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Somewhere between graduation and now, my perspective on life changed. School was all I had known for the formative years of life, and graduation was like the Higgins Boat dropping the front gate and my life telling me to storm the beaches of Normandy that is adulthood.
Maybe it’s more hair on my back, a few grey hairs in my beard, or that my business casual monkey suits vastly outnumber my t-shirt and chino collection, but somewhere, I became an grown man.
Still, the thought of owning a home, having a child or purchasing a new car is a foreign concept. I don’t feel, look or get treated like a real adult yet. I regularly get asked all the time if I am a PhD student. This is what I refer to as “Postgrad Purgatory”- that period of time working an entry level to middle management job. It’s been said that grad school is purgatory, but as a grizzled veteran of grad school, life in limbo does not end when you get your higher degree.
Being in Postgrad Purgatory basically entails making enough money to not be homeless but not enough money to find a place without three roommates and the occasional cockroach. If this phenomenon had an anthem, it would be, “Not a girl, not yet a woman.”
At the ripe age of 26, I’m closer to 30 than I am 20, which just plain sucks. I’d love to afford a house or at least put money towards a down payment as I write the $700 a month check to live in a room slightly larger than the room I lived in at the fraternity house. I operate on the most minimum “fun” budget, and it is damn near impossible to save towards anything thanks to student loans. I’ve even seriously considered buying a double wide, just to have some peace of mind that my monthly kick in the dick for rent is going toward somewhat of a future.
I envy my friends whose parents let them suck their teat clear into postgrad. “Must be nice” crosses my thoughts as my friends get engaged, put up sepia filtered pictures of their starter home’s “sold” sign or their ball and chain puts 40 Instagram pictures of the same overpriced diamond ring she “had to have” titled “I SAID YES” that he probably couldn’t afford. It’d be great if mommy and daddy could fork over the cash to fund my wedding, or if we still had a dowry system, but that just isn’t the case in today’s world. It blows my mind that like four years ago, my same friend that has a kid on the way, a house, and a lavish wedding used to do gratuitous amounts of cocaine and bring home strange women on a semi-regular basis.
Everywhere on social media, I am bombarded with people who are also storming their metaphorical beaches. A good friend of mine is having a very expensive destination wedding which will be my third groomsmen duties in as many years. For the record, I hate his wedding. After crunching the numbers, between the suit, bachelor party, travelling to and from the wedding and paying for my lady to keep me company during the 10-hour drive there, it is going to cost roughly $2,000. How the hell can I justify spending that kind of money when I have a moral dilemma on whether to buy a 24 pack of shit beer or a 12 pack of good beer? Money doesn’t grow on trees in the Madoff household, and that’s at least three days of PTO. Paid time off is one of the most precious postgrad commodities. Who the hell knows if they’ll even stay married?
The truth is that Postgrad Purgatory is a natural step in life. Unless you are one of the lucky bastards that have parents that still pay for clothes, rent and car insurance, our mid 20s-early 30s is full of shit sandwiches. There is no way around it. Being of the rank and file caste, the best way to get through it is to keep your feet moving and eyes open. It doesn’t pay to stay at the same company as it once used to. See a better job? Up and move because that’s the ticket to social mobility.
So when does it end? When does the treading water, pinching pennies and staying in end? Fuck if I know. If there’s a silver lining to Postgrad Purgatory, I’m sure it’s something about hard work paying off or something like that.
But mostly, it just sucks..
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