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Taylor Cotter


A Struggle of Not Struggling

Posted: 07/10/2012 10:06 am

Editor's Note: This is one post in a series on the quarter-life crisis. Each post is written by a reader and describe very different experiences. See others

Like most female journalists, I assume, I only grew up with two real inspirations in my life: Carrie Bradshaw and Harriet the Spy. I had notebooks that grew into Microsoft Word documents, lists upon lists of everything I knew about everyone I had met. All I saw in my future was a New York City life where I lived adventure after adventure, without forgetting any of the details for blog posts, articles, and novels to come.

When I started college, I figured out that the 10-cents-a-word life wasn't really going to pay apartment rents and student loans that were plaguing my future. I saw job prospects decline drastically over my first year of college and professors discourage students from pursuing careers in journalism. After years and years of being told it was the ultimate way to achieve my dreams, I realized that pursuing a volatile degree from private university was possibly one of the worst decisions I could have made.

I stuck with what I had always been told was the 'right' thing to do, and pursued a degree in journalism at Northeastern University, but made sure to take every conceivable step to make myself employable: internship after internship, student leadership, part-time jobs and graduating early. I spent the last four years crafting my resume so I would be the perfect candidate for a writing job after graduation. I was given an incredible job offer from a previous internship days before graduation and after four years, felt like I had beaten the odds and was on the road -- or at least on a road -- to success.

Now, two months after graduation, I seem to be one of just a handful of people that's been able to get themselves on their feet, pay their own bills and actually put together some semblance of an adult life with minimal parental assistance. I bought a car, found an apartment and set up a 401k, just six months after turning 22. I came down on the 'right' side of every statistic -- I found a job in my field that actually pays well, I'm living on my own, and seem to have everything that these other college graduates are dying to have.

But what about that 10-cents-a-word life that I always wanted? What about New York City? What about freelancing, penning newspaper columns and urban adventures? What about the struggles that I see on Girls and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren't these the things that really make you 22?

Anne Marie Slaughter's article for The Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" has been quoted and criticized ad nauseam. However, all that's run through my head is that, at 22, I've already had to make life-defining decisions. I chose the path of a full-time job and an adult life. I gave up on the adventures, on freedom, on youth. Forget about career versus motherhood -- I can't even have it all now.

I suppose that I'm grateful that I can make all my car payments and start saving for retirement while most of my friends are living at home and working part-time jobs -- but I often find myself lamenting the fact that I'm not living at home and not working a part-time job. From my perspective, these are just some of the life-changing, character-building experiences that I may never have.

While Seymour Krim writes of the quarter-life crisis, "One life was never enough for what I had in mind," I felt as though one life was never even presented to me as an option. In a pre-recession world where we were taught to dream big, I carefully crafted my goals and aspirations. In the late 2000s, Generation Y was suddenly slapped with the reality that dreaming big wasn't going to cover the student loan bubble or our parents' retirement funds. My 'dream life' took a backseat to pursuing a solid career at a solid company.

Is the quarter-life crisis just not having a full-time job and living with your parents, or is it realizing that you have to choose some irreversible path for your life? In my case, it was realizing that I had already chosen, quite some time ago.

Though I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I might not be living a Lena Dunham-inspired life, I'm putting myself in a position where in the future, I might have a few more options to pursue what I really love -- and maybe I'm closer to Carrie Bradshaw than I think.
At least that's what they're telling me now.


Follow Taylor Cotter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/taylorcotter

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07:20 PM on 09/03/2012
She's joking right?
12:14 AM on 08/30/2012
Yeah... not a huge fan of this article. If you want to struggle so bad, why not donate some of your excess funds to those less fortunate? Why not devote some time to helping other grads find jobs? The media romanticizes the struggle. They do it because the triumph at the end of the story is what people want to see. However, the actual experience of the struggle is in no way fun or beautiful. Girls is fantasy - Lena Dunham has not struggled a moment in her life. In real life, struggling to make rent and drowning in debt and credit card debt is not attractive. The more in debt someone gets, the harder it is for them to ever become successful. Be grateful for what you have. Do not wish hardship and struggle on yourself.
11:54 AM on 08/05/2012
Wait until you get jumped then you'll have a quarter life 'crisis' HA
12:53 AM on 07/31/2012
You could always take a gap year after working for several years...
12:45 PM on 07/24/2012
Don't worry honey, you seem to be struggling plenty with your writing skills. Enjoy!
03:44 PM on 07/23/2012
Every time a twentysomething pines to be Carrie Bradshaw, a pair of Manolos snaps a heel.
07:02 PM on 07/20/2012
I hope that everybody that writes a harsh comment realizes that you are just adding to the fire. From this article and the backlash she is receiving, she slowly is becoming an internet sensation (ultimately making her very popular and famous). Congrats on creating controversy.
12:44 PM on 07/19/2012
I don't even know where to start with all the privilege that is oozing out of this post.

Realize that this article may not have looked as bad about a decade ago, but in the place the economy is in right now, you have to realize that people would give body parts and first borns to have what you currently have. You don't get to romanticize their struggle.
12:03 PM on 07/19/2012
White Whine at it's finest.
11:42 AM on 07/18/2012
You could teach CLUELESS 101 for starters. How much more out of touch could you be with what is going on in the country? People dealing with real issues..homelessness, joblessness, extreme poverty etc, etc
My micro-bio is empty
02:58 AM on 07/17/2012
So you've already achieved and experienced everything possible (accept the 'bad stuff' like living at home with your parents while you work as a waitress) by 22? Oh honey, no no no no...
Malia Griggs
01:30 PM on 07/16/2012
Listen—I am living the exact same life as yours, I promise. I am recently employed in journalism and living in NYC. I also watch Girls. I can, at least a little bit, appreciate the idea that as a writer in order to be successful you need to have struggled, but I'm also of the school of thought that's BS. And that you should be able to write what you know, because as a good writer, you can make that interesting. To assume that working part-time and living at home is the truly bohemian lifestyle is condescending to those who have worked hard to get exactly to that place. And anyway, look at Lena Dunham. Maybe Hannah is struggling, but Lena certainly isn't.
11:41 AM on 07/16/2012
That writing career of yours does not look like it has a very bright future after this article...
04:53 PM on 07/15/2012
Carrie Bradshaw, a vapid fictional character, was your inspiration? That just about sums it up.
03:13 PM on 07/15/2012
Ms. Cotter, unfortunately, your tone and impressions seem extraordinarily naive. Do you truly feel that having have pulled together "some semblance of an adult life" for only 60 days, your "full-time job and adult life" renders you unable to have any "life-changing, character-building experiences"? You should have the foresight to imagine endless possibilities for "life-changing" experiences in your chosen career as a journalist.

You know what happened to me during the six years since I graduated from college? While I boringly paid my electric bills, maturely shopped for laundry detergent, and contributed to my 401k? All of my grandparents died. I made great new friends, most of them at my jobs. I saw friends get laid off, move to different cities, go to graduate school, get married, have children. I changed my career path, went to law school part-time, and passed the bar exam. I waited tables and tutored part-time. And if you could have met me when I was 22, I would never have been able to predict these experiences, or how they have shaped me into the person that I am now.

Don't worry, Ms. Cotter. You'll face plenty of "life-changing" experiences, both welcome and unwelcome. As soon as five years from now, you'll read this article and your impressions of your life and have a good chuckle at yourself.