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HBO's new series, Girls, has caught a lot of backlash for depicting 20-somethings who live off their parents after college and struggle to find work in New York City.
Today, one 22-year-old girl living in New York City argues that, despite all the bad press, she sees truth in the show's portrayal of her generation.
Everyone has something to say about Girls -- I've even had several male friends chime in on how impossible it is for them to relate on any level.
The show follows four 20-something girls in New York City. The main character, Hannah Horvath, played by the show's creator Lena Dunham, is an aspiring writer whose parents pull the plug on her financially in the first episode. One friend is an art gallery assistant, another just got back from gallivanting overseas and another is still in college and supported by her parents.
Critics have complained about the show's lack of diversity, the characters' whining and how spoiled they are.
I am not a television critic. I also happen to own the smallest TV in the history of television, which doesn't have HBO. Every week, I watch the show online a few days after it comes out. (Fitting, isn't it?)
But I am a 22-year-old girl, living in New York City, with student loans, awkward booty calls and a few close girl friends. As Hannah, a slightly awkward 24-year-old Brooklynite, would put it, I'm a voice of my generation. Definitely not the voice, but a voice.
As I watch the show, I find myself nodding my head. "Yes," I think, "she gets it. This show is actually my life."
When most 20-somethings move to New York, especially to work in fashion as I did, nearly all of them compare their lives to Sex and the City. But let's be honest: I live in Bed-Stuy, deep in the heart of Brooklyn, and I have much more in common with Hannah than with Carrie.
A $200,000 Education, a Great Résumé ... and an Empty Inbox
I graduated college with a freelance job at a fancy magazine. A fancy magazine that could only afford to pay me $700 a month, but required that I live close enough to pull hard hours and make it home without getting mugged. Which means I couldn't really afford the $1,100 a month apartment I signed a one-year lease for in Greenwich Village, but I figured I could make it work, right?
When I graduated last May from George Washington University, I was extremely confident that all of the internships I fought for and the classes I took would be enough to pull off the New York dream.
I moved from Washington, DC, where my apartment and living expenses were paid for by my parents, to New York. My parents agreed to give me $400 a month for two months to help with rent, but after that I was on my own. No problem! Babysitting in New York is a piece of cake, people say, and you can make some serious money.
Well, after creating profiles on what felt like 100 different sitter sites with absolutely zero responses, things got a little more difficult. So there I was, with a $200,000 education, a part-time job at a respected publication and a huge family that's helped me get plenty of work experience. But my inbox was void of offers to babysit.
I started trying to do odd jobs for people (like picking up my cousin's mail for her and organizing contacts for her in exchange for money here and there), but instead of pouring myself into looking for part-time work, I really focused on trying to get full-time positions.
So that was it. $700 a month had to be enough.
After My First Month, Things Were Getting Desperate
Every night, I cried to my college boyfriend -- who was living at home in Massachusetts without a job -- about how broke I was, how miserable I was. He was kind enough to pay half my rent on my second month in New York.
Luckily, I paid him back a week before I found out he was cheating on me.
I'm not alone in having trouble paying rent after college. The economy is pretty terrible, and most of my friends have received help from their families in some form or other. Other than my roommates, pretty much everyone else I know gets parental help, even some friends as old as 25-26.
Since then, I've been able to secure a great full-time job as an editorial assistant (which I found via Twitter -- the power of social media!), and moved to this apartment in Brooklyn that's more in line with what I make, since I'm trying not to spend more than 30% of my salary on my apartment.
(Don't know how much you should be spending on rent? Here's how the ideal budget breaks down.)
However, student loans have kicked in and saving seems nearly impossible. And each time my parents get their phone bill, the conversation about being on their family plan comes up -- like Hannah says, it's cheaper for everyone!
After a Year, My Carrie Bradshaw Dreams Have Faded ...
... and my Hannah Horvath reality has set in. Many of my friends are still supported by their parents and probably can't relate to Hannah's character, but I'd like to think I'm not the only young woman, living in Brooklyn, nodding my head "yes" every Sunday night when I see Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna screwing up job interviews, hooking up with guys at the NYC bar Tom & Jerry's or arguing with their parents over money.
Well, maybe not that bit about the hook-ups.
Emily Note is a 22-year-old native of Philadelphia who currently resides in Brooklyn and works as an assistant and writer in the fashion industry.
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