Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Freedom of Unemployment

I read an article in the New York Times today about a college graduate who has been unable to find a job. Scott Nicholson graduated in 2008, but it seems the state of the economy hasn’t afforded him any good opportunities to put his skills to work. His parents are worried and frustrated, but Nicholson is pretty optimistic. Recently, he was offered a job at an insurance agency with a salary of $40,000 a year, but he had one problem with that offer: he chafed at the idea of telling his parents he had turned the job down.

Nicholson said he doesn’t want to get buried under the weight of dead-end work, and who can blame him? Once we get caught up, we’re caught up. And there’s a big fear that those early years will turn into twenty years and before you realize it all the ideas, hopes and freedom you had are swept away with the tide.

Nicholson isn’t handing over his 9 to 5 time to just any company. He knows the value of his freedom and he’s not giving it up that easily. The article, entitled “American Dream is Elusive for New Generation”, details how this recession has left the millenials (18-29-year-olds) in one of the worst positions: with a nearly 14 percent unemployment rate, comparable to that same age bracket during the Great Depression. But the American dream isn’t elusive for millenials; it’s just going to take a little longer to kick-start that engine.

After all, this dream is based on freedom and the idea that anyone who works hard and maybe has a good idea can succeed in this nation. Nicholson believes it and he’s been more able to wield the power of that idea by waiting for a career move that can give him more of what he wants out of life. Isn’t that what we all want anyway?

Of course, Nicholson’s parents are at comfortable income levels and he doesn’t have to take any job just to get a paycheck. He doesn’t have to pay rent or pay back student loans, but he knows that if he takes just any job his freedom and his quality of life will suffer. That’s one sacrifice he isn’t willing to make. And I applaud it. We want to work, but we want an environment we can thrive in. We have seen the effects on our peers and our parents, whose lives have taken the tolls of going to work and not really liking it, and we want to steer away from it as much as possible. I understand the feelings of futility, frustration and numbness that are left over after writing and mailing cover letters and hearing only the gentle hum of silence afterwards. There are jobs out there, some that pay $15,000 and some that pay $40,000, but it takes a lot of courage for someone to hold out for something great.

Nicholson keeps himself busy: he does odd jobs for neighbors and is a volunteer firefighter. Believe me, after all the résumé-polishing and the anxieties of interviewing, volunteering and fixing fences for your neighbors seem like much more valuable uses of our time. I, like Nicholson, am optimistic. The freedoms we seek to pursue and preserve, for ourselves and our families, are waiting for us. And we’ll get there one day. We might have to wait a little longer for it, but good things come to those who wait. At least, that is our hope.

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