Lately, I’ve been feeling a deep discontentment. And frankly, I ask myself constantly what is the source of my increasingly restless nature. Why am I waking up with my heart beating a thousand miles a minute or feeling random bouts of nausea (no, I’m not pregnant)? According to our beloved apocalyptic WebMD, these symptoms are attributed to anxiety. I am feeling anxious. I have to let that sink in… because for the longest time I would pride myself in handling stress well. Five exams in one day? Pfft, I got this, there are bigger fish to fry. Gym, classes, meeting with a professor, work, and a pile of coursework?
What about now?
Last weekend I went to a college party full of juniors. Granted, they were only one or two years younger than me but I felt like the age gap was tremendous. One gal was confessing to me how stressed out she was over an essay she had to turn in and I quite literally burst out laughing in her face (I tend to do that when I can’t contain my laughter, I know I know it’s a terrible habit, but I usually manage to not get in trouble over it).
Me: “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh at you, I was just thinking… how young you sound and how old I feel.”
Her: She laughs and says “but you’re only 22!”
Me: “Right. But that essay? It’ll be so long gone one or two years from now, you are going to be WISHING that was your problem post-graduation.”
Something or other ended the conversation, but it had me thinking. I am only 22, why do I feel this way? So I went home and (just kidding I drank one too many drinks and imagined myself living a lucrative 1920’s flapper life where drinking prohibited bubbly was my main concern of the night) wrote down the reasons why I felt this way:
Oh, I see.
Now, before you think of what an entitled millennial I am, coming at the world with my insignificant problems, hear me out. A now normal thought process of mine goes something like this:
I want to leave because living in the hub of this governmental disaster might undisputably drive me mad. I want to know, but how much is too much? So let me set up a plan to escape. I make $13 an hour, my internship ends in two months, I’ve got $10,000 in credit card debt and $28,000 in students loans. GO! A budget of $100 a month to spend, everything else goes to the bills. Now I’ve got to save… maybe if I can get a solid job by April I can pay it all off, but society requires me to begin developing my career early. Perhaps I should stay in that imagined job for a year and push my escape just one more year. I can do that, that’s doable. Just got to hang in there right? Keep having dreams, remember to not settle and keep sending, revising, and re-revising all of the countless job emails. Keep spending 8 hours a day trapped in a cubicle listening to your boss complain about her want to retire. And if I don’t get a job I have to keep looking, keep scraping. Keep pushing. Keep keep keep. And what if I leave and come back to a bigger crap hole?
I ask myself, is it normal for me to be so young and have so much debt? No.
In an IBT article published in 2016, Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert, most recently calculated that student borrowers in the class of 2016 are set to have the highest level of debt yet, at $37,172. And this is up from about $35,000 last year. “It’s unfortunate that college costs are going up and the student aid, the grants, are not going up at the same rate on a per-student basis,” Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of strategy at scholarship site Cappex, told the Journal last year. “College is becoming less and less affordable, though it’s still just as necessary.”
Cool, so my problems are real. Now, let’s talk about a looming source of stress for many Americans.
According to a poll conducted by the Washington Post-ABC, early this year, 73% of Liberal Democrats have felt an increase of stress post-election, while 54% of Hispanics were also feeling the anxiety. And political views aside, I have a reason to be concerned. I am a woman, who takes contraceptives, I do not have health insurance because I simply cannot afford it, and my future prospects of having a solid retirement (due to potential defunding of social security) are slim to none.
While on the other hand, everyone tells me, “enjoy your twenties! It’ll be the best decade of your life!”
So yes, I have many reasons to be anxious and feel unhappy for the present time. For my present situation and for the present situation of my home. Momentarily, I’ll keep fantasizing about winning the lottery or something inconceivable, while I continue my regime of only spending $100 a month. And gal? I vowed to never say this but,
Me: “Make the best of your college experience, it is quite a lovely safety net.”