I’m not going to delude anyone into thinking that growing up isn’t really hard, especially when the economy sucks and everyone is losing their minds over stupid shit. I would hate to be 18 today. I’m also not going to pretend that I have all the answers. I can accept that there are things about life that I have yet to learn. That said, I’ve learned an awful lot in the last twelve years, and most of it, no one taught me. I learned the good ol’ fashioned way: by falling on my butt and screwing up.
So, I’m doing this to try and help you out, whether you’re about to graduate college, are living at home, or just don’t know where to go next. I want to show you how to navigate the scary grown-up world. Because it’s going to be hard enough, without you having to learn everything through screwing up.
And the first step is this: GET REAL! We live in a society where adolescence has been safely extended into the early 20s, at least until a college education is completed. For years we wrapped our young people up in cocoons of safety, telling them that they are precious and talented and with that college degree, they’ll be able to do whatever they want!
Only it turned out not to be true. The economy tanked, unemployment went through the roof, and people lost their homes. Suddenly everything got turned on its head, and that four year degree turned out to not be worth very much after all. And while things are slowly recovering, people are starting to wake up and realize that the system is broken. We’re mad as heck and we’re not gonna take it anymore! So we protest in our tents and wave our signs and tell Wall Street that they suck. And you know what? That’s fine. People should be mad. Things definitely need to change.
But what does all of this mean for you? For the guy or girl just starting out, what does it matter if people are protesting and the system is in shambles? You still have to pay the rent. The fact is, daily life doesn’t change based on the state of the world around you. You still have to make a living. You still have to pay your bills, and your taxes, and try to prepare for your future. If you’re involved in trying to change the world, great! That’s the only way things are going to change. But let’s get real. At the end of the day, you still need to be able to provide for yourself, and eventually, your family.
So it’s time to pull your head out of your ass. College may have filled your head about how awesome you’re going to be, and how much potential you have, and you know what? To an extent, that’s true. You do have a lot of potential, and one of the things we’ll look at eventually is how you can start changing the world–even if it’s just your little corner of it. But let’s keep in mind the realities of the situation. You still have to eat. You still need a place to live. And while living with your family may not be terrible, the truth is that your parents want you out. They may not kick you out on the street, but their goal was to raise a fully-functioning adult. Not an eternal teenager. Sure, they’re willing to help you out, because they love you. But they want to see you make it on your own, as much as you want to make it on your own.
For a really great article on the problems of our generation, check out John Cheese’s 5 Ways We Ruined the Occupy Wall Street Generation over at Cracked.com.