Evolving Stories

While unemployed last year, I wrote a post about life transitions. I said I knew I’d have a new story to tell by the same time next year, and that’s overall held true. But for the first time since, well, ever, I still feel bits of the dream I had for the future last year in my present.

There is one question from new acquaintances that I loathe.

“So, what do you do?”

It’s a new answer every year.

Five years ago: “I’m focusing on trying to pass my Swiss classes, but my professors have backgrounds at Harvard and Stanford, so I’m struggling.”

Four years ago: “I’m working full-time at two hotels (front desk and sales) while also completing a fantastic newspaper internship and taking my final two college classes. I don’t have a second to myself, but I’m about to graduate with a 3.8 GPA and I’m excited about that.”

Three years ago: “I’m working full-time at a weekly newspaper. I often work from the second I wake up to midnight, and I only ever want to sleep when I’m not working.”

Two years ago: “I’m working in the PR department of a hospital. I never leave on time. I’m on call pretty often and have answered media inquiries with a chipper voice at 4 a.m. This is not the right job for me, and I know it. I really should leave before I lose my voice, but my monthly student loan payments are far too high to go back to working as a journalist.”

Last year: “I knew I should have left that job earlier. I’m jobless and applying to every job I can find that I’m half-qualified for, but I’m not hearing from anyone other than scammy sales or ‘marketing’ jobs that found my resume online. I won’t get hired until March. Seven months of unemployment and I’m only 24. I thought I was smart and strong. What happened?”

Since then, I’ve been in this terrible rut. I guess some would call this a quarter-century crisis. I’m panicked and depressed by my current predicament because I’m unable to save a dime of each paycheck. Despite massive payments each month, my student loan balance is terrifying. When I go out, I’m spending money I don’t actually have — and find myself pulling from my savings. I should not have re-upped my lease for my apartment. I can’t afford it.

I don’t want to answer questions about work — no matter how innocuous the inquiry.

If an employer was to ask me for my five-year plan right now, my mind would blank. All I know is that I want to stay afloat, and therefore, I know I could never be a journalist again. Of course, that’s the only career I’ve ever wanted, so it’s hard to accept that.

I think about going back to school for a more lucrative and financially stable career, but then my mind goes blank too. What would I even go back to school for? Radiology? International Relations? MBA? How would I know it’d help me get a job that would bring down my loans?

How can I save for the future when I have this much debt and a tiny savings account at 25? Why is this the new normal?

I wish I was building a 401K right now. I wish I was pulling money aside from each paycheck to fall back on. I wish I could travel like I always imagined I would in my 20s.

I wish I wish I wish, but I don’t know how to transform hopes into reality anymore.

This story evolved into a murky mess. I don’t even know how to finish this post.

I have no profound kicker.