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Question 0

Do you feel stuck?

Sam working at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA.

I am nowhere near where I want to be in life. When I was in college, I had this idealistic notion that money didn’t matter — that if I found something I loved, I wouldn’t have to work a day in my life.

I majored in journalism with a minor in history. I graduated in May 2009 and moved home with my mom because I couldn’t find a job. My graduation came eight months after the American financial system collapsed in upon itself. Before I graduated, I attended resume writing classes, job placement programs, and presentations on how to land decent work.

I remember being at one such presentation and the speaker flashed a graph on the screen that was a line representing the amount of post grads getting work after college. The line went back to 2001 and from there steadily but minutely increased until it hit 2008, where it looked more like a graph of Black Tuesday 1929. Basically, the presenter was imparting on us what we could expect when thrust out into the “real world.” It was disheartening, like getting shot in the leg before a race.

My dream was to work as a journalist in some city, either my native New York or Barcelona. I wanted to make enough money to live, play, hang out with bohemian woman, and drink delicious grog.

Unfortunately, I live with my parents and work two part-time jobs. One is as a waiter at a local restaurant, the other is at a local paper. I do have friends that are successful and work in Manhattan and are living the dream I always wanted, but much more of my friends are at home with their parents.

It’s demoralizing and emotionally stagnating to be at home. It’s embarrassing to be on a date and tell a beautiful woman that you live at home. I feel that I wasn’t even given a chance to explore my American Dream, that my friends’ older brothers and sisters were the last ones to really have a crack at opportunity.

I feel that when it was my turn, every door of opportunity was firmly closed shut and now I’m too old and too inexperienced to keep up with a slowly recovering job market. It’s even more upsetting when I talk to Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers who had this freedom in their twenties that I’ll never get to experience.

There is no American Dream anymore, at least for me — my biggest fears right now are having nothing to retire with and dying in abject poverty.

Sam is one of the two participants in Generation Stuck who are documenting their lives in audio form, in addition to text. Those stories will be broadcast on WBUR in November.


  1. Nicole Knobloch at 11:38 am, September 19, 2012

    Move out, get some roommates, be poor, and write. For goodness’ sake – no matter when you graduate, you have to be poor for awhile – at your age you should not be worrying about retirement. I’m a GenXer; we graduated during a recession, and at one point in my twenties I had three jobs and two roommates. So what? It taught me a lot and I moved up in the world, eventually to make a very good salary. And clean up your writing – “many” more of your friends, for example, not “much”.

  2. Courtney P at 12:20 pm, September 19, 2012

    Sam’s struggle reinforces the notion that a college degree is only worth obtaining if it’s in an employable field. It’s surprising that a millennial would be bemoaning his career choices when his degree is in journalism..a dying field for the past decade. Now if he had studied computer science and couldn’t find a job..then I would sympathize. Was he really that delusional that he thought a flood of high paying, secure journalism jobs would open up to him when he graduated? I guess so.. If he’s set on becoming a writer – he should consider freelancing, developing a blog and become a specialized publisher in an area he’s passionate about, writing a book, moving to LA to work as a TV writer, or obtaining a graduate degree to teach.. As a GenXer, I have zero friends who have made livable careers out of journalism. The few that are doing something even close to it are working as professors teaching English.

  3. Info at 12:44 pm, September 19, 2012

    At the same time, there is another countervailing trend. Along with the ‘Boomers, some Gen-X’ers are also finding that it’s harder to find work because employers are hiring younger folks with less experience, because they come cheaper. In some cases, work is even being farmed out to unpaid interns. It’s not true across the board, but it is happening. I would imagine that the quality of work produced is lower, depending on the kinds of skills and experience needed to do the job, but that doesn’t seem to be an overriding concern in some companies (and Universities).

  4. Ralph850 at 1:26 pm, September 19, 2012

    Bwaaa bwaaa bwaaaa, Come on man. So you were foolish and bought into the crap that the liberals fed you. Oh sure study what is interesting, what you love. Give no thought to wether it may be an employable field, that does not matter. Well guess what cupcake, it does matter. I graduated H.S. in 1976, left home with no college asperations, got married, suffered long and hard. I put myself through college. I live comfortably now and you can as well. Just stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to work. I truley believe that the folly of my generation was to raise a bunch of whiners who have zero faith in themselves. The world will not come to you on a silver platter, rather it will slit your throat with a silver knife.

  5. dt at 1:47 pm, September 19, 2012

    Although Ralph850 was a bit harsh, someone had to say it. It seems like you are where you are because of the decisions that you made. You made. As Nicole says – get out there. For goodness sakes, you’re 27, not 72.

  6. Samaritan at 2:17 pm, September 19, 2012

    He’s working two jobs.

