I am a Boomerang Kid. In other words, I graduated from high school, flew off to college, got my bachelor’s degree, and because I had nowhere else to go, returned to live with my parents. What with the Great Recession and all, this has become a pretty common thing. (“Boomerang child” even has a definition on merriam-webster.com) Twenty-somethings, many with college degrees, are flocking back home to Mom and Dad. Professionals are concerned about the added stress for aging parents. What many articles on the subject don’t seem to cover, however, is how psychologically damaging this situation is for the twenty-somethings.
I have always been successful. I got my first job at the age of 14. I did well in high school and received several college scholarships. In just four years, I earned a Bachelor of the Arts even though I double majored—biology and English. The problem was that I did not know where to go from there.
Graduating seems like the easy part now.
Well…I sort of knew. As a college student, I became very involved with Habitat For Humanity and through HFH I learned about the AmeriCorps. As graduation loomed ever nearer, I decided to spend at least one year as an AmeriCorps member, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing this. I moved back home and spent the summer waitressing. In early August, I applied to and was accepted for an AmeriCorps position in a nearby community where my father worked.
[My time as an AmeriCorps member completely shattered my view of the world. I see everything so much differently now than I did immediately after graduation. I’ll probably blog plenty about that in the future, but for now, let’s return to the subject of Boomerang Kids.]
In theory, I was doing pretty well for someone just out of college. I had a full-time job (though technically it was a volunteer position. This meant that instead of getting “paid,” I received a small bi-weekly living stipend and, if I finished my term, an education award.) Since I was living with my parents and car-pooling with my father, I was able to devote almost my entire living stipend to paying off my student loans, which gave me excellent credit. I was even able to make some extra money by waitressing on the weekends. On the surface, I was doing well.
Meanwhile, my friends were getting married, finding jobs, or both. They were starting new lives in new places with new and exciting challenges. They got to make their own decisions and take their own risks.
Even after years of college, it was so easy to slip back into life at home. I found myself arguing with my youngest sister—the only one still in high school. I ate whatever my mother made for dinner, since I was away from home from roughly 6:30am-6:30pm every day and didn’t have time for things like preparing meals. My father was my ride, which meant I was completely dependent on him to get to and from work. In short, my life was not my own.
I decided to apply for a job at a nature center in Minnesota for the next year. I managed to merit a face-to-face interview, but I was declined in the end. I was so sure that I would get that job. I got the news via email during a big community expo that I was participating in for the AmeriCorps. That’s the only time I can recall ever crying in public.
I decided to spend another year as an AmeriCorps member. My second year was even better than the first. I learned so much and was able to touch so many lives in a positive way!
I had a lot of fun as an AmeriCorps member. I especially enjoyed sharing simple but fun science experiments with my after-school group.
Elsewhere, life went on. All across Facebook, classmates seemed to be announcing amazing new jobs. One of my college roommates got into grad school. My best friend had a baby. And there I was: still arguing with my little sister, still eating whatever was put in front of me, still getting dropped off and picked up from work.
On the advice of a teacher at the school where I “volunteered,” I applied to a program teaching English in Japan—I didn’t get in. I applied to a company that “loves grads from [my college]”—I didn’t even get an interview. I threw myself into job searching. I revamped my resume. I contacted college professors. I found a copy of “What Color is Your Parachute?” I started asking friends/acquaintances if they knew of any job openings. I updated my LinkedIn profile and joined several groups. [NOTE: If you are an AmeriCorps Alum, definitely join their LinkedIn group—they have lots of resources are very fond of networking with fellow Alumni.] After six months, I was still jobless and my final term with the AmeriCorps was coming to an end.
I made an appointment with a career counselor from my college. Even though I had graduated two years earlier, he was very willing to meet with me and help me figure out my next step. I spent a week revamping my resume (again), searching for entry level positions, and driving around much of the Midwest to make contacts. The career counselor explained that while something may come immediately, most of this was long-term stuff. I returned to my parents’ house. My time with the AmeriCorps ended. I started waitressing full time.
It felt like my friends were all going off into the Tunnel of Life while I was just biding my time at home. It was like my own life hadn’t even really started.
Meanwhile, my best friend (the one with the baby) had been trying to convince me to move to Green Bay. I kept saying no. I was waiting for something to happen. Just waiting. And then I woke up. Why was I waiting? What was I waiting for? What on earth was the use in waiting? I called my friend. She checked with her fiancée and said it was okay. Two months later, I was moving into her baby’s room.
I am now in a new city with new challenges and new opportunities. I feel like I am alive again. I’m still not exactly on my own, but it’s a start. All I need now is one opportunity—I just don’t know what it is. I do not know if I’ll stay in this city. I hope to find a job here, but really who knows? Who knows what tomorrow will bring?