By Katia Delgado
Today, yahoo released a tear-jerking article about millions of unemployed boys and girls who have to move in with their parents because they can’t find a job (read more here). There is no denying it – the economy is terrible and jobs are scarce. What this article failed to emphasize, however, is the reluctancy of the unfortunate souls to find ANY job to hold them over in the meantime. Instead, it goes like this, “I have a Master’s degree in literature and I’m *thinking* of getting a job at Walgreen’s.” Not “I applied and cannot get a job at Walgreen’s”, but rather “I’m too good to work at Walgreen’s and would rather mooch off my parents.” There is no need for someone to get a minimum-wage job that’s “below them” when they are able to get by without one. Imagine someone who’s been handed things all his/her life finds him/herself in a situation where housing and food is free and abundant and there is no pressure or expectation to “fight for survival” because “you know, dude, economy and such.” For some, this safety net can become a crutch and a vehicle for succumbing into laziness (and ultimately, losing one’s identity). Parents are enabling this under the delusion of being supportive.
At times, tough love is necessary, as well as drilling into one’s head the realization that being “motionless” (by that, I mean not the physical lack of movement, but rather lack of development and progress) is not acceptable. Having supportive parents is indeed wonderful; and being told that you are special, and deserve more, and you will go places is necessary. But not to the point where the precious offspring is too good to go get a minimum wage job and would rather straddle their parents’ neck in anticipation of the job that’s “worthy” of him/her (which, of course, will descend on his/her bright head from above in the most dramatic magical fashion). This period of unemployment should be recognized as a chance for improvement, an opportunity to volunteer, learn a new language, or acquire a new skill (even if this skill is balancing a tray full of hot plates at a restaurant – it will bring a new appreciation for waiters’ jobs).
I was “fortunate” to have been kicked out of my mom’s house at the tender age of 18 and flung into a completely foreign (literally and figuratively) environment. Of course, at the time I did not realize how beneficial this experience would be to me and spent days wallowing in self-pity and mourning the loss of the “support system” of parents and friends that I used to have. The self-pity marathon could only last so long, and I had to (*HAD TO* – as in *no choice*) pick my Russian butt off the dorm couch and fend for myself. That meant days, weeks, months of uncomfortable, painful, even embarrassing experiences which lead to learning and growing and development. This was Darwin’s theory at work – I had to adapt or accept defeat and come home to mommy’s warm nest (where I would be welcomed with open arms, of course, but who wants to admit they are a loser?). This also meant non-stop work – literal gainful employment at the lowest positions at college as well as self-improvement. I spent my free time reading a ton of English language literature in order to enhance my vocabulary and also grew thick skin and learned to overlook people’s mockery of my accent, habits, the way I dressed. Instead, I adopted the “I’ll show you” attitude, and got better.
Looking back, I am grateful for the lack of safety net. I’m grateful that there were weeks in my life when I had nothing but ramen noodles in the kitchen because it made me hungry – not for food (ok, for real food, too), but for advancement. There were hundreds of people like me at school, except they didn’t have the funny accent and they had the advantage of getting all the cultural references, so I made it my goal to get better. When A’s and B’s were not good enough for getting ahead, I got a 4.0. When Bachelor’s (two of them) was not good enough, I went to grad school. Had I the option of moving back into my parents’ comfy couch, who knows where I would be today? Being stuck in a comfort zone is absolutely detrimental to one’s development. A body at rest will remain at rest. It’s our choice to make it move.