Is it worth it?
There are days when I am awestruck and excited about my education, career field, and the path my life has taken me down. Many decisions piled on top of each have brought me to this place. A liberal arts bachelor's degree that began as a way to learn about the world so I could write about the world -- see it, feel it, document it, meet its people. That's what I sought to do, that's what I still seek. Funny all the turns I've taken and still, that's my goal. And most days I am absolutely thankful and not at all concerned that it has cost me $58,000 in student loans to get to this point.
And then I go months and months past the latest deadline I ever gave myself, without any security, a long-term job, any way to even begin to plan for the future. There are only so many months I can sit and tell myself that I don't need facial moisturizer or contact lenses or new underwear, you know? These are things I put on hold in June, when I didn't know how the next months would shape up, and really couldn't spare much money if I was going to be able to pay for things like rent, internet, electricity, my car payment. This is an honest place and so I will say: nearly everything else that is not these monthly bills has been on credit. Yes, I am one of those people who is spending more than they earn. But I have not have any other option. I need gas and food, too. And an occasional coffee and book.
These are the days that I wonder if it was all worth it. I spent all these years and all this money--that I will be paying back for the next 25 years--and at the end of it, I can't even expect to be paid more than $12/hour, if I'm hired at all? I could have studied welding, or other blue-collar trades and found a job for an average of $35/hour wages instead. (This is a figure I heard on NPR the other day on blue-collar jobs at growing industries.) And all I'd have to pay off would be my vocational college degree.
I think it's unhealthy, what has been done to me, to my generation. All generations for that matter.
I'm not exceptional. I can't do anything I want. I can't be anything I want to be in this life.
I'm just one person, who works hard, is good at some things, and learns what other skills I need to do a job that is asked of me. Most people are like me. Most people are not the next Bill Gates or Nelson Mandela--neither going to change the world with brilliant invention nor grand human inspiration. I'm just a hard-working person looking for job security.
I wrote the above essay about eight weeks ago, when I had been unemployed for eleven weeks. Then I got a seasonal job at an amazing publishing company that I have great respect for (and whose inspiring CEO ladies will be the subject of another essay). But here I am again, six weeks into the job, and it's almost over, and I'm back in the entry-level rat race, a liberal arts person looking for anything remotely related to what I studied in a terrible economy.
Oh there are jobs for us. And we'll get them, it'll be fine. We're the new workers. We do part-time, contract jobs, seasonal work, temporary positions. We work with no benefits, no job security, no health insurance. I've got options, and they all embody one or several of those situations.
I realize this is a negative outlook. I'm a positive person, and really believe someday I'll make it out of this. But that does not make this any easier now. I flail in hopelessness, in "why did I go to grad school again?" and "what do I really want out of my life?" all the time. Yes, I really did spend six years in college so I could work part-time at the Gap. At least they want me to keep working there after Christmas! One shift a week!
Today I didn't get a job I was on a very short list for. It's hurt like hell, and it's ruined my day at my current job, which lasts exactly two-and-a-half more weeks. There are lots of things I could say about that.
If you're still reading, I'm honestly surprised. These are my most honest thoughts, laid bare. This is the bottom of my pit of self-doubting, loathsome hopelessness. I don't wish it upon you. And I'm writing it so that it is out of me, onto the digital page, and hopefully lightens my chest. It's also an important documentation of the low points of my experience, in this recession, as one of the demographics hit hardest; I need to remember this someday when I am feeling like I have nothing to be thankful for. I will be thankful that I have risen from this point. I will have a reasonable amount of job security, maybe, someday. In anything, please. Except insurance sales -- don't say those words to me. (I'll keep the Gap - it's actually been a highly positive experience working there.)