I got a watch from my parents for my 21st birthday. It was a really nice watch that I wear all the time. I’m lucky my parents gave it to me because I can't imagine a time I'll ever be able to buy myself one. Similarly, my do-gooding best friend, who wants to work with NGOs in Africa, freely admits she's asked for a handbag from her parents for every birthday, graduation gift and Christmas for the last five years. She's building up a collection to last a lifetime because she can't imagine ever being able to purchase one without financial help.
Studies show that Generation-Y is unique in that we place ideals above commodities, a fulfilling and self-affirming job above a lucrative one. For our parents, there was an assumed, fairly limited career path (doctor, lawyer, accountant). For us, there are more choices and happiness seems like a more valuable currency than the dollar (or Bitcoin, for those who understand it).
Yet this puts us, or me at least, in a nasty predicament. I've been fortunate enough to grow up being supported by my parents, both financially and emotionally, which has been an invaluable help throughout college and grad school. But with my last graduation looming, I'm starting to feel like a combination of Cher Horowitz and Hannah Horvath. What comes next? How will I afford it?
Can I afford to pay rent without my parents help? Uh, no, this is New York. On a journalist's salary, I'm not sure I can afford a metro card without some support, not to mention, basic food needs.
But on the other hand, maybe my nagging fear originates with my worry that if my parents do help me, I might quash my own potential independence. Am I in denial of the real world, living off them beyond a price point of what they “rightly” owe me? And does this give me an unfair edge over my peers? Internships are by nature, elitist. Many are unpaid, making them an option available only to those who have support from elsewhere. And while I’m first to admit how lucky I am to be supported by my family, surely the bank of mom and dad has to run out at some point — and if not now, when?
I haven't quite resolved this internal debate and I'm not sure I ever will. For someone who likes nice things and has a tendency to take cabs far too frequently, I'm pretty sure that my parents bankrolling my life enough to allow me to take a poorly paying job that makes me happy outweighs my desire to “do it on my own" to prove some arbitrary point to myself. But, I also recognize there are degrees and magnitudes of relying on my parents. For example, I feel little guilt about using their Netflix account or still leeching on my dad's phone plan; however, I would feel much worse booking vacations on their dime.
For now, I'm simply avoiding the whole "will I be cut off?" conversation because I'm quite frankly terrified of the answer being “yes.” But if I — you — are lucky enough to have parents who help, I — maybe, you — will take it with outstretched arms and the understanding that the deal comes with whatever strings they want.
It's much harder to fight with your parents when they're paying for your very existence. Words like “I'm never talking to you again” become meaningless when your Con Edison bill is crazy high (hey, it's been a long winter) and you have to phone your parents, tail between your legs and bill in your hand.
Photo credit: Billy Madison