On the Road to Nowhere? Life After Graduating During the Recession

WomanTravelingAlone-1-215x120It is 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, I am 23-years-old, and I am awake. I am not a morning person and I did not stay up all night partying. No, today I am suffering from a double kidney infection, which for anyone who has gone through this particular form of torture knows is not a fun weekend activity, but I honestly couldn’t have cooked up a more poetic ending to this disheartening year of my life. I have been living (literally) in my parents’ basement,with the exception of the summer I spent in Seattle, for over a year now and for someone who has always prided herself on her independence this has certainly been, shall I say, an adjustment. Since August of 2011, when I moved home to the suburbs from my college town, I have encountered quite a few setbacks that alone would have been a lot to deal with but together were nearly unbearable. About a month after I moved home my on-again/off-again boyfriend of two years broke up with me, again. I remember him saying, in retrospect now it feels almost like a curse, that he felt it was a good time because “everything was going so well for me”. At the time, I had just gotten an unpaid marketing internship at a popular alternative newspaper in Denver, had started doing some freelance content writing for a Groupon-like website with a charitable spin, and had landed a position as a reporter for an up-and-coming online magazine, so he was not entirely wrong. However, pretty much immediately after the break-up the causalities in my life began to stack up.

First, the content writing position I had fought hard for never lead to anything and I was never paid, then the article I wrote for the up-and-coming magazine was published (it is actually still online) but I was, again, never paid and my calls/emails were actively avoided, and then the internship that I had invested a great deal of time and money into (they required that I do the internship as a class, meaning I was literally paying them for the privilege to be their unpaid intern, a privilege, I should note, that took me over a year to pay off even though I never needed the credit in the first place) resulted in not even a letter of recommendation (for reasons that are still unclear to me, especially considering that my boss wrote me a glowing review for my course and praised me for being such an excellent intern) or responses to my emails. This was, of course, in combination with the trials and tribulations of having to move back in with my parents and younger siblings after college, being absurdly broke, being extremely depressed, putting on weight, being in debt, losing friends, having health scares, applying for and being denied literally hundreds of jobs, and going on interview after interview that resulted in either nothing or a false hope that was quickly extinguished.

This all happened over the course of a couple of months and made me feel like my life was rapidly imploding without rhyme or reason. In college, my friends would say that they were exhausted just hearing about my extra-circulars and now I can see why they said that. I received cum laude distinction (an honor that could only be acquired after writing and defending an honors thesis), I made Dean’s list several times, I received academic awards, I was involved in several prestigious honors programs, I was an editor for several different publications, I was a classroom assistant, I was an instructor’s assistant, I was a mentor, I was a substitute caregiver at an assisted living home, I was awards and scholarship chair for my honors fraternity, I volunteered, I had my life together. I hardly ever partied throughout college (and the school that I attended had quite the reputation as a party school), I never did Adderall, I took a full course load until my senior year, and I worked very, very hard to avoid this very thing from happening to me and yet, here I was a couple months out of college and I felt like a complete and utter failure.

With the New Year I got another unpaid internship (this time at an educational publishing house) that lead to a freelance writing position at the same company for a time once I completed the internship but though the experience was beneficial it too ultimately fizzled out without returned communication and unpaid assignments, I got a couple nannying jobs (some more enjoyable than others), I continued to work as a substitute caregiver, I babysat, I petsat, I accumulated more debt, I was in a commercial, I continued to apply for other jobs but had no luck, I borrowed money from my parents, I dated extremely unsuccessfully, I volunteered tutoring homeless children, I read a lot, I listened to a lot of audiobooks, I hardly wrote anything of note (which, as a writer, I found extremely disconcerting), I got glasses for the first time in my life, I drove out to Seattle where I thought I might start over and worked as a nanny for a nice family but I made no real friends, I was taken for a ride by an acting/modeling agency (though they seemed reputable they were actually quite shady) and lost a few hundred dollars in the process, I felt increasingly depressed and couldn’t afford to stay anyway without a second job (which, surprise! I couldn’t find) so, I moved back home again, I started writing TV reviews for an entertainment website, I took a bartending course and got a certificate in bartending but couldn’t find any jobs for beginners, I was selected as an Organizing Fellow for the Obama campaign and then as an Early Vote Organizer and rode that crazy train seven days a week for up to 12 hours a day until the election (which was one my better experiences this year), I couchsurfed in Iowa looking at a graduate school, I decided I wanted to move to Vietnam and signed up for an online TEFL course, I got a hostessing job (that I’ve actually quite enjoyed) to help pay for Vietnam, I overnight babysat for several families, and I got sick.

Throughout the course of all of this there have been two constants in my life, a desire to travel and a desire to write. I find that I derive the greatest pleasure, wisdom, and strength from these two sources and hope to make a life for myself doing both. In college I had a couple of opportunities to travel abroad but had to turn them down due to a fatal combination of a lack of funds and family troubles but seeing the world has always been my greatest aspiration. Here I am now, just shy of my departure date when I will be starting over anew in a country I have never set foot in and within which I do not know a soul. Yet, strangely, this does not scare me, even though the farthest outside of the United States that I have ventured to date is Nova Scotia, what truly scares me is not going and instead staying here in the suburbs, getting a dull job, getting married, having kids, and never knowing what it’s like to have seen the world and never knowing how my life might have turned out had I taken that chance. Now, I can proudly say, I will know.

Jacklynn Blanchard is a 24-year-old writer from Littleton, Colorado who aspires to travel the world and one day become an author whose name you’ll recognize. She has her Bachelors of Arts in English: Creative Writing, cum laude, as well as a Certificate in Leadership from The University of Colorado at Boulder.

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