Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
My story isn’t so much about the “American Dream” not being what I expected, rather how difficult it is when you realize six years into your career that what you thought you wanted to do is not what makes you happy, and how hard it is to start over and find another path with the constant stress of monthly bills and student loans nipping at your heels.
I’m currently 29 years old and grew up in Andover, Massachusetts. Growing up, I had access to a great school system and a supportive community where I was taught that career success is readily achievable with a little dedication and hard work. Not having a successful, professional career was never really something I considered.
I obtained my undergraduate degree in International Relations from American University in Washington, DC. This achievement in itself was part of my “American Dream” realized. Ever since I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to work in politics and live in Washington, DC., so my career path was relatively easy for me. It just felt like I needed to put one foot in front of the other and things would work out.
I majored in U.S. foreign policy as an undergraduate, interned on Capitol Hill, and worked my way up at a few different jobs in DC. Eventually, at 26 years old, I landed a job as the Pennsylvania communications director for President Obama’s Organizing for America. This job, I thought, was another part of my “American Dream” realized. Every job I had up to this point seemed to just fall into place and lead me to this point. I never really struggled to find a job and here I was, at 26, landing the job I always dreamed about.
But after nearly two years, I had to come to terms with the fact that the campaign lifestyle and working in politics, at least in the capacity that I was, did not make me happy. Walking away from that part of my “American Dream” was the hardest decision I ever made, but deep down I knew it was the right decision.
Now, one year later, I’m much healthier and happier and in the midst of starting over and figuring out “what’s next.” I still care deeply about public policy issues, but know I don’t want to go back into politics — or at least not right now. I’ve become passionate about health and nutrition over the last year as I’ve dealt with my own health issues, so I have started training to become a holistic health coach, but I’m not entirely sure how I want to utilize this degree professionally.
I know I love to write and would love to write about women’s health issues one day and combine it with my passion for public policy and nutrition. Starting over and breaking into a new career field has been difficult, so for now I’ve moved back home from Washington, DC, to live with my parents and wait tables part-time as I figure things out. I refuse to believe that I’m “stuck,” but it sure will take a serious amount of determination to get myself out of where I’m at now.
On the flip side, I know that I’m a much happier person now than I was a year ago, and if my story can help someone in my generation struggling, then I’d love to share it.