You graduated from college. Congratulations, you did it. Four years of school work and hangovers and you made it out of there alive, holding a paper that you have been told opens all these doors for you. You might be scared or nervous but you are also a little excited at the prospect of finding a job and embarking on a new chapter of your life. A life where there are not classes and midterms. This is going to be great, you say.
You didn’t want to do grad school. You wanted a real job giving you money. Grad school just never seemed like your thing.
But you also don’t know if you wanted the 8-to-5 life. You weren’t ready that quickly to “bow down to the man” and you’re still young, you tell yourself, so you decide to go out and do something fun for a few months before you look for a job with benefits and all that old people stuff.
You end up bartending or picking up random odd jobs that surprisingly give you more money than that degree will. It’s all great until you realize that you probably should get around to the big boy job search. You’ve heard and read enough about how searching for a job is the worst thing ever. You know that the economy sucks. You know that it won’t be easy.
But you never expect it to be this hard.
Months go by and you lose track of just how many applications you send out. You figure you are somewhere around three to four hundred deep. You have written more cover letters than you ever thought possible. Looking for a job is a job, you finally realize.
You’re convinced that it will all work out soon though. It has to! You have a degree damn it. And you also have experience and internships — but still no one wants you.
You sign into Facebook and go out with friends for happy hour who have these amazing jobs. Jobs that are not only paying them money but that they love. You see everyone moving on with their life. You scan through albums of their trips around Europe. You wonder how they are affording it. You wonder if they are really having as much as fun as they look like they are having. You think to yourself “maybe I shouldn’t have majored in English, maybe I should have gone into Business or something stable.”
You berate yourself, telling yourself you are following your dreams, and that in itself is all worth it. But if you are being honest with them and yourself, you are envious.
You’re a year out of college and not only are you jobless but you are also questioning your entire life choices. You’ve realized that you have grown apart from friends who have moved halfway across the country. You realize that you might have to grin and bear it and take the eleven dollars an hour a job. Then you remind yourself, and others will tell you to, that you have a lot to be grateful for. Friends, family, and you still never worry that you will actually starve. Because you’re still spending three dollars on a cup of coffee every day.
And speaking about family and parents, they are alluding to the fact that they can get you a job back in your hometown and that you can move in with them again if it gets too bad. You yell “never!” Your pride is too much; you would rather do just about anything before that.
Everything starts to feel like it is all tied to unemployment. There are so many other issues that arise as a result of not having a job. You begin to truly sorry for yourself. You try to play it off cool when people ask you what you do, but you know you’re about to lose it. If you pulled out clumps of your hair from stress it would not surprise you. But you are surprised that not catching any type of a break can actually make you feel devalued as a person.
The thing is you know that this is becoming the norm in society now, especially with Millennials, so you realize you aren’t even that special. This infuriates you.
You begin to think about going back to school, about doing complex jobs for free just to pad the resume. You think to yourself that you are better than this, you deserve more than this. But then you also think to yourself, maybe you aren’t. Sure you have a published novel or another great accomplishment for someone your age but in reality when you’re competing against thousands of other people, it’s hard to come out on top.
You don’t want to become one of those people that just says “I want a lot of money, I don’t care what I do.” You do care what about what you do, but that’s not how the world works. At the end of the day you still need to pay bills. And you when you can’t pay bills, you aren’t happy.
You really can’t live off dreams alone. You feel as if your dreams have failed you, even when you accomplished them. You’re surprised at how much you can hate yourself.
Checking your emails, LinkedIn, Craigslist, emails again is this weird addiction to you. Today will be the day that something changes. Today will be the day that everything starts falling into place. But there is always that little voice in the back of your head saying “you could have done more. You should have done more. Then you wouldn’t be in this position.”
You try to silence that voice by pointing to all you really have done and reminding yourself that you are a good caring person. Again, sometimes this is not enough.
You tell yourself that everyone has their own problems. Yours might be a little worse right now but everyone does have problems. You decide right then and there, when you finally have a breakdown about how nothing is working out the way it “should,” that you need to get rid of that word from your vocabulary right there. Should.
You should have a job. You should be making bank. You should not care that others are.
You practice a little self-compassion. And you raise yourself up and start sending out even more applications and doing everything in your power to get ahead. Opportunities reward perseverance. Less waiting and more doing.
You finally think that this might be the part in the story years later you look back on that truly showed how much you could handle. This is what tested you and what made you grow.
It’s going to be fine and more importantly you are going to be fine.
You have to be your biggest cheerleader because no one else will be. You wake up and congratulate yourself on still believing in those dreams. You reward long days of powering though personal problems with some junk food or a cocktail. You keep your apartment clean. You work eight hours a day minimum looking for jobs, writing, and walking into offices resume in hand. You don’t sit around in your PJs in your living room sulking. You don’t make excuses for yourself. You work. And you work. And then you work some more.
You meet someone else who seems to be going through the same exact thing. You sympathize, smile, and give them some advice.
The permanent weight on your chest becomes a little lighter.
“It will all work out,” you assure both them and you at the same time. Just keep swimming.