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Integrating Discontent: A Necessary Lifeline for the Young

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"I suppose that I'm grateful."

Last week's entry by Taylor Cotter spurred a lot of hot and heated responses. Readers are angry that Taylor voiced discontent on her current situation as a young, financially secure recent college graduate.

And while this entry is not meant to either argue or affirm Cotter's entry, it projects a different type of quarter life crisis that I've been experiencing for the past few months.

I will be honest. I am a 21-year-old graduate from the University of Minnesota that not only has a full time, salaried job with benefits at a non-profit, I also have a part-time job as part of the Voter Outreach Team under the Office of the Secretary of State. I am very fortunate of my situation and I know that I am lucky.

But, after graduating this past December, I was unemployed for six months. I applied to over 200 jobs, worked a temporary part-time job, and lived at my parent's home. I definitely went through the unemployed slump, which now 50 percent of college graduates experience.

In a way (the cliché way), I guess this was a "learning experience." I learned that no matter how hard you try, you might not succeed. And that sometimes life just sucks.

However, this "learning experience" can be applied to any situation, to any "life crisis" group. This is not unique to the early twenties experience -- hell I think we have enough books and movies to attest to that.

But my quarter life crisis is not that my experience is so unlike of my peers -- my fear is that I would be unsuccessful in my endeavors like I was during my six months of unemployment. To be in a constant state of rejection. To lose hope. That no matter how hard I try, that everything I can offer will not or never be enough.

What I think I feel and experience is uncertainty, confusion, and an incessant need to always question the actions I take. I struggle everyday and ask myself if I truly made the right decision. But another worry I have is the outside forces, the forces that I cannot control.

Unlike some individuals, and like many, I did not have the luxury of having my college education paid for and have student loans. This suffocating weight on my shoulders prevents me from pursuing my dream job because I must have a steady paycheck in order to not only pay for my everyday needs, but to pay off a debt.

I hate that I have this responsibility. I hate that I want something that is hard to achieve and live by, and I regret I studied a field in which has so much risk. I struggle that I must sacrifice my goals for financial security or I will default on my loans and face major consequences.

Am I really living my life? Am I living my dreams? Yes and no. Although I enjoy my jobs, this is not what I want to do with my life. I must come to terms of what I might have to do to earn a living. This is the reality of many American youth. We cannot necessarily live and have our "dream jobs" because we have this burden to pay off our loans and that life does not always goes according to plan.

In the end, the problem of being this early twenties person is that we are never satisfied with our lives. I am lucky, I am privileged -- I have a college education, friends, jobs, health insurance, a car -- luxuries that many do not have. I don't question my gratitude, I am very thankful for it because I know what it is like to have no job and no money. But I'm dissatisfied that I am not living the life that I imagined, worked, and looked forward to. I am jealous of all other experiences -- travels, dream chasing ramen eating, what-have-you because I want it all. And I begin to blame society, government, capitalism, etc. for this dissatisfaction. I know though, I know that if I did not have a student loan and had the opportunity to pursue my dream, I would be just as dissatisfied of my financial state because I would have never felt the urgency to find decent paying work. The cycle never ends.

Simply -- I am not satisfied. I am unhappy, selfish, and self-absorbed. I believe that if I work hard, I deserve my dreams and goals. And as I get older I have to realize that my life will not be filled with sunshine and balloons and chocolate ice cream. This is growing up. This is the learning experience. This is my quarter life crisis -- dealing and coping with a never ending degree of discontent.