Monday, August 3, 2015

The Future Is Scary

            A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called Don’t Settle.  The gist was that we shouldn’t worry too much about what we’re doing after college because we’re young and still have endless opportunities.  Since then, I’ve had a slight change of heart.
            It’s not that having a desk job really scares me anymore; after all, not everyone can love every minute of their working life.  Even the inevitable process of endless interviews and networking is a necessary evil that I’ve come to terms with at this point.  Perhaps most importantly, I’d like to reward my parents’ overwhelming generosity and devotion to my education with a paying job that affords me independence.
            At this point, my biggest fear is that once I enter the working world, I’ll be stuck.  All of my peers seem to believe that out of college, they’ll work for a few years before they find something they like better.  This first position is just one more step on the path towards a future of happiness and fulfillment.  Yet, the question I keep asking is will that future ever arrive?
            So, you make some money.  You get promoted.  You fall in love.  You start a family.  You raise your kids.  Finally, you sit back, and watch, and hope your offspring don’t make the same mistakes you did when you were young and didn’t know any better.  That’s the mantra we’ve heard over and over again—the so-called, American Dream.
            But, what if that’s not how it goes?  Is there anything else to the formula?  Is there any guarantee that going through the motions exactly like your parents, and their parents before them, will lead to any sort of sustainable happiness?
            The unemployment rate for recent college graduates is currently 8.5%.  An additional 16.8% of that group is underemployed.  Meanwhile, the statistics show that 50% of marriages end in divorce.  Also, college tuition rates continue to rise while the job market becomes more competitive.  So, by my calculations, less than 75% of my generation has a sufficient income for independence, with a bachelor’s degree.  Even if this entire group got married, we have to assume that half will get divorced, which leaves 37% employed with an unbroken family.  I don’t even want to contemplate the math for how many of those people will be able to afford college tuition in 20 years.

            Nevertheless, every day someone asks me what I want to do with my life.  At this point, my honest answer is that I have no idea.  What I do know, however, is that if this country doesn’t start moving in a different direction soon, the future isn’t particularly bright for any of us, let alone the next generation.  The truth is, we have bigger problems ahead than just making our first paycheck, and I’m afraid anyone who thinks differently is living in the dark.