We are the generation that no one seems to really understand. Our parents were blessed with a really simple idea: graduate from college and then get a job. They were not worried about what kind of degree, or how many degrees they could list on their resume; as long as you were “qualified,” you were good to go for life. The modern reality is that the definition of “qualified” is now virtually unknown, and finding your place in the real world takes a lot of hard work and sheer luck.
In reality, most of us have no idea what the hell we are doing. Remember that ridiculous slideshow about “pathways” they shoved in your face for all of high school? It had several road signs, pointing in a bunch of different directions – “college,” “community college” and “the work force” were some of your presented choices. I guess, in one way or another, we’ve all chosen a path to go down.
Here’s what I want to throw out there now: regardless of the path you are on, you and I are exactly the same. Want to know why? Money. It’s no secret that money makes our world go ‘round: this truth is at it’s purest form when you are 20-something, living in an apartment you probably can’t afford, in a city you definitely can’t afford. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, crafting meals out of microwaveable macaroni is a cliché indicator that you are indeed a current undergrad or recent grad who is confusedly floating through life. What’s even weirder is that you have an iPhone 6, a $2000 MacBook and you have been given a world-class education that costs at least $10,000 annually. Confused? Me too.
Money makes the world go ‘round, but we have none of it. Welcome to the push and pull of being a young adult. We can’t afford a subway pass, but we manage to fill our Instagram profiles with pictures of us popping bottles on Friday nights. We can’t afford tickets home to see our family, but we’ve tried brunch at every major restaurant in the city. You don’t have to answer, but do you parents pay your rent? Mine do. They pay for my education, too. So is my independence as real as it feels, or is it a disguised extension of my teenage years? There is a clearly a huge discrepancy between what we can afford and the type of lifestyles we live.
Approximately one half of the millennials reported feeling “broke,” but all of these same respondents said they were happy with the choice they made in terms of which school to go to. So in the end, does money really matter as much as we think? It does give us the ability to do the things we want to do – parties, trying new foods, traveling, shopping. It also makes us nervous, because paying to do the fun things means being stressed about having enough money for the essentials, like food. Our lives revolve around our bank statements, but jeopardizing our finances is the only way we seem to feel fulfilled.
No longer is a bachelor’s degree a no-brainer key to success. It creates piles of debt without a guaranteed job. Not only that, but some people don’t even know what they want to be and end up finishing their degree with even less of a sense of who they are.
Whatever you decide to fill your 20’s with, you should know yourself inside and out – what you want, where you want to be and who you want to become. This could mean a university degree, but this could also mean traveling for a year. It sounds counterproductive, but that’s just the Ghosts of Societal Value’s Past haunting your judgment. Trust me, drowning in debt is not worth the picture of the Swiss Alps you are dying to post on Instagram.