By Jasmin Palmer
There are a lot of misconceptions out there. Donald Trump will Make America Great Again™. Taylor Swift was completely blindsided by Kanye’s ‘Famous’ lyrics. You can Netflix without the chill. And millennials are a miserable, neurotic generation that’s screwed right after commencement.
But how screwed are we exactly? We often hear success stories: the wiz kids who founded the next Snapchat, or landed that coveted Goldman Sachs gig before they could legally drink. And we all know the pressure of seeming like you’ve got it all together. That you’ll have that internship or job lined up as soon as school ends every year, and then finally the job that’ll launch your career right after you graduate! Oh, and God forbid you move back home with your parents. Oh no, you were an English major? Guess you’ll never get a job now. The list of presumptions goes on and on.
Of course, we can’t all be the wiz kid, and we all do face difficulties, but isn’t that kind of the point of being young and figuring things out? We’re learning, so we’re supposed to hit a few bumps and snags along the way. Still, it’s hard to put on a brave face when you read how the millennial generation is once again lagging in the workplace, and that we make up 40% of the unemployed in America. And there’s no shortage of self-help books and websites for our generation on finding jobs and pursuing your dreams, all ready to further overwhelm our overwhelmed minds.
Tired of Gen Xers and baby boomers telling me how doomed we are, I asked some members of the class of ’16 from various institutions how they were doing—just like that. What was it like being out in the world on their own after graduation? They were shiny, new alums from various four-year colleges and universities. Some were first-generation students, others had immigrant backgrounds; plenty enjoyed their undergraduate experiences, and some were just as happy to never look back. But whatever their differences, they expressed many similar attitudes, experiences, and thoughts on perceived expectations for their lives.
One takeaway from undergrad? It was STRESSFUL.
“I was always freaking out about finding a summer internship or job that was ‘career-oriented.’”
“I think I was freaking out about everything.“
“I wish that I had been more involved in efforts to improve the college experience for others like me. I wish I hadn’t freaked out so much over challenging assignments.”
“I was worrying about my future with every step I took and every move I made. I perpetually stressed about my grades because of its ramifications on my post-grad plans. During my senior year, I was concerned with either pursuing law school or pursuing a job. I was always freaking out about something in school. I cannot recall a time where I operated without worry in college.”
…but we learned so much, and were grateful for the support along the way.
“I am really thankful that I can say I am a graduate of NYU Stern. While the past four years were not always the easiest, I am grateful for the experience that my NYU education has afforded me, as well as the people I have met throughout the journey. I will treasure those years and connections for a long time.”
“I am extremely thankful for my family and high school and college friends who supported me throughout college.”
“I am thankful for the unconditional love and support from my family and friends. I am thankful to be alive and myself in a world that perpetually challenges the existence of people [of color] like me.”
“Friends and family—they are everything. They have helped to cultivate me into the person I am; they give me space to grow, to think. To learn. To be better. All while laughing and crying together.”
Now we’re forging the next chapter in our lives and couldn’t be more excited.
“This summer I have literally done almost nothing which is new for me but at the end of July I will begin my year long fellowship as a Philly Fellow working as a Community outreach fellow at Planned Parenthood”
“I would love to travel if I could find a job starting in late July! It’s amazing to be in New York right now.”
“Apart from working, I am excited to spend quality time with my family and friends this summer. In the years to come, I am excited to embark on my pursuit to be a public servant by enrolling in law school.”
“I am excited about working, starting on my career path, and having a break from school.”
“My priorities now are using the summer to balance traveling and creating memories with friends with working. I’m excited to be doing a lot of traveling this summer and to see the country and appreciate different states’ beauty and landmarks. In years to come, I am excited to meet new people, continue academia, and see what city I feel most comfortable in.”
“I’m optimistic about the road ahead.”
The essence of this piece is to shine a light on us—the normal folks. The ones who didn’t have our passions all lined up since we were 6. The ones who didn’t drop out in a blaze of “fuck society,” no matter how much we may have wanted to. The ones who gritted their teeth and kept chasing that diploma paper because we were told it was our golden ticket to a better life, despite how pointless it might’ve seemed amid reports of graduating classes not getting jobs. And though it was a possibility that that would happen to us, look where we are and how we turned out —we’re all alright.
So yes, 12.8% of us are unemployed, 32.1% of us are at home with our parents, and 65% of us are still trying to find meaning in what we do. But we’re also in an era where things are different and, whether we like it or not, we’re allotted much more time to figure things out. There are fewer set paths than there had been for Gen X and the baby boomers. That kind of freedom is as exhilarating as it is terrifying. But if anyone’s up for a challenge, it’s us.
Jasmin Palmer is a Marketing Apprentice at RoomZoom, dreamer, and soon-to-be entrepreneur. She’s often found petting her dog, Buster, as she sketches out her future ventures and plans for world domination in her journal.
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