job (which I didn’t have) and therefore paying the bills, but was probably similar to what most recent college grads feel — I just wasn’t sure I had figured out what I was supposed to do with my life. What was my calling? What was my path? Wasn’t I supposed to know this? DON’T ADULTS KNOW THIS?

I guess maybe the biggest thing I’ve learned in the 12 months since, is that the questions and uncertainly will always be there. As cheesy as it sounds, you’ve just got to follow your heart and keep plugging away.

A few reasons why this year hasn’t totally sucked

On a personal level, the relationships in my life are pretty great. I married my best friend in October. Many of my college friends are still in the area, and Hubs and I have made new friends too.

As far as my career goes….it’s been a fairly rocky road, and I think it will be for a while. I had an internship for the summer after I graduated, and once that ended I searched for three months before a wonderful opportunity came about. I absolutely love the job I have now, but it is a temporary position, and I will probably be searching again in about six months.

This is scary for me. I think instability is scary for most people. For the better part of my year after graduation I let this fear get the best of me. But I’ve chosen now to look it at it as an opportunity to explore different options, do a little soul searching, and take a shot at answering the question: what is it I am supposed to do?

Despite that question lingering over my head, I have truly been happy. I miss school terribly. Really, I do. But I sleep better and stress less than I ever did in college. I’m healthier and more confident, and sometimes I hardly recognize myself.

I have my moments, as we all do. Hubs and I have struggled putting money away for a major purchase we’ve been talking about for months. When the conversation turns to bigger goals — owning a home, having children, putting money away for retirement, etc. —   we sometimes feel pretty hopeless, and a lot of it seems impossible. The odds are really against us, Generation Me.

Ironically, despite the statistics and constant (bad) news about the economy, it turns out while we might be the most screwed generation, we’re also the most optimistic.

I’m not really sure why our generation has this optimism. If we objectively look at our situations and the prospects for our futures, we don’t really have too much to be psyched about. And that’s very sad and overwhelming and can cause you to cry into your pillow at night. (Or is that just me?)

But we have our whole lives ahead of us, and I think we have simply refused to be unhappy for the next 60+ years (ish). It’s important to understand how the economy has changed and the realities of the opportunities presented to us, but it’s also important to not let this consume us.

The way I see it we have two options. We can live in fear and “what ifs” or we can take what we have, do our best and count our blessings. And if we find our situations to be unjust, we can actively engage as citizens to do something to change it.

I choose option B, and since I started thinking that way I learned something I was never taught in college.

Post-grad life really isn’t that bad.

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the true meaning of success.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson