I had hesitated to post this. It's been knocking around in my drafts folder for about three weeks: I wasn't happy with it, and it hurt to edit it. Then, this popped up on Facebook. I think it goes a bit far, but I'm angry, too.
I love my family, and I love all the teachers and guidance counselors and miscellaneous helpful adult mentors I've been lucky to have all my life-- but they lied to me. They didn't mean to lie, I think. They wanted to help. They might not even have known that the idea they sold, that people receive rewards commensurate with the hard work they do, is a pleasant half-truth at best. Even so, I am angry: angry that we accept a fiction as fact. I think it's time for anger, time to recognize that sometimes things just aren't fair. Now, I hesitate to remain silent.
Isn't it perfectly annoying when someone who is doing you a tremendous favor makes a perfectly reasonable request?
It's happened a couple of times since I've been home-- nothing unreasonable.
ME: "Hey, Mom, is it OK if I wire up my video game system?"
MOM: "As long as you move your stuff off my bed."
I hadn't realized she'd put my stuff on her bed-- I just needed it to not be in my room for a few hours while we washed the shelving so I could work on other things-- and I hadn't realized that the shelving was dry so I could put the things away.
After picking the things up, though, my dad walked into the room:
DAD: "What are you doing with the television? Are things going to change?"
ME: "No, Dad, I haven't moved anything. The only change is that there will be one extra option for input."
Or, when I asked if I could use some fridge space:
MOM: "Well, your father has three dozen bagels and your brother has eight dozen eggs in there. And I will never condone soda."
Simple requests, right? Such easy things to do to keep the favor of the people who have given me food and shelter while I'm unemployed. I'm grateful, and I can work around this, have worked around this since I moved home. But it hurts, the reminder that I exist by the grace of my parents.
It all goes down to this tremendous fear I have: fear that I'll let my parents down. Specifically, I'm scared I won't be able to find a job. I'm scared that I won't be able to find a job, and my parents will think that I'm lazy, that I'm a leech on society.
It seems that everyone says: "All you need to do is persevere!" Or: "Do all the right things, and eventually something will come along!"
I've had a couple blips. But, in general, I've checked the boxes. Degree from a decent school? Check, and in business/engineering/maths, which should be useful. Study abroad? Check. Internships? Check and check, since I did two. I checked the boxes.
Now, I'm applying to jobs-- looking, defining goals, making plans, doing 40 hours of whatever job-search-related work I can think of, to try to prove I'm not a sloth, that I am Taking This Seriously. (I am, but I have a sneaking suspicion there are hidden rules I've missed somewhere along the line.) It feels like I'm not getting anywhere.
But even with all the boxes checked, the work put in, the numbers aren't pretty for new graduates*. Everyone tells me to quit reading the news articles, because they're scary, and being scared doesn't help. I can't stop reading the news articles: they're the thing I'm clinging onto, the thing that's telling me that there's not necessarily something horribly wrong with me, that things are tough and competitive out there. They also make me angry, and I need the anger for two reasons. The lesser of these: so I stop blaming myself. I can't control everything. More than that, though, it's a driving force. I'm angry because bad things have happened on a systematic level, and they're impacting my friends, my future colleagues, my generation. No one I have known at school has escaped the impact: even the lucky ones who have jobs are often underemployed or live in constant fear of layoffs.
To me, it feels like other people already own all the things that there are to own. I wonder: will I ever get a chance to earn a share, a living? Will I ever succeed, or will people sneer at my failures for the rest of my life? If I make any mistakes, will I damage my chance at success permanently (and is there any way to avoid mistakes)?
And, while I'm trying to figure all of this out-- am I allowed to be a human? Does my desire to eat the food I like, play the games I like, spend time with the man I like enough to marry-- does that make me selfish and lazy in the interim? Can I balance any of the things I want with the things I need to do to survive, or do I need to put everything I want aside until I've paid to help fix this economic mess we're in?
*The numbers aren't pretty for anyone, but they're proportionally less pretty for new graduates. For example: I cringe every time I read articles that suggest that unemployment or underemployment now can impact earning potential for years after the economy rights itself.