Did I think I would be a statistic? Yes and no. Consciously no, I thought that I would become rich and famous like everyone who grew up within an hour of Hollywood. Subconsciously, with my humanities degree, affinity for the creative arts, general confusion about what it takes to really make it in this world, lack of trade skills (but an abundance of interpersonal ones, please hire me), it happened. I moved back in with my mother at age 30.
Hello, Mother, you were expecting me, as you always do.
How does it feel? Horrible. Deafening. There’s a loud buzzing in my ear reminding me of what I could have done differently as my younger brother flourishes in a finance job. (Is it finance? I always black out when he starts talking about it to me).
I tried and failed a few different jobs in my three decades of life, and I had just assumed one of them would stick.
I am surrounded by people from my hometown I went to high school with who are married with children and a mortgage, and I don’t know how it works.
You work for money and the money pays for things, I get that, but how do people spend their lifetimes crouched over a desk, or outside or any one place for the rest of your life? It’s no wonder I’m here; I don’t know how to be an adult. I am part of the latest craze of “adulting” memes. I am definitely coming from a place of whiny, overindulgent privilege. I’m the equivalent of a lifestyle blogger without the looks, the family money or the twee. I wanted magic, I think.
For years, my mother so wanted me to get a Bachelor’s degree.
It took me 10 years of on-again, off-again effort, before I finally got said bachelors degree in something as useless as Community Psychology. My mother was happy, but this degree vaguely resembles HR positions without the practical experience, and it sounded like community building but without the social skills. Community psychology is equal parts nothingness and a smattering of classes on how to recognize a human. Childhood development? Check. Feminism in Latin-American communities? Check. How to get any sort of income in your future? I must have been busy decoupaging my final project about the male gaze.
Sitting in my childhood room, I ask myself the horribly big questions.
Do I go for a Master’s degree like so many people before me, now drowning in a lifetime of debt with marginally more success than was produced before? Do I kill my childhood dreams of becoming a writer, a stand up comedian, a travel blogger, and get a job as receptionist in your mother’s friends medical building off of Jurupa avenue?
Where is the line between desperation and regrouping? What does the line look like for someone with acute depression living in a middle-income household?
As one does, I did the teaching English abroad thing when one is not married with children.
When I went to Hamburg, Germany, I was in a sea of Americans and British, ranging from 20–50, all with humanities degrees. Those who can’t do, teach? Not that they couldn’t do it because they weren’t capable, they couldn’t do it because there were no jobs in French cinema, musical theory, or photo-journalism. 70 per cent of them were in a band. 40 per cent of them had side businesses and dreams beyond teaching English. It was a place that was supportive and brilliant and energetic, and yet lacked stability of a retirement and dental care. It felt transient, insecure, and low paying for the efforts and skills everyone had. So many interesting people, in between what they wanted to do and what they were meant be, and I was and am in the middle with them, whether it’s in Germany or my home town of Riverside, California.
Where will any of them be in five years? I hope somewhere interesting, nice and secure (if that’s what they want).
Here is my mother.
She is in a steady retirement now, ageing, looking to see what her golden years will bring her. She is slowing down, moving less, and less concerned about her physical appearance and being a people pleaser. Her energetic light has turned down to a bubbly simmer, intentionally or not, and meanwhile my light has ignited brighter than ever, and it is annoyingly, alarmingly hot. Burning through the romantic comedies we watch together. (Fun fact: all the protagonists ages are “30” which is “so old” how are they “ever going to find a man at this rate!”)
Listen: Why are millennials being fed a diet of Unicorns and sprinkles? (Post continues below...)
I look at my mother, beautiful in her age, and I feel myself tumbling into oblivion.
She is tired just looking at me, struggling to apply to 10,000 things while watching endless YouTube and Netflix series. Making healthy smoothies in the morning while nervously eating chocolate from the glowing freezer at night. She is in the golden hour, I am in the early morning sun, right when the guys start cutting the lawn and you’re agitated that you have to wake up too early, but your heart is racing because you have something important to do and you didn’t sleep well anyway.
I have nothing important to do.
Sending applications on the internet is like staring endlessly into a black hole. There is nothing there. There is everything there, theoretically. I start throwing pieces of paper down into the darkness like a game, wondering the ratio between rejection letters or just ignoring me completely. How many times does one refresh Gmail before your brain becomes mush and you start to hear the buzzing again? Sometimes I wake up at 3am and refresh again. Maybe there’s a prospective employer with insomnia. One can never be too sure.
My childhood friends want to see me, and I feel sick about it.
Not because I don’t like them, I may even love them since they are a connection to a past that I don’t have access to anymore. It’s because of the failure that rises up in my chest. What lie can I tell them and myself to get through our coffee conversation? I can tell them that I got accepted into a Master’s program in Australia. Which is true, I did, but I also don’t have and will never have the 40,000 dollars it takes to successfully pay that program off. I can tell them I’m working on my writing, which I am, it’s true, but writing for some will never pay the bills. It will never bloom like it does for people who have a nice mixture of luck, opportunity and talent. It will sit in Google docs or in my journal and be either halfheartedly sent to a couple of publications or die with my ambitions.The worst part of being here, in my old room and old life is the lack of discipline.
If I wanted, I could live comfortably with my mother in her retirement community for the rest of my life. Fade away as I watch the bi-monthly ambulance drive by and pick up the latest victim of age and time. I could take walks around the neighbourhood, pick up old ladies newspapers for them, and eat my mother’s cooking daily, gaining more weight than I already have from stress.
It is so easy to fall backwards, tried and true habits that make me forgettable, at best, insufferable at worst.
Another painful part is my very obvious privilege.
I am not homeless, I am applying for jobs that are not McDonalds (no shade towards McDonalds, by the way), I am waiting patiently for something shiny and new to happen, to fall in my ever expanding lap, while others are absolutely pressured to find something immediately. I’m looking for a career. Something to carry me and my scattered mind into a healthy retirement, while so many are struggling to find something, anything, to pay off their ever-increasing bills. I even have a list that I’ve meticulously created to show my visible efforts in making progress. I look like a Lena Dunham character (same body type too before she lost the weight due to health reasons) I’m painfully aware of what I am, and honestly baffled on how to change it.
I am so grateful and sickened by where I am right now.
My loving, understanding, enabling mother, who knows she’s got a temperamental artist-type as a daughter, my supportive friends who believe that I am more “brave” than a “failure”. Things could be so much worse. Things are really only limited by my own set of rules. I don’t mind being a statistic, as statistics are so one dimensional anyway, but I do mind not knowing or understanding what kind of future I’m supposed to have, what kind of “connections” or “networking” I should have done in order to propel myself into some resemblance of normalcy.
This was a long, depressing glimpse into a present reality for someone who is either in a “transitional phase” or a never ending loop.
There’s no solace in the fact that my fellow home bound millennials and I are “in this together” because we are most definitely on our own individual islands, trying to swim to the mainland for dear life. I hear you, I feel you, dudes. This sucks. Things could be worse, but if they were worse it would warrant this whininess, thus easing the immense guilt about writing this.
Will you excuse me? I have some leftover lasagna to eat.
Sarah E. Miller is a freelance writer, dabbler, collaborator, and an occasionally funny lady. She spends her days writing for various blogs, dreaming up big ideas and trying to put those dreams into action. To learn more about Sarah, visit her website, Twitter, or Facebook.
The article was originally posted on Medium and has been republished with full permission.