Welcome to the inaugural class of '29. We've selected 29 graduating college seniors, entering the "real" world in 2018, to write about the state of their lives. What are their hopes, dreams, fears, stressors, failures, and successes as they leave school behind? We will be releasing new entries on a daily basis. If you would like yours to be considered, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The end of my senior year has been full of joy and some of the most fulfilling activist and organizing work I have done in college. But it’s also been stressful. I’m feeling a lot of anxiety about my post-grad employment and life plans. Just thinking about it is exhausting. What if I can’t find a job or pay rent? Will I have to go straight to graduate school (which comes with more debt) to get the career I want? As you can probably tell, I’ve been doing a lot of what therapists call “catastrophizing.”
This doom-and-gloom approach to job hunting is out of character for me. I tend to throw myself into new tasks and opportunities. I’m gung-ho, my brain bursting with ideas and the bookishness to back it up. And despite the weekly meltdowns, I know deep down that I won’t fall flat on my face. I have tons of experience, a family and partner who love and support me and the skills and work ethic to make anything happen. If I can’t get the job I want, I can always continue my side gig (I work as a cook) and gain experience volunteering while I wait for my next big thing. And I know firsthand the value that path would bring.
Service was a huge part of my college experience. I was the first person to sign up for shifts. I clicked share on every deserving philanthropic event that popped up on my Facebook timeline. I cheerfully woke up at 7 a.m. to go to the homeless shelter or the nature park or the women’s center or the conference or luncheon. Giving back keeps me sane and makes me feel like I’m undoing the negativity put out into the world. I learn so much when I volunteer. It gives me the opportunity to learn about experiences of different folks. Plus, I love the work itself.
No matter what happens with my job search, I know I can rely on service and activism for my own emotional well-being (financial stability is a different story, of course). And I know I’m not alone in that. Right now, there is such a tide of amazing courage and strength flowing from my fellow young activists and advocates. I truly feel that I was born in the right generation. I see so much support, love, and empathy from my peers that makes me feel proud to be young in this moment.
Even when the world feels terrible, the positivity of sharing experiences and mutual support is something we can all cling to. So instead of wallowing in the fear of the future, I’m going to face it head-on. No matter how awful the job search makes me feel, I know that my desire for action is stronger than any reliance on apathy. My generation feels the threats of a world in chaos acutely, but the resilience we bring to the table will serve us well in the pursuit of justice and equity.
I know exactly how to make my time feel worthwhile while bettering the world around me. And I’m going to chase that until it leads me somewhere beautiful.
McKenna Maness is an Urban and Environmental Policy and Public Health major at Occidental College in Los Angeles. After graduation, she is moving back to Santa Cruz, CA to pursue her career in social work and community organizing.