I watched The Graduate on the plane home. I'm pretty sure the grandfatherly person fighting me for the armrest disapproved, but that didn't bother me as much as his insistence on possessing the armrest.
Right now, I'm watching my parents watch Fox News, and it couldn't be more distant if I was actually staring at them through a ridiculous scuba suit. I love them very much, but this is definitely not what I would have chosen to do with my night. It's shocking to go from working on the opposite side of the world to living at home. And it's frustrating to go from working for a cause to which I would absolutely dedicate my life to a day-job-that's-totally-fine-but-just-isn't-the-last-job.
Last year gave me so much direction in my career. I learned about combining human rights and writing, and I learned that I want to do that. It hurts to be both not doing what I think I'm meant to and not sure how to get back to it.
And wow are we slightly frustrated but still hopeful millennials legion. I have so many friends stuck in this spot. We want to be working and contributing, but we also want to do so in ways that are fulfilling on an individual level. Sure, many on this list are starving artist friends, who want to be writers, performance artists or photographers. But I know nearly as many hopeful nurses, teachers and lawyers, aspirants to "traditional career paths," who are just stuck waiting for one reason or another.
Contrary to popular belief, living at home and working just enough to get by at some comfortably undemanding job is not the millennial dream. We know how to work, even when it doesn't quite pay off. We might even be characterized by working too much.
If we're different from our parents, I think it's in our purpose. No one I know is unemployed, or even struggling financially, because they're lazy. The lazy people have fine jobs that keep them less than passionate but content.
No, my un- or underemployed friends are unemployed because they're stuck in the tension of knowing what they want but not quite being able to get there. And so we're waiting. We're working as waitresses and receptionists, but studying and creating in our free time. Does this in milennials seem lazy?
It's so hard to keep this from being dead time for me. I have to work hard not to melt all over my free time. I wish that I was more inclined to take advantage of it. I wish that a free day meant that I'd just naturally start a book or finish a poem. But if I don't fight myself, I'll lose all motivation and creativity. And again, it's intensely frustrating to go from working every day at a job I loved to waiting. To move back to my parents' house after spending an exciting year in Asia. It's the kind of thing that unmotivates a person, pushes them to settle.
And it seems like there's a moment, or a month or two, when there might be an out from the waiting. There's a job that would be just fine, keep food in the picture and all, but would get us nowhere near where we want to be. So do we wait longer? Or listen to our friends and parents and shelve the dream? It can feel impossible to tell what amount of waiting for a career opportunity is irresponsible and crazy and what's strategic. I imagine my mom sometimes regrets telling me 'never to go into accounting for the money like I did, unless you really love it, but it's obvious that you don't, so you really shouldn't.'
I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Mark Twain said something along the lines of 'if you haven't been paid for doing something after having done it for three years, you should quit.' But the internet refused to validate that idea, and I honestly doubt that he'd say something so ridiculously absolutist and witless. There's no definite amount of time each person should wait. We all have out own career dreams and opportunities and setbacks, which adds to the balancing act.
And there's obviously no answer to whether we'll be rewarded for waiting by a dream job or the exciting prospect of moving back in with mom and dad (oops I already did that). It's hard to see that waiting as a victory when you just get to watch your savings slip away. It's comforting that so many of us are stuck in this post grad limbo. I do love the way so many of my friends aren't compromising. They're waiting. But they're waiting with purpose, evaluating their opportunities and using this less than thrilling life stage to plan and create and study accordingly. They're hungry for something more than a way to get money, they refuse to settle, and they're a damn inspiration to not let this time be dead time. It doesn't have to be.