Your mid-20s are strange. Some people are already married, have a house, and are expecting kids, while many others are struggling to find their place in this world that is becoming increasingly chaotic by the day. I’m definitely of the latter. I write this piece for all of those who are furloughed, lost their jobs, and are feeling alone or inadequate.
For those that don’t know, I made the silly decision to go accept a full scholarship to graduate school straight after undergrad, finished my master’s debt free in May 2019 with $200 to my name, and spent the past year struggling to find any kind of stability as I moved back into my parents house and found myself in the final cuts for many jobs in my field. I watched people I went to school with start advancing in their fields and make real strides in their career, while I struggled to even find opportunities that allowed me to put food on the table.
Basically, this last year has basically been my return to the age of sixteen. I worked a part-time job at the mall. Lived in my childhood bedroom with my childhood posters. Felt angst I hadn’t felt in years— like no matter how hard you try, nothing really matters and you only exist to be taken advantage of.
I identified a wide range of emotions that may be common in people who have no stability in life, and are trying to find their footing. This will be more relevant to many people as jobs and salaries are cut— something that will inevitably increase anxiety and threaten our day-to-day existence. Well the good thing is that if you’re reading this: I got a head start on y’all, so I’m here to help.
Just Because You Have Not Caught Your Break, Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t Talented or Good at What You Do
As somebody that is a natural competitor this is a hard pill to swallow. At risk of being cocky, I firmly believe I am good at whatever I put my mind to, and believe I can be successful at the professional level.
This isn’t just me spitting game without backing it up. I did all of the “right things” growing up. I worked the internships and kicked butt. I succeeded in anything academic that got thrown my way.
Just about any job I had (and I had plenty), I faced obstacles, got knocked down plenty of times, only to get back up stronger and better than ever before.
All of that can mean nothing when trying to break into that first entry-level job at MegaCorpTM, or perhaps that college sports team that you dreamed of working for.
Sometimes, real life happens. You have to pay the bills. Your family needs you. Perhaps you had a chance at a dream job and they passed you over. Maybe your friend got a great job right off the bat, and is progressing through their career at a rapid pace.
That doesn’t mean that person is more talented and more skilled than you, it means they got their break first. It is very hard to not become discouraged when you see people as talented as you pursue their dreams successfully, while you’re behind the desk making $11/hour part time at the mall.
All you can do is continue to hone your skills, keep applying, keep building a network, and become so good that they can’t say no. Even at that, many will still say no. Like Michael Jordan before us, you can take that personally and use it as fuel to get better at what you do.
I used to let it discourage me and keep me from trying new things— but now? It is more incentive to prove the doubters wrong and become the best.
It’s OK to Have Personal Time
So, you’re out of the job. That means you need to spend 24/7 with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, right? WRONG. You have to take time for yourself. Take a walk. Read a book. Play that video game you want to play.
Tying your self-worth and self-esteem to your employment status will drive you insane. You have to accept that it will be a process, and that while a large chunk of your day should be spent trying to do things that will make you more employable, you have to have time where you let yourself be you.
For the first couple of months on the job search, I was so hard on myself. I felt worthless because I didn’t have the job I wanted, and that rejection letters piled up faster than Nathan Peterman racks up interceptions. And after one or two days of doing nothing but job searching, you get burnt out and the time you take looking for jobs ends up becoming times of self-loathing and self-doubt. Personal time keeps you SANE.
And guess what? Your dating life is going to be hard. Living with your mom and dad isn’t the sexiest thing in the world. If you’ve been struggling for a long time, many of the “small talk” subjects are not going to be positive ones, and that puts people off. I may or may not be speaking from experience. By that, I mean I am completely speaking from experience.
It is hard to date and find love when your life is so turbulent that you can’t even take care of yourself. One could interpret that as mentally, physically, financially, or a combo of the three. Dating is hard. It is much harder when you aren’t happy with your life. That doesn’t mean don’t try— it just means that you are going to have to get creative in how you present yourself. I don’t have much more advice than that because I don’t like to give advice on things I’m not good at. Still working on the dating part. OK CHANGE OF SUBJECT—
Some people just won’t understand, and won’t know how to help
Some people just get lucky and find that right gig out of college. Most of them are nice, well-intentioned people. However, that lack of adversity sometimes leads to a lack of empathy on those that are struggling. So, be careful. I hurt many friendships by bitching and moaning instead of seeking professional help (of which I finally got).
Instead of being jealous, be supportive of them. Maybe they’ll put in a good word for you, though many will not. And to be quite honest, most are in entry level enough jobs to where they don’t have enough say in personnel decisions to even help you if they tried.
But basically, this goes back to the idea that some people get their breaks early, and some people have to grind through mud and grime just to get one shot. It isn’t fair, but the world isn’t fair. You have to be lucky and good. Notice I didn’t say or. Because if you are just lucky, your flaws will be exposed eventually and it will bite you in the butt in the long run. If you are just good without a bit of luck to open that door, well, you’re going to be in trouble. It takes a village, and no one person can be an entire village.
I realize this went a lot of different places, but it is something that I’ve been struggling with as I go in and out of depressive episodes and struggle to find long-term employment. I know that many people will be in similar situations as our economy remains in flux due to this pandemic, and as somebody that has a head start in the feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, I figure I can do my best to help people articulate feelings they may feel when the world comes crashing down around them.