There are certain things Millennials will never have to do. We will never know what it's like to wake up without having the option of Starbucks coffee for our morning commute, we'll never know what it's like to test our patience waiting for the Internet to establish a connection (that infamous white noise whirring in the background), and we can't even fathom a world without social media. In some ways, you might think my generation does have it easier than past ones.
But it all evens out just by living in this economy and trying to find a job.
Ever since high school, I've wanted to become a journalist. Seeing something on or in the news that I just had to share with everyone I knew, and did, was the one thing that really fed my soul. I thought of all the ways I could help people in the world improve their understanding of each other and what goes on around them, and journalism was one of the careers that stuck out. I wanted people to become inspired by something I read, I wanted my words to make people think -- get those wheels in their heads turning, and I wanted to bring awareness of issues not often brought into light.
Fast forward eight years and I'm now 24 years-old, a recent college grad, and I'm living in the attic of my parent's house. Not exactly the way I pictured my life at this point. This is the first time ever since deciding to study journalism that I am second-guessing my decision and I hate that feeling. I knew the job search would be difficult, but I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming wave of "maybe you can't do this after all" washing over me each time I log on to search for jobs I'm even remotely qualified for.
"Are you okay, honey?" my stepdad asked me one morning as I was walking out the door to go to work (at a non-journalism job, I might add). "I'm fine," I said, trying to put a good face on it. Sick of my own whining, I didn't feel like going into detail. As I got in my car and buckled my seat belt, I added aloud, "Sure, I'm fine, if your definition of 'fine' means the three D's: discouraged, disappointed, and defeated." This feeling has become the cloud over my head almost every single morning. While I love my current part-time job at a preschool, it's not what I owe thousands and thousands of dollars for.
Granted, you're probably countering my predicament with a smart remark like, "You were the one who chose to study this, you know," or "You entitled little brat, what makes you think you deserve an emotionally-fulfilling job?" The better question is: when did we start living in a world where what we want to do for a living is all or nothing? Has it always been a gamble studying certain subjects in school that will prove to be a risk in the Real Work World? It might be a Millennial characteristic that we don't think we should have to do "grunt work" in order to reach success, but not all Millennials feel that way.
From what I'm reading on various college websites and hearing from friends and acquaintances, I'm not the only one on the Struggle Bus, but it still feels like I am. Especially as I scroll through my Facebook or Twitter feed and note how many of my friends are snagging interviews and then landing jobs in their desired field.
As the Millennial Generation, we grow up with the "it gets better" motto; it applies to all areas of life. We are taught by professors who have been in our place that things will work out, we'll find a job (eventually), and, most importantly, it will be a job doing what we studied in college. "But it won't be easy" are the words we don't often remember. They whizz in one ear and fly out the other, never attaching themselves securely to our brain. But I'm the exception, we think. It won't happen to me. We tell ourselves we had that certain internship or volunteer abroad experience that will set us apart from the plethora of candidates employers have to choose from. For me, pumping myself up with words of inspiration and encouragement was also a form of denial: I didn't want to believe that I might be on the same level of Qualified as my fellow grads were. Believing I was something different was survival and it still is. Instead of being a big fish in a small pond, I am now a big fish with other big fish. Sure, I taught English abroad in a challenging country, but so have hundreds of other career-hungry candidates. With some careers, it really is survival of the fittest.
If I had to do it all over again, I would probably study something else and only minor in journalism. That's not to say I regret majoring in journalism entirely -- there have been plenty of times when I've been validated by something of mine being published somewhere noteworthy (thank you, Huffington Post!) or being seen by someone noteworthy (Ann Curry!). However, now that I've made my choice and I am where I am, instead of tying a knot in my rope and hanging on, I have to let go and trust that things will work out sooner or later.
Now, more than anything else, being a Millennial means having hope and persevering.
It means not comparing myself to one of my step-siblings, only a couple years older than me, who already has a place of her own and a job with a $40,000 salary. It means realizing different degrees have more job openings right now. (Supply and demand, right?) It means remembering that it won't always be like that. It means not taking not getting a call back for an interview personally, even though I automatically do. Is it truly the economy's fault, or is it me and my field of study? I wonder.
Next to that unwavering hope, we Millennials have to have backup plans. Where we could once just have a fallback college, or a fallback paid internship through a parent's friend at that one place in the city, we now have to have multiple options. Life in this world has a domino effect: when one option doesn't work out, we have to hope like hell the next domino doesn't also fall over. Whether it means the Peace Corps, Ameri Corps, teaching or volunteering abroad, or going back to school for a second degree, it all counts (even those unpaid internships) and we have to put a hook in each one.
If being a Millennial teaches us anything, it is to be relentless, because you can't live in your parent's attic the rest of your life. We will come out stronger, as fighters, and more resourceful than ever before.