Time to Figure It Out


I’m sort of at a crossroads in my career but also suffer from sever lack of hustle and financial anxiety. Let me explain: I graduated college in May 2012 with a journalism degree (haha, oops! In this economy!), and luckily landed an internship at a regional newspaper. At the end of that summer someone in the department gave their two weeks’ and again, being at the right place at the right time, I was offered their position as an editorial assistant. I’ve been here a little over a year and after getting shot down for a promotion to reporter a few months ago I can’t get over the feeling that I’m not doing enough to Further Myself, not to mention that there’s little opportunity for me to move up where I am now.

Some deets: I’m making just under $30K, I live at home, I’m still under my parents’ health insurance and have no debt from college. Half of my checks go into savings and the rest goes towards car insurance payments, gas, food, gym, cell phone bill, online retail therapy, etc. I’m lucky, lucky, lucky. I know it. But I’m petrified of moving forward.

I feel bad that I have no debt and am not using that to my full advantage by taking a risk career/life-wise and moving out on my own to another city. But I’m also scared to leave a job that’s secure to start over. Start over where? I don’t know. I have about $10,000 saved and I’m petrified that I’ll make one dumb move and end up living off of that until I’m left with nothing. Plus, my parents are the sort who are constantly concerned about me not making enough money, and it gives me anxiety.

So, should I stay or should I go? Is that a big enough safety net to take a chance, pack up and move? I’m starting a job search and I already feel so overwhelmed and under-qualified—as if what I’m doing now is the best I could get, and I was lucky to get it in the first place (hi, confidence issues 4 dayz). — M.

I’ve told this story a few times before, but I began my journalism career the day I graduated from college by flying to Washington D.C. to work as a congressional reporter for the radio, which paid essentially nothing and I struggled financially, so I moved back in with my parents while I worked at a trade publication that paid decent money, but where I felt bored and restless. My next decision was to move to New York where the media world is sizable, and I did that through grad school, finagling as much funding as I could get. What I couldn’t fund, I took out in loans, and then I packed two bags and moved. I did not foresee a financial crisis happening. I also did not foresee how resilient I would be during the recession, cobbling together what jobs I could to keep the bills paid, or that I would land a job and get promoted several times over the course of a few years and earn more money that I ever thought I would, and then be in the right place at the right time to have the opportunity to quit my job and work for myself.

The move to Washington D.C. at 21 was a risk, a leap of faith. Things didn’t work out there. The move back home and the adequate job I took at 22 was less a leap of faith, and more a time I got to figure out what I wanted to do next, which was move to a bigger job market in NYC. Grad school and New York was a leap of faith, and I took out some education loans to do it, but it eventually led me to where I am today. Sometimes plans don’t work out, and sometimes they do. You’re right, you’re at an ideal time in your life to start taking risks, and you should start taking them—once you figure out what you actually want to do.

You seem to be at the place I was at 22: Living with parents, working at an okay job, and saving money while figuring out what you want to do with you life. Should you stay or should you go? Well, before you can answer that question, you need to figure out where it is you actually want to go, and why you want to go there. And when you figure that out, you put together a plan, and you go. And if that doesn’t work out, you figure out another plan, and then you go again. It helps to have money while you’re doing this, and your savings will help you figure out whether the things you want to do are feasible.

It’s also important to note that everything I wrote in that first paragraph took place over the course of about a decade, and that it took a few years for me to feel like I was Making it. You graduated from college just last year—you have a ton of time to figure things out.

And to those who are still trying to figure this out later in life and feel like there’s no hope, one last anecdote:

In an interview with astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, chef, writer and world traveler Anthony Bourdain talks about living so much of his twenty and thirties broke, but happy. After dropping out from college, he found a home in the restaurant business, earning the respect of hard-working people as a dishwasher, and slowly working his way up. He never had health insurance, never owned a car, never paid his rent on time. He says he spent 10 years worried that whenever there was a phone call, it would be his landlord asking for the rent, or credit card companies asking for a payment, or the IRS telling him to pay his back taxes. And then he wrote a book that helped him turn his life around. He was 44 when he figured things out.

I have faith that you’ll figure it out, too.

 

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