If you had asked me what my life was going to be like after college, I would have told you that I was going to have an exciting career in NYC, live in a chic one bedroom apartment on the upper west side, and travel often.

My reality turned out to be less glamorous; immediately after graduation I was unemployed, living at home with my parents, and watching reruns of “Selling New York” on Hulu while compulsively refreshing my email in the hopes that someone responded to one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of applications I submitted.

How did this happen?

I’m not sure how things ended up that way. I majored in economics (a practical major); I had a few internships under my belt, one of which I did abroad, I tweaked my resume with the help of career services until it was perfect, and I even began applying for jobs months before graduation. But none of that helped, I still ended up unemployed after graduating.

The first few years after graduation I toggled between feeling overwhelmed and disappointed.

Job searching on its own is stressful, but struggling to find one and knowing that your massive student loan payments will be starting soon only amplifies the stress.

It took me six months of aggressively searching after graduation to land a job waiting tables and another two years before I found a full-time job that was more in line with my career goals.

I was relieved when I landed a full-time job. I hoped it would “fix” everything, but it didn’t. Money was still tight. I went from being stressed out about not having a job, to being stressed out about not making enough.

To make matters worse, I spent the first few years after graduation believing that I needed to pay off my student loans before I could seriously start working on my goals. The thing is if I waited until they were paid off, given my income and necessary expenses I would be well into my 50s before they were gone.

Do I really need to wait that long?

When it came down to it, it wasn’t the thought of making monthly loan payments well into my fifties that scared me; it was the thought of postponing my goals until I was in my fifties that made me nervous.

I went to college thinking that immediately after graduation I would begin building a career and traveling the world, but none of that was happening, and I was afraid that it never would.

After a few years, I decided that I couldn’t wait anymore. I was miserable and tired of feeling sorry for myself. I needed change, so I asked my job if I could relocate. They agreed, and I moved to Chicago.

I wish I could say that after the move things instantly got better, but they didn’t. Money was still tight (now I had rent to deal with), I still felt behind in my career, and I was trying to sort through all this while adjusting to life in a new state.

Secretly I thought I might have made things worse instead of better and it took nearly a year before I stopped feeling that way.

What am I doing