On the Brink: Bracing for the Real World
Written by Melanie Ollett
May 14, 2012
I really dislike existential crises, but upon my graduation from college, I find myself embroiled in one. I’m leaving behind my old sphere of existence – the sphere of youthful idealism – and will be rudely dumped at the corner of this other sphere of existence that I call “the real world” in the span of a two-hour graduation ceremony.
Although I have some dread about graduation and moving into the sphere of adulthood, I am excited for my future. I am looking forward to my career, to moving into my own place, and to sitting at the adult table at Thanksgiving dinner.
The closer graduation looms, however, the more terrifying those prospects become. I look out at the current economic and political climate, and want to crawl under a rock until there are better prospects for me and my fellow 20-somethings.
I have become terrified about the job prospects for me and my friends. I have worked hard over the last several years gaining credible work experience and studying a field with the intent that one day I will be a qualified employee, but no one is hiring. Even in the ministry, which is the career path I have chosen, there have been a lot of questions about employment and retirement issues in recent years.
The jobs I can find are unable to offer me health insurance. Politicians justify not providing young adults with access to affordable health insurance by saying that we’re young and healthy, but this is not always true! I have a chronic condition that requires regular medical visits, and lately I’ve been praying away the pneumonia that has been an annual occurrence since I’ve started college. The Affordable Care Act allowed me to stay on my parents’ health insurance plan, but that plan will not cover me while I’m living outside the area.
I can’t move back to my parents’ home and be covered by their health insurance, because my career is starting here in DC. I am grateful that I had a choice in where I moved after graduation, but I have friends who can’t afford to move where they’d like. More young adults than ever are having to live with their parents post-graduation because of the abysmal job market. Even though I won’t be living with my parents, I still can’t afford to live on my own anytime soon. Roommates may be a fact of life for a while. I spent years in college preparing for the day I could leave my clothes on the floor, dishes in the sink, and host gatherings of friends, but the apartments in town are just too expensive to allow me that luxurious lifestyle.
In addition to trying to find a new place to live, a job, and health insurance, I have the additional cost of tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. The degree that was supposed to qualify me for a job I can’t find was expensive, and the job I can’t find was supposed to offer me a decent enough salary to take care of the education costs. I’m beginning to think that this plan was flawed.
The only heartening aspect in this mess of emerging adulthood is that I finally have a say in how our government handles these issues. After years of trying to get people to listen to me when I discussed politics and economics, I have finally been successful. I have a voice that politicians can hear in this year’s election, and I’m still idealistic enough to believe that it will be heard.
My story is only one in the experience of many thousands of young adults and college graduates who are struggling to jump into “the real world.” We can make a huge impact on our nation if we come together to tell our stories and send a message to the candidates that we deserve a brighter future.