Feeling Like A Failure At 24

Alexander Sayenko / (Shutterstock.com)
Alexander Sayenko / (Shutterstock.com)

My life is an arrangement of potholes placed so strategically, I’ll never be able to drink coffee on my way to work without spilling it all over my ivory blouse. Or at least I would own an ivory blouse or drive to work if I had a job. I’m twenty-four, two years out of college, and living in my childhood bedroom my parents suspiciously kept intact (I think they knew my trajectory in life when I announced my major late in the freshman year of my demure college days.)

Some people consider me a failure. Some days I think I am, too.

I’m not complaining. It’s just how the job market is. Instead, to afford my insurance and car payments, I take on freelance graphic design work, and it gets me by just as well as any minimum wage job (without the greasy fries or cranky customers). I’m thankful I know graphic design well enough. I’m glad I have the experience.

And there’s the kicker. The potholes in my long and illustrious Sunset Drive. I either have too much, or not enough. I have useless knowledge in this, when I should know more about that.

It seems like a silly reason to be unemployed—but anyone who has heard, “You have too much experience,” or vice-versa will vouch otherwise.

In college, while some people collected beer bottle caps and sorority ribbons, I collected experience like a punch card. Intern here! Work there! Temp over yonder! While my peers were out chugging from keggers and going to black-light lingerie parties, I wrote my fingers off trying to make some dent in the world (and it was a sacrifice that finally paid off). I was a go-getter. My social life was a sacrificial lamb to the work gods.

I think I might’ve prayed to the wrong gods.

I am unemployed, but I am not lazy. It’s hard to differentiate from the two, to peel back the stigma of not having a job from the idea that “you’re not trying hard enough.”

I’ve tried hard.

I’m still trying plenty hard. I’ve been a barista, an ice-cream scooper, a senior graphic designer at a printing company (a place that smelled terribly), an assistant to a screenwriter, a social-media coordinator, and an intern at a publishing house. I’m also a published author.

I’ve rubbed elbows. I’ve greased hands. I’ve even gone to one of those fancy cocktail parties where cute little waiters in bowties come around and offer you cold shrimp and a refreshing glass of bubbly.

But sometimes it just isn’t enough. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you still feel like you’ve failed yourself. You start thinking, I should be elsewhere at 24. I should be better. And you look back at your life and you wonder what you did wrong. I’ve looked back so often, I can draw a map of my road, I can tell you all the bridges I didn’t cross and all the ones I burned.

But I don’t know what I would do differently.

In a society where your status in life depends upon the level of your job and the digits in your bank, I am certifiably a failure. But if experienced counted in any of that, if you could weigh it like gold bars, then I would be makin’ it rain.

I have to remember this the next time a would-be employer calls and tells me, “I’m sorry, we picked someone else” because eventually someone will pick me…right?

Even the last person picked in dodge ball is sorted into a job—and usually the first one tagged out. TC mark

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