Most people spend the eve of their 21st birthday at a bar, counting down the minutes until midnight so that the bartender can serve them their first legal drink. They count shots the way that in previous years, family members had counted punches. Counting until they reach the number of years they've been alive, and then beyond that until they can't swallow one more buttery nipple.
I didn't do any of that.
Instead, I had a nervous breakdown while my mom and cousin watched, unsure of how best to handle the situation.
I sat in my adolescent bed, crying in between choked out explanations of why 21 was so terrifying. Explanations that probably made no sense to them, but which I defended at every turn anyway.
At three minutes after midnight, while others would have been choking down their third or fourth shot, I was standing in my parents' shower silently crying because I needed to be alone. I thought that if I could get away from my family for just a little while, I could rationalize with myself, do the math in my head of how I would be okay. Of how my degree wouldn't be useless after all.
Instead, I wrote a novel in my head. Or at least the introduction to one.
Because writing is what I've always done. And what would I do with my life if not that?
For months I'd been quietly biting my nails while reading articles about the ever-increasing unemployment rate, or taking notes from my professors on how the newspaper industry is dying more each day.
I'd learned in one class that reporters make roughly $35,000 a year. Is that even minimum wage, I'd thought to myself, unable to actually calculate whether or not it was. I simply resigned myself to working two or three jobs, at least one of which would have nothing to do with my degree in communications and journalism.
By the time November rolled around though, I'd started to realize that I may not even be able to find one job in my chosen career track. Every day I picked up the Inquirer, it felt thinner, less substantial. With fewer articles every day, what would be left for me to write?
I wrote this as though it were years ago. As though I'm 27 now, living comfortably in a city apartment, with a job I love.
I'm still only 21 though. This was only a week ago, and with only three semesters of college left, I'm still terrified about the future.
I'm calmer now, but maybe that's what a hot shower does. That, and rationalizing with yourself that maybe you will have to wait tables for a few more years, or maybe forever. Maybe it will always have to supplement what you love.
Or maybe it's just hope. I know in my heart that this isn't a movie, and unemployment won't drop to some magical number by 2014. I know that it's going to be hard and I still want to cry.
But I'm going to keep hoping.
Does anybody who's still reading this have a story about finding the job they love? Or do you work in a job you don't quite enjoy, but do what you love on the side?
PS...I know I disappeared for a while there. It's only been a few months, but it feels like much longer. A lot has happened since August, and I want to share it with you all.
I hope you're all still here to listen.