I have two really big money/career-related fears right now, and I swear they are actually keeping me up at night. You know the feeling when you have some big event or presentation happening the next day, and you wake up, completely breathless, multiple times in the middle of the night for no good goddamn reason? That’s been happening to me, because I’ve been playing these two scenarios out over and over again in my head.
The first is the (very untrue) fear that I’m not actually qualified for any job, and college was all just a dream. Of course, I didn’t exactly go to college for a degree that put me on the track for a very specific career -– I studied communication, and have to figure out how to apply the tools in my basket to a whole bunch of different real-life jobs. And I’m entirely capable of doing so! My education was excellent, I had wonderful professors, I learned a ton and worked insanely hard – so why do I feel like I’m a naïve high school senior, wistfully looking towards the future? I have a weird case of imposter syndrome right now. I feel so weird that I actually finished college, I almost feel like I single-handedly devalued my university by being able to graduate from there. I feel brand new -– how the hell am I supposed to be in the real world now? That’s a heavy fear. It weighs on me each evening when I cross the day off of my “Countdown to Graduation” wall calendar.
My second biggest fear is that I actually don’t graduate at all. Even though I have a personal academic advisor, a degree auditor, the department chair, and a department secretary who triple-checks everything to make sure she knows personally which com students are graduating each semester, I still feel like someone is going to come up to me on May 17th, two days before the ceremony, and put their hand on my shoulder and sigh “Mary… I’m afraid we have some bad news. You actually didn’t complete all of your requirements. There was one single credit we all overlooked, and you have to take another course next semester.”
This is really obviously not going to happen. And to be honest, even if it did, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Shit like that happens, and my life wouldn’t lose any value if I had to take a summer course to graduate (although it would certainly sting).
But financially speaking, if this were to happen, it would ruin the meticulous budget and money-saving plans I’ve set up for myself for the next year. Without school taking up my time, I need to start making more money to keep living in a way that isn’t raccoon-like, and I’ve got plans on how to do so immediately following my graduation ceremony. I’m stressed by the “I can’t buy bagels this week because they’re not on sale” mentality, and I don’t want an oversight on my degree evaluation to hold back my plans for even another second. So, yeah – this shit is keeping me up at night.
The interesting thing about money fears is that we all have them, and although a good amount of them are very serious and valid fears, a lot of them come from nowhere. We often feel nervous about things that we maybe don’t necessarily need to be worried about, but we’re paralyzed by the fear anyway. And I think most people would agree that there are hardly any fears quite as heavy as money-fears.
It is also hard to know if other people are experiencing the same fears as you. People don’t tend walk around with their deepest financial fears on display, and it may make you feel like you are alone in your fear and discomfort.
I decided to ask a few people from my graduating class what their money fears are, half-expecting them to say they had none, because they all play it so cool every day in class. But to my surprise, they were just as heavy as mine:
1. “I am terrified I’ll be homeless someday, but hardly with good reason. I’m meticulous about saving, and I have a good job. But I know that things can change in an instant, and I’m perpetually nervous about it happening to me one day and ending up on the streets.” –- Becca
2. “I fear that I’ll live a full life and never pay off my student loans, which are outrageously expensive. It is manageable enough to pay each month right now, which I’ve already started even though I haven’t graduated just yet, but it still feels like I’m getting nowhere. And it feels like if I ever want a higher quality of life, I’ll need to not have to make these monthly payments. But I fear I always will have them.” –- Jesse
3. “I am afraid that I’ll never quite be able to fully understand taxes. I’ve lived on my own for a year now, and still find myself calling my mom and asking if she can explain things to me. I can read about it on the internet, but nothing quite compares to having it taught to you by someone in-person who understands. I wish I’d taken some sort of accounting classes or something like that in school, because I feel like I need a big lesson. Tax season makes me so anxious.” — Alana
4. “I feel like I’m never going to find the type of full-time job I want, or really, never even gain the experience to get one of the jobs I want. I don’t graduate until December, but I already look for jobs, and every entry-level job has requested that I have 2+ years of experience on the job. Tell me, then, how that is considered entry-level? I have to start somewhere, but it feels like there is no platform to start from. It feels more increasingly possible that my degree will go to waste, and I’ll have to go continue my education if I want any sort of job opportunity, or I’ll have to really network and weasel my way into a starting position because my experience in the field clearly doesn’t speak for itself.” –- Mike
5. “I already secured a post-grad 9-to-5, and I already don’t love it. My biggest money-related fear is that I’ll need money so badly and have such little means of saving that I’ll never be able to quit this job and find one that I really love. I’m afraid to hold a job that doesn’t make me happy. Which is stupid, because of course, you often have to pay your dues and work at jobs you don’t love just because food and shelter are an important necessity. I would like to hold this job with grace and not complain because I am gainfully employed, but it is hard to feel less-than-passionate about what I’m doing and wonder if I’ll have to do it forever.” – Paula
The truth is, we all have money fears –- whether or not they’re things that should be keeping us up at night, they are valid. And sometimes, it is good to be reminded that we’re not alone. Then maybe we can get some sleep.
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