THE BLOG
12/18/2012 11:56 am ET Updated Feb 17, 2013

Being a Young 20-Something Is a Lot Like Hanging Off the Edge of a Cliff

Being a young 20-something is really hard. I know, I know, everyone over the age of 30 just rolled their eyes, but hear me out.

Sure, young 20-somethings (YTS) don't have wrinkles and crushing responsibilities like a mortgage, kids or elderly parents living in the spare bedroom. Know what else we don't have? Jobs. Money. A home. Secure relationships.

Stability traditionally comes with age, making open-mindedness and flexibility critical components of youth. But "youth" now is exponentially more in flux and chaotic than what our parents remember.

A college degree is more expensive and more necessary than ever before. Don't tell me that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs never graduated from college, so "college isn't worth it." Gates and Jobs are outliers, obviously. A degree is critical to even get your foot in the door for an interview. Everyone knows this. That's why your average YTS likely just graduated from college with a fancy liberal arts degree costing tens of thousands of dollars paid out in student loans. Student loans that are likely paid off with a Starbucks salary, as 53 per cent of recent grads are jobless or under-employed.

And for the lucky few without student loans and with a job, just you wait until your employer tells you that in order to advance along your career path, you must first obtain an advanced degree.

This is all especially ironic when you consider the simple truth that the typical YTS has no idea what it is they want to do with the rest of their life. I'm not just talking about those zany Philosophy students. My friends who studied "practical" things like Chemical Engineering or Economics are equally clueless.

As a friend who graduated with an honors degree in Chemical and Biomedical Engineering put it, "I spent about 5 percent of my total time in college actually doing work." Another friend, who graduated with honors in Economics and a banking job offer, is contemplating grad school for interior design. Yet another majored in International Relations and is now working for a fashion blog.

So, with our undergraduate degrees that mean nothing and everything at the same time, we venture onward, uninformed about the world and ourselves, armed only with a delusional sense of entitlement that is rapidly extinguished.

While on the quest for a job and an affordable apartment, we're also dating, because that's what you do when you're young: you date. Or, at least, that's what you used to do. Now, we drag the abysmal undergraduate hookup culture, void of any conventions or commitments, with us into the post-graduate abyss.

We are told by the likes of author Hanna Rosin that we should satisfy ourselves with "unbridled sexual freedom." After all, who has time to commit when we're so busy looking for a job or scraping the bottom of the barrel to fund grad school. Instead, we entertain our human desires with meaningless flings that leave us feeling all the more confused and dejected.

The unknown is more exhausting than it is exciting, especially when you have no idea who you are or where your next paycheck is coming from. We have friends and parents, sure, but no solid companion to confide in or lean on when pinged by the umpteenth job rejection email. No wonder anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the United States, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Recently, on Facebook, I mused:

Being in your young twenties is a lot like hanging off the edge of a cliff. When you're hanging off the cliff, you can't afford to panic. You just focus on not dying and hoisting yourself up to the secure ledge. Once safe, on the ledge, you freak out and can't imagine how it was that you survived. That's what being a young-20-something is. No secure career path. No secure housing. No secure relationship. No secure ownership over much of anything worthwhile. No idea where you will be in two months, let alone two years. No secure footing. Not even a ledge in sight. When we are thirty (god willing, by thirty), we are going to look back on this time and wonder "How did I not fall to my death!?" Until then, we drink!

Yep, that about sums it up. Cheers!

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