Life’s plan not all that it is cracked up to be

Originally published October 29, 2010

Over the summer, an article was published in the Chicago Tribune describing a new landscape college graduates are navigating: a landscape known as their parent’s basements.

Obviously I don’t want to sound like a broken record and harp on the economic woes facing the country that all of us are sick of hearing about. But it is no secret that navigating the job market has been a tad rough lately.

College students are reminded on a daily basis that they must be marketing themselves constantly, always being on top of their game to have the best opportunities.

But apparently even this proactive approach may not be enough to secure a decent job/financial freedom.

Because of this pressure, many young graduates are resorting to what was once the unthinkable: living with the rents post-graduation. Sure it is only a temporary living arrangement (one hopes), but still the thought of having that first taste of the real world and a degree, then having to share quarters with the people who have made it their business to coddle you at every opportunity seems like a torturous juxtaposition.

However, those wayward students may not be coming home to the same mom and dad they lived out their rebellious high school years with. Plans for refurbishing that old bedroom into a study may need to be put on hold as daughter dearest returns home, and this may put a rift in the best laid plans of the parental unit.

Although most parents will surely understand their child’s situation, that does not mean they will be handing out free tokens either.

Because as most parents with grown children can vouch for, empty nest syndrome only lasts so long before that enveloping silence is filled with thoughts of cruises, weekend getaways and a new lack of responsibility that is ironically transferred onto their children.

Is this phenomenon of taking longer to “grow up” a detriment to these real world new-comers? I used to think so.

I used to think that those who did not follow the pre-apportioned “plan for life”( i.e. attend a four year college, get a career job right out of the gate, and marry the man of your dreams) were obviously maladjusted to life and destined to fade into mediocrity.

But it isn’t following this plan that makes writers into great poets, or artists into mini-Monet’s. “Life’s Plan” is the most difficult thing we will ever have to figure out, because it is like one of those annoying abstract test questions with no right answer.

So what if it takes this newer generation a little longer to find its way? In our constant search for a pause button, we will hopefully learn that it is not about being maladjusted.

It is about trying to make sense of a world full of options and having the confidence to never settle for simply being content.

What if there is no man of your dreams or white picket fence? What if there is no silver-lining?

Well, as an educated, resourceful group of basement dwellers, we will simply have to make our own. Because in this world of muddied dreams and imperfect realities, who knows what’s good and what’s bad?