We are the generation of change. We are the useless, lazy generation. We are the generation of technology, and consequently, the generation of seflies, Kim Kardashian, and any other consequent viral embarrassments. But most of all, we’re the generation of anxiety. The generation of pointed fingers, asking what we’re doing with the rest of our lives. It’s exhausting.
At one point, everyone has had to do the apartment hunt, the job search, etc. Everyone has picked a college major, wondering all the while if studying this or that will get them a better job.
So here’s how to tackle the nagging questions, the stressful parents, the knot of anxiety in your stomach reminding you that you have no plan, no job, no idea where your life is going. We wouldn’t be talking about it if no one was going through it. So here’s what to say when they ask:
Where are you living?
In the 2014 census, it was found that college graduates were more likely to move back into their parents’ houses after graduating rather than spend money on another apartment in a different city. In 2015, the American Psychology Association found that one’s stress levels are raised when that person does not live in close proximity to their parents. So after graduating college, which can be a stressful experience, it would make sense to go back to the nest to regroup and figure out your next steps. No biggie. It costs less and you get comfort that you wouldn’t get living on your own.
And if you’re still searching for an apartment and don’t want stressful reminders that you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping a month from now, don’t let them see that stress! Apartment hunts take time, and whoever is asking has probably has had one or two horrible experiences trying to find an affordable place to live in a good neighborhood that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Take a few deep breaths, plaster a smile on your face, and make a joke about the daunting experience that will lead to a new conversation. Your anxiety does not need to be the dinner table conversation.
What do you do with a _____ degree?
Sometimes, it isn’t all about the degree. College is a multi-factorial experience, and a degree isn’t the only thing you’ll get at the end. Regardless whether you studied Sociology, English, or were Pre-Med, there are ways to be successful in college that will ultimately set you up for future success. Maybe you were heavily involved in greek life or a sports team, either of which would have taught you leadership and teamwork skills.
Don’t stress out if you’ve never had an actual job. Reexamine your résumé and add in clubs or any community service…anything that highlights your skills and abilities. Don’t stress out or regret studying something just because it makes the job hunt a little more difficult. Even without considering dealing with roommates, being far from home, and learning independence, college definitely teaches all of us a lot of lessons outside of the classroom.
So put on your best confident face even if you’re feeling anxious inside. You are not your major. You are a person, full of skills and capabilities that are not capped by what you learned in the classroom. There are plenty of people who were successful in ways that their major did not dictate. So when asked this question, remember that the only important thing is that you know your competence, and it isn’t measured by your college degree.
What are you doing this summer/next year/in the future?
Arguably one of the worst questions, answering this one in particular requires a lot of patience, self-validation, and love. It’s bad enough that the one asking probably knows how much anxiety and stress those kinds of questions trigger, not to mention the inevitable cycle of worry in every millennial’s mind of the future, our self-worth, what we’re doing with our lives, etc.
No matter what point you are at, if you have a job or not, if you don’t know what you’re doing with your life in one month from now, or one year…none of those answers equal your self-worth. Everyone works at their own speed. Remind yourself that life isn’t a competition and one millennial’s success does not equal another’s incompetence.
So if you hear someone boasting about an amazing paid job, resist the urge to strangle them. If you need to make a joke, talk about how you have to finish the end of the new OITNB season. If you want to admit that you may not have everything together, not to worry. A cry for help isn’t a sign of weakness. You are more than your anxiety. No one expects you to have it all figured out, and if they do, tune them out and focus on yourself. It’s your life, after all. No one but you should be calling the shots. Destiny’s Child says it best: “I’m a survivor, I’m not gonna give up, I’m not gonna stop, I’m gonna work harder.” And well, we all know how well Beyoncé is doing now, so maybe they had the right idea.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that people who ask these questions aren’t monsters. Sure, after the tenth time your mom asks you about your future, you want to rip her head off. But it’s because she cares. Friends who brag about their jobs and make you feel bad about your uneventful job hunts are probably just as miserable. They are only trying to remember that they aren’t alone in this stressful, anxiety-provoking time of their lives.
If you’re a Millennial and you’re freaking out, don’t. Yes we are the generation of anxiety, the generation where we may not know where we’re going, but there’s something you need to know. You are not alone. Everyone has been at this point, with little to no plan, and you will make it out alive. Even if it feels like everyone has it together, everyone has a plan, everyone is doing better than you, the reality is far from it. Like I said before, if no one was having these problems, this article wouldn’t have been written.