We Are The In-Betweeners
We grew up in an age where the American dream meant you followed a specified list and ticked the items off one-by-one, in the appropriate order. We were told that we would walk tall off our college campuses with our freshly inked degrees. We would accept the job offer that would inevitably come our way. We’d get married and have kids and then, after thirty years at the same company, we’d retire. The picket fence we would build to contain our succinct lives would chip and falter over time but it would be physical proof that we “made it.”
We don’t live in that world anymore. The colleges became more selective. What was once a choice became whatever we could get. Those degrees became overwrought, expensive pieces of paper indicating less about knowledge and more about pedigree. The job offers for postgrads that once gushed from the proverbial firehose became infrequent droplets from a shower head that is now all but dry. The divorce rate has skyrocketed and accepting that you’ll have a “first wife” or a “second husband” has devolved from being the idea of a cynic to being that of a realist.
This world for us “in-betweeners,” us “pseudo-adults,” is alien and terrifying. The 23-year-olds of yesteryear were self-sufficient, level-headed, and guided. Those 23-year-olds would scoff at us. Our better-educated, more driven, and dream-laden selves would probably look like bumbling infants to them. We are standing on the precipice of a world our predecessors could have never imagined. We straddle this strange border between knowing enough to start our lives but not enough to establish who we are. We have the trust of our elders but not the faith.
In the year since I’ve graduated, I’ve lost more than I ever thought I would. I’ve lost jobs and friends and lovers and confidence and, above all, myself. I no longer recognize myself when I look in the mirror every morning. I go through the motions of my day. I laugh and I cry and I ponder and I yell and I wait. I wait until my life feels like it’s my own and it’s one that I’m proud to identify with. I wait for the day when I know what it is that I want to identify with.