Meet the new graduate
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
After the confetti-covered caps hit the floor, the champagne goes flat and the cake is gone, a strikingly large number of 2012’s college graduates might just find themselves holding a one-way ticket back to mom and dad’s house.
And while spending hours floating in their parents' pool and sneaking around with Mrs. Robinson might not be on their summer agenda, it’s highly likely that Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” will be added to the soundtrack of their early twenties. What back-to-the-nest Millennials must realize, however, is that they are fundamentally different from the graduates before them.
It’s time to take the “back” out of moving back home and instead see it as an opportunity to begin the long and likely strenuous task of digging out of a record debt hole that most of today’s college graduates are sitting in.
The fact is that we are the first generation in history that will live more humbly than our parents. Blame it on whoever you want -- Bush, Obama, Greenspan, vegans, it doesn’t matter. We’re saddled with this burden, and it’s about time we gear up and start facing it.
Sociopolitical and economic realities of the past two decades are undoubtedly going to rest on our shoulders and leave remnants for the rest of our lives. It was much easier to put the heavy cloud of loan debt in the back of our minds four years ago when most of us were living rent-free in a student dormitory and eating on a pre-paid meal plan. But now, as the temper tantrum-throwing known as “Occupy DePaul” showed us, we are beginning to comprehend the realities of student debt, and it’s not as subtle as we hoped.
Statistics show that Millennials are opting for life routes that include more education and less structure. Unlike our parents, we are choosing to get married older, stay in school longer, take on larger amounts of student debt, work longer hours, accept more unpaid internships, study abroad and venture further from home to attend college.
Whether good or bad, it seems we crave experience more than conventional achievement. All of these factors contribute to a rational explanation of why moving home immediately after graduation is a very logical, forward-moving step, not a setback.
Thirty years ago student loans were a common, but shallow burden -- a mid-size stone in the back pocket. Now it’s a truckload of boulders on our backs. Given this reality, it is far more commendable to start living within our means than to continue to inflate a false sense of independence that going to an urban private college can often facilitate.
About 85 percent of Millennial graduates will move home following college. And while the world might have seen Benjamin Braddock as a bit of slug, this generation’s grad is a new kind of a Braddock. In fact, I’d like to hope we have the potential to be Cinderella men, to jump into the ring of financial responsibility and keep throwing the punches. Down but never out, right?
Make no mistake, living in a West Loop apartment and taking kickboxing twice a week doesn’t make you a grown-up if you’re still cashing checks from mommy and daddy. Real adulthood belongs to the ones who have swallowed their pride, applied to every entry-level position they can find and are sleeping in their old twin bed again.
So stop humming “... in restless dreams I walked alone, narrow streets of cobblestone” as you schlep up the stairs, trying not to wake your parents on your way in from a townie bar.
You might greet darkness as your old friend, but it won’t be a lifetime companion. Keep your chins up, Millennial re-nesters, and stop looking at yourself through the same lens as those before you. It won’t do you any good.
Besides, it’s not forever, and facing the music takes much more courage than continuing to live mute.