Upon meeting me for the first time, this lovely, elegant South African lady looked me in the eyes as she shook my hand and said with utmost confidence, “You’re going places. You’re going to go so far.”
Of course, as an intern at a news show, a summer student at the local newspaper, and a soon-to-be editorial intern at a national magazine, I had stars in my eyes. I was a recent English grad smugly proving my professors and cynical classmates wrong by landing so many wicked gigs so soon after commencement, laughing in the faces of those who said drearily, “Good luck finding a journalism job in this economy!” and “Have fun being a greeter at Walmart with your English BA!”
There was no limit to what I could do. The world was my oyster, baby, and I was riding high on the waves of rapid success. Clickety-clacking down Queen Street East in my heels and new duds to the editorial internship with the other well-dressed and terribly important nine-to-fivers, I remembered what the sagely South African lady said and believed every word. I remember having a Mary Tyler Moore moment with my head held high as the chiming bells of Church Street ushered me into my latest adventure. You might just make it after all …
Funny how things change, how nothing has gone according to plan, how the life you imagined for yourself is nothing like the one you’re living. It gets a little hard to believe you’re going places when the place you’re in, at 25, is back with your parents and you’ll go far when you’re back at the job you had before university. You can’t help but wince thinking of all the money and sanity it cost to obtain a degree and further yourself when you’re back at Square One.
Make no mistake: I’m eternally grateful to my parents for welcoming me back in the nest while I figure stuff out and the coffee shop gig certainly isn’t dreadful and frankly, pays more than an industry internship or a freelance journalism career when you have less than 5 years of experience. And health and dental is nothing to sneeze at (pun intended). But what about all of those dreams that once seemed so attainable?
I know I blog about this subject a lot — being an educated twentysomething and trying to make it in this economy — but right now it’s a little difficult to be romantic about a potential career when you keep hitting brick walls, and I’m beginning to wonder if my university degree is enough. Right now, my BA is doing little else than trailing behind my name in my e-mail signature and sitting in a folder on my bookshelf. Also, to be completely honest with you, the more jobs in journalism that I don’t get and the more self-aware I become, the more I’m starting to rethink the whole journalism thing in general …
There. I said it.
I just don’t think I have a journalist’s personality. I always knew I wanted to be a writer in some capacity and was led to believe a journalism job would put food on the table. Well, maybe if you’re successful at it … and have the personality for it (my friend, who’s a photojournalist for The Montreal Gazette, says the job is 80% personality). I think there’s a pretty good possibility that I’m too passive, borderline phone-phobic, non-competitive and laid-back for such a cut-throat position. And my “get-up-and-go” usually clocks out around 4 p.m., EST. Not ideal for a deadline-driven profession.
Long story short, I’m looking into alternative careers (which may mean more education … sigh) and trying not to feel like a fool for not having everything sorted out already. Perhaps, over time, dreams change. Those of us without the Grown-Up Career and/or a spouse and children and the white picket fence could be failures by the standards of earlier generations … or we could simply be carving the best path we can in this economy and with our expendable university degrees.
So what do we do, us Millenials with lots of schooling and little to show for it but financial debt and dampened dreams? Those of us who were once promised adventure and gleaming futures but are now marooned on the island of uncertainty (and bad metaphors, apparently)? Some of us flit from thing to thing like dizzy butterflies, flaking off at the first sign of commitment, while others throw away their dreams with both resentment and nostalgia, like dusty childhood toys.
So we continue to write soul-baring blogs, and let meaningful music become the soundtrack and backdrop of our lives. Like Zach Braff in Garden State, we measure our lives by good music and photographic moments, a cinematic romanticization of disappointment, ennui and despair as we look upward. We envy the flight of monarchs.