Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
I have been struggling with this feeling of being stuck almost since I graduated in 2008. I worked hard my entire life and was rewarded for it with good grades and the opportunity to go to a great college — Rhode Island School of Design.
I began hearing about the depression in the months leading up to graduation, but assumed that all of my hard work in college would ensure that I would get a good job, as it had in high school.
When I graduated, I’ll admit that I didn’t have a clear career path in mind. I moved to Baltimore and got a minimum-wage job in my field, which I was promptly laid off from four months later. My boyfriend at the time was laid off shortly after. For the next two years, I took whatever job I could find so that I could pay my student loans. None were in my chosen field. I took little comfort when people told me, “Don’t worry … it’s not you, it’s happening to everyone.”
I wondered if it really was the economy or if I was just using that as an excuse for not finding better work. I think this has taken a pretty heavy psychological toll on me, as I am much less confident in my abilities than I used to be.
Since moving back to Boston, I was extremely lucky to find employment at a large retail store as a visual merchandiser after living with my parents for six months. It’s a good job with good benefits, but it’s not what I want to be doing and it feels like I am once again treading water, hoping for the economy to get better.
In the meantime, I’m also dealing with the guilt of having a good job and wanting more in a time when so many people have so little. I know that I’m one of the luckier ones, and that there are so many people that are much worse off than I am. Despite this, I am still so pessimistic when I think about the future — it makes me wonder how those people feel about it.
I think the psychological toll of this downturn is going to be huge on my generation. It’s going to shape everything from how we spend our money and our time, to our willingness to take risks, our self-confidence, our political leanings and voting patterns, and our outlook for future generations. I’m very interested to see if we will pull ourselves up by the bootstraps like the Great Depression generation or give up and just blame the government for all our problems. From what I’ve seen so far, it will be the latter.
It’s been something that I’ve been discussing with my peers, and with people from older generations, for quite some time. There’s a very diverse set of mentalities about the whole thing, but the general consensus tends to be one of pessimism and injustice from my generation and guilt and pity from older people.