  7. IheartNPR at 2:31 pm, September 19, 2012

    I feel for Sam, but the skill our college grads seem not to be learning is the skill of taking a chance. They only want to take a job that will guarantee a minimum level of financial and other security. I got my first job by walking through the door of the place I wanted to work and saying “You want me here. Let me tell you why.” I worked without pay for 3 months before they realized they should put me on the payroll. In grad school, I took unpaid positions to gain the writing experience I wanted BEFORE I graduated, and I was able to get a job during the economic contraction. I’m not that much older than Sam. The college degree is just the beginning. We need our students have the gusto to go out and develop their skills and build relationships after they get the degree. That’s what has lead to good employment prospects in my experience.

  8. IheartNPR at 2:33 pm, September 19, 2012

    I have to dispute the claim that journalism is “a dying field.” While newspapers and other traditional news outlets are in decline, we are consuming more information than ever. We have changed how we consume that content. But there are still content providers (journalists) writing copy and getting paid for it.

  9. scottyboy at 3:05 pm, September 19, 2012

    Wow. After reading this article, I don’t feel alone anymore. Here’s a brief snapshot of my situation:
    Age: 40

    Grew up on a farm in rural Connecticut. My Dad was a career firefighter and my mom an emergency room medical secretary. I had dreams of going to college, but no one in my small family ever attended, so I really had no path, role models, or reference point. I remember seeking out advice from my guidance counselor who told me that my math and science skills weren’t strong enough and “not to bother.”

    Undeterred from his so-called advice, I attended a junior college and ended up having to leave because I couldn’t get enough financial aid. I took a year off. Applied and was accepted to Champlain College. Put myself through school. It took me longer than most but did graduate at age 26 and to this day am $65,000 in debt.

    I’ve worked in the service field (from retail to financial services) since 1998 and the highest salary I made was $30,000 annually.Things were starting to get better and then was laid off from Wachovia when the market tanked. I was unemployed for 2 years until I found a retail job recently making $13/hour. Savings gone. Bills outstanding. Educated working poor. While the market continues to get better, my fears are still omnipresent. I’m one paycheck away from the street.

    I’m sharing this story not to sound like a victim (because I don’t see myself as such), but to help young people who maybe reading this understand that college IS NOT the answer. While an education does shape your mind, unless you’ve got financial backing, and are going to be studying in an employable field, think again. Our culture places a high importance on an education, but makes it impossible to pay for . . .

    And to those critical who say things like”How could you be so blind? or how could you be so delusional?” We are all different and each of us have our own set of blue-prints.

  10. Observer at 3:35 pm, September 19, 2012

    Ralph, I bet you are a real “joy” to live with. Maybe someone as bitter and sour on life as you seem to be, “cupcake,” shouldn’t be dispensing advice.

  11. Ben at 3:45 pm, September 19, 2012

    I dispute this notion of studying an “employable field”. The man had no desire to study systems engineering or IT or business or law. He wants to be a journalist. That is a noble profession and one which, when well practiced, is the ultimate safeguard against the corruptions of power. It is true that he is in the throes required of many as a barrier to admission into this field. On the other hand, he has shown dedication to an ideal. With persistence he will be justly rewarded for this. Those who admonish him for pursuing a “unemployable degree” are truly showing that they have no such dedication to anything but the almighty dollar and the comforts purchasable thereof.

  12. ElizaE at 7:48 pm, September 19, 2012

    Quite frankly, if this is an example of Sam’s writing skill, then it’s no wonder he’s not employed as a journalist. Follow Nicole’s advice: get out of the house and write write write.

  13. Sam_anon_guest at 3:57 pm, September 22, 2012

    “My dream was to work as a journalist in some city, either my native New
    York or Barcelona. I wanted to make enough money to live, play, hang out
    with bohemian woman, and drink delicious grog.”

    That’s a selfish luxury of a dream. I can’t really sympathize.

  14. Nicole at 8:50 am, September 25, 2012

    There’s nothing wrong with the dream, or the career. In fact, you’re on your way – working at a local paper. Write. Make yourself useful. That’s how I did it. I graduated in a recession, worked a million low-level jobs, started volunteering in the field I was interested in, and eventually rose to the top of it, to the point where I was making 100K in my late thirties and people with Ph.D.s were curious how to get a job like mine. There is absolutely nothing off base about your situation except the fact that you are living at home.

  15. Doubting_Thomas12 at 1:03 am, September 28, 2012

    Maybe it’s just me, but I actually took encouragement from Ralph’s response. Most of my generation is in this same bloody situation. And the best help I was ever given was a boot up my @ss, when I got off track once. “Tough love”, I believe they call it.

    To be frank though Ralph, it interests me that the generation that bore us seems to want us to sink, rather than swim. I’ve actually paid more taxes than public services I used, yet all I hear from the old people that complain to me is about how lazy, demanding, and ungrateful my generation is. Yeah, you’re welcome for that medical service there bub. Glad I bought the oxygen for you to have the breath to spit at me. Fun times. (hopefully not you in particular, but I’ve seen this same sentiment too many times. They change their tune once they learn more, but still- what the HELL.)

    Right, so we’ve complained about it. Now all that’s left to do is laugh at it, then fix it. Because the alternative isn’t something I will accept. Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  16. Infeaux at 12:40 pm, September 28, 2012

    Nicole, I’m curious to know what your field is, if you don’t mind my asking.