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Gina Oberto Headshot

A Lost Generation

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Sometimes I need to get away from my problems. The best way I know how to do this is by getting in my car and driving. I don't do this to run away from anything. I never go too far. It's a good way to clear my head, to forget things... to remember them.

This car has seen better days. It's a '98 Buick Regal -- I know, total grandma car. But, I worked my ass off to get it and I'm proud of it. My gas light is on and it's raining. Only one windshield wiper works. Thank God it's the one on the driver's side. The check engine light has been on for a while. I don't remember how long.

And I remember I have $128 in my back pocket to last me until forever.

I'm lost -- not literally. I'm lost in life. I'm running out of direction and can't help but feel like I'm stuck in reverse. No amount of driving is helping me solve my biggest problem: What do I do now?

I'm one class short of graduating. Well, technically I did graduate. I wore the cap and gown, walked at the ceremony, and shook hands with the dean -- even have the pictures to prove it. A few weeks later I was told I need to retake a class before I receive my diploma. Chemistry. I was 1.35 points away from passing. I'm not surprised. Try as I might, I just didn't get it. Guess it didn't help that I accidentally enrolled in chemistry for science majors instead of the introduction course.

I was a graduating senior -- it was a general education class at 8 a.m. Cut me some slack, dude. I had bigger things to worry about. Like classes for my major, killing myself at my unpaid internship in the hopes of a job offer, and working late nights at a bar so I could afford to live at school. Chemistry wasn't high on my priority list.

I'm never going to use it again. But I need it to get that stupid little piece of paper. Sleepless nights, countless tears, and massive amounts of stress went towards the hopes of getting that piece of paper. I can't help wonder if it was all worth it. That piece of paper will ultimately cost me $62,081.54 -- more than double the amount I borrowed. Gotta love those interest rates.

My student loan payments kick in in a little more than a month. I have no idea how I'll ever be able to make those payments. Even if I asked my parents for help, they couldn't afford to add that bill to the pile. They're scraping the way it is. This is my problem. I need to fix it.
This isn't exactly the warm welcome to the real world I was hoping for.

I went from the freedom of living on my own to sharing a bedroom with my younger sister. I know my mom's happy I'm home. She's sick. She was diagnosed with Lupus before I can even remember. Some days she's too sick to get out of bed. I help with what I can--I cook and do the grocery shopping. I pick my little sister up from school and run errands. It's nice that I can help out, but I can't financially rely on my parents forever.

Before I "graduated" I put all of my free time into trolling every Internet job site and newspaper classified section I could. I know how tough the economy is. I'd be damned if I became another college grad forced to take a minimum wage job to make ends week. No sir, I'm not going to be another statistic. Job hunting became my full-time job.

It's been almost a year and I still can't find work. I waitress to try and make ends meet. I'm not sure what to do. Do I go back and finish that class? That's more money I don't have and limits my search to this area.

I try not to get my hopes up anymore, but I can't help it sometimes.

Recently, I applied to my dream job. I was excited and a little shocked when they called me for an interview. I nailed it. Then they wanted a second interview. By this point, I'm praying, hoping, crossing my fingers, and wishing on stars for this job. It came down to me and another candidate. Although they said I could be a good fit for the position, they ultimately decided to go with my competitor because of my lack of experience.

I can't get a job because I don't have experience. I can't experience because I don't have a job. It's a black hole a lot of recent college graduates have fallen into. We've become a lost generation in a way. We enter the real world bursting with potential and armed with the tools to excel in our chosen fields. Times are tough though and so is the competition. We become lost amongst the mass of applicants -- just another resume in a stack of resumes. Finding a job is the only thing that would help our situations... or winning the lottery. Both of the odds seem pretty comparable anymore.

I can't stop thinking there has to be more than this. There has to be more than struggling to get by. I want to be someone. I want to do something great. I want something -- anything to leave behind. What exactly? I'm not quite sure. I want something that says I exist. Something that says I'm just like you. I understand what it's like to be disappointed, but more importantly what it's like to find reasons to smile despite it. I know what it's like to dream, but I also know the limitations of reality. I want to raise questions, spark emotions, and cause positive change. I want to make a difference. I want to change someone's life. I want to do something I love.

I want a chance.