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Question 4

Are you in your position because of your actions or the economy?

Photo prompt #4: Use ten objects to illustrate how much of your current situation you attribute to your own actions and how much to the economy. On the left: your actions; on the right: the economy.

Factors that have contributed to my success:

• Hard work
• Good decisions
• Perseverance
• Luck
• Circumstance

Factors that have hindered my success:

• Bad luck
• Circumstance

I wanted to start with a list of factors before I delved into the substance of this question. As I’ve stated before, I don’t think that I’m necessarily in a bad situation now, although at times it can feel overwhelming. But I do think that I have been hindered by the economic state of the country and the timing of my graduation.

If I was five years older, I would have graduated into an economic boom and would likely be in a much better position at two-years post-graduation than I am today at the same time out.

There’s this accusation that my generation is “entitled” and/or “lazy.” Disparaging the younger generation is a tired line. Dismissing an entire generation as being lazy isn’t fair and I think it’s detrimental to our success as a nation to ignore the problems that are being faced by the younger people in this country.

WBUR is calling us “Generation Stuck,” but I’ve also heard us called — on a global level — a “Lost Generation.” The idea is that our entire generation may miss out on the job market because by the time the market recovers, it’s going to higher the younger generation and rehire those with years of experience, leaving out our middle generation that got stopped before we could even get started.

My biggest fear when I was unemployed was that I would miss out entirely on the chance to have a career. The longer you are unemployed, you are not only missing out on time you could be gaining experience, but you are also becoming less and less employable even at your experience level. I was worried that by the time the economy picked up, I would be losing out on jobs not to the more experienced, but to the more recent graduates. So, instead of calling those in their teens and twenties entitled, understand exactly what we’re going through.

In addition to my own hard work, good decision making, and perseverance, I’ve also achieved a lot in my life as the result of luck and circumstance. I was born into a good family that gave me a leg up because I lived in a good school district. My family supported me and allowed me to get a great education, which helped me along the road to a good college and law school. Of course, without my drive and hard work, that would have meant nothing, but there’s no question that being born into the right family, in the right area, counts for a lot. My mom used to say when I was growing up that we are so lucky to be born in the United States and in Massachusetts because life can be so much harder elsewhere.

I’ve been working since I got a paper route when I was twelve years old. You don’t become a lawyer out of a sense of entitlement. It takes work and drive. You don’t rise out of unemployment during one of the worst legal job markets ever by laying around waiting for someone to give you a hand-out. It takes perseverance and hard work.

And you know what? If you are unemployed, it’s not because you are lazy either. It is HARD out there. Success isn’t guaranteed and I’ve yet to meet anyone in my age bracket that thinks should be. My generation was raised with lofty expectations, but I think we understand that those expectations can only be met if you work for them.

I was raised being told I was smart and could do whatever I wanted, but I always understood that that promise came with the caveat that I could do whatever I wanted so long as I worked hard and put in the time to make that come true. I think I have worked hard and I think I deserve credit for my success. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the other factors that contributed to my position, both in positive and negative ways.

Just as circumstance gave me the great fortune of growing up on the North Shore in Massachusetts, which gave me great opportunity and a head start, it also gave me 2011-2012, which was one of the hardest years of my life.

So the big question is: What gets the most credit for my success? Outside forces like luck and circumstance or my own free will? I don’t think it’s possible to separate the two and give one more credit than the other. I wouldn’t be where I am without both. In fact, my will and drive and hard work are the result of genetics and personality, things that are themselves the result of outside forces.

If I wasn’t a hard worker, I might never have gone to the schools I did and graduated in the midst of a recession. If the recession hadn’t forced me to take a one-year position and then be unemployed, I wouldn’t have looked to different areas of law and I wouldn’t be working where I am now or going wherever my career is taking me.

So I won’t assign a percentage to either side of the dime. At different points in your life, things may seem more out of your control than at others. In April, things seemed like they were spiraling and I was merely along for the downward slide. Since May, however, things have seen much more in control and I think — I hope — life is really about finding a balance between the two.

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