Being 25 isn’t easy. Especially when you’re living in Washington D.C. and competing for the same jobs that 10’s of thousands of other young professions are competing for – all while working full time and pursing a Master’s degree. Yes, it seems as though I have been dealt a particularly difficult hand. Not to be cliché, but I have been given a full house. Through bills, rent, studies, grades, loans, work, and relationships, I have been given a series of growing pains, experiences that have led to a number of valuable lessons attributing to my new found wisdom.
The first lesson that I have to those graduating from college or setting out on their own is to take a chance and become financially independent. I come from a upper-middle class family. I could ask my dad for a loan or have him pick up the rent. Yet, how would I grow? Being able to barely pay the rent, eating taco spice on a fajita wraps for dinner a few times a week, or walking 2 miles to school – all comes with the territory of me making it on my own. I continue to hear stories of young adults getting help from their parents by paying the rent, picking up credit card tabs, or buying them vacations. I am sorry but this is not how the real world works. Entitlement can only last for so long. Eventually it’s time for us to grow up.
The second lesson is to work like a dog. Work as much as possible because, it not only will provide you with financial security, but a sense of accomplishment. Trust me, you won’t be at your dream job and you will have to work odd jobs to get by. Since I graduated college in 2015, I have been everything from a busser to a bartender, a gym custodian to an intern and even with graduate school; I made it a personal goal of working 55 hours a week or more. It might seem like too much for you. You might feel burnt out. But you will amaze yourself on how much you can achieve in a week. The feeling of not having enough time will be overshadowed by a sense of personal distinction and achievement because you propelled yourself through adversity – if we do not feel discomfort in life, then we probably are not living it right.
The third lesson is to possess an edge. For years I classified myself as a hard worker who was too nice to stick up for myself. Time and time again, people would take advantage of me. If you work hard wherever you are, whether it’s a news studio, restaurant, or law firm. If you believe you deserve more attention, respect, or compensation, handwork and sticking up for yourself makes things happen. In the event that nothing changes, you still win as you took the time to develop a voice.
Despite possessing an edge, it is still important to exhibit compassion and empathy. Some months ago, I was having drinks with a co-worker. During our discussion he stated that he allowed time and circumstance to numb himself from other people’s stories. Through this discussion, I realized the importance of never losing sight of other people’s perspectives. By listening and appreciating others, we realize that our present circumstances may not be that bad.
The last and most important piece for young professions is to beat to your own drum. Washington D.C. is a quintessential case study of people trying to fit into a mold. Its competitive nature to dress to impress, striving to form everlasting social circles, and making connections leading to future employment. I hate to admit it, but I sometimes do not dress to impress, my circles might not be the most extravagant, and maybe I could have made one or two more connections or phone calls that will lead to future prospects. In no way am I preaching to fight the system -just do all these things with your own element of swagger and never loss touch of who you are. I have met many others my age that hate what they are doing because they think they have to fit a mold. I have met many that have no idea what they want because they have been told their whole lives what to do. I am 25, and might be a little late to the game in terms of developing my passion, yet, in my opinion, I feel light years ahead of those who are miserable at what they are doing with their lives or worse off, too ignorant to realize what they want out of life. The biggest piece of advice that I have received while pursuing a career in media is to “find my own voice”. I have felt this way for a long time and this is the perfect venue to express my words.