Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
Being broke means not having a dating life. But I’m perfectly okay with that because that’s not a priority in my life right now. Having a job gives you a sense of identity and purpose and self-esteem, and it’s so important to me that this central piece of my life be in place if or when I become involved with someone else on a serious level. I’d like to have a firmer grasp of where my career is going.
Meeting someone at “the right time” is not something you can plan, but that would be my ideal scenario. I’m not concerned with making a lot of money, but I want the power that comes with being able to make my own decisions. And there is a deep, great satisfaction that you worked hard for your own money and that you can afford to pay your own way in this world. I value that kind of independence tremendously.
There is a general misconception that being unemployed means that you haven’t been doing anything. I’ve completed an unpaid internship, I’ve done volunteer work, and I’ve taken several online classes. I try, as much as I can, to keep myself occupied and that includes learning new skills and maintaining ones I have already acquired. Not to mention the fact that a job search consumes most of the hours of one’s day and is, in itself, an actual job, one that truly is the ultimate test of discipline and drive and dedication.
I don’t like talking about my unemployment in social situations. Who does? It’s an awkward and uncomfortable conversation that no one wants to have because it forces you and others to feel unsettled for your sake. But it’s hard to avoid discussing it because that’s the first question people ask when they haven’t seen you in a while. Where do you live now? What are you doing?
My inclination is that most people understand how difficult the job market is and feel the need to help you in some way because of your unfortunate circumstance. In my case, that means older acquaintances and friends of my parents, who want to talk about my unemployment and offer ways to fix it.
I try to keep an open mind and listen to whatever advice they have, even though it can be irritating because of the constant feeling of being judged. Or the feeling that you constantly have to prove to them all the things that you’ve already been doing to look for work.
People who disapprove of any liberal arts concentrations are automatically suspicious of you having made an irresponsible career choice when they don’t know how to link your major to a job that matches that field of study. As soon as I say “English,” people automatically assume that the only thing you can do with that is teach. “Oh, so you want to teach?” “Oh, so you want to be a teacher?” No!!! I don’t have anything against education, but I resent that it’s the assumption over and over and over again.
Fortunately, my parents have been very patient and supportive throughout this period of unemployment.
My closest friends and people my own age understand my situation and are sympathetic without making me feel like I’m being pitied. Most of my friends are employed but for one reason or another also feel stuck.
But I personally find it difficult to have any kind of a social life — let alone a dating life. My hometown is very isolated from any major city and most educated young people leave this area after they graduate, so I don’t have very many friends here. I’m neither a socially bunny nor am I a complete recluse so I like to think I’m pretty adaptable to whatever situation I find myself in. I get invited by my sisters or by my friends to go visit them in New York or Pittsburgh or Boston, but I can only afford to do that a few times a year.
Not having money really affects every aspect of your life, especially your personal relationships.