The Great Recession and its continuing aftermath have left many twenty-somethings feeling naive, even devastated.Twenty-somethings are more educated than ever before, but a smaller percentage find work after college. Many entry-level jobs have gone overseas, making it more difficult for twenty-somethings to gain a foothold at home. With a contracting economy and a growing population, unemployment is at its highest in decades. An unpaid internship is the new starter job. About a quarter of twenty-somethings are out of work and another quarter work only part-time. Twenty-somethings who do have paying jobs earn less than their 1970s counterparts when adjusted for inflation.
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Traveling in a third-world country is the closest thing there is to being married and raising kids. You have glorious hikes and perfect days on the beach. You go on adventures you would never try, or enjoy, alone. But you also can't get away from each other. Everything is unfamiliar. Money is tight or you get robbed. Someone gets sick or sunburned. You get bored. It is harder than you expected, but you are glad you didn't just sit home.
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Ian pretended that not knowing what to do was the hard part when, somewhere inside, I think he knew that making a choice about something is when the real uncertainty begins. The more terrifying uncertainty is wanting something and not knowing how to get it. It is working toward something even though there is no sure thing. When we make choices, we open ourselves up to hard work and failure and heartbreak, so sometimes it feels easier not to know, not to choose, and not to do.
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In one way or another, almost every twentysomething client I have wonders, 'Will things work out for me?' The uncertainty behind that question is what makes twentysomething life so difficult, but it is also what makes twentysomething action so possible and so necessary. It's unsettling to not know the future and, in a way, even more daunting to consider that what we are doing with our twentysomething lives might be determining it.
Shoulds can masquerade as high standards or lofty goals, but they are not the same. Goals direct us from the inside, but shoulds are paralyzing judgments from the outside. Goals feel like authentic dreams while shoulds feel like oppressive obligations. Shoulds set up a false dichotomy between either meeting an ideal or being a failure, between perfection or settling. The tyranny of the should even pits us against our own best interests.
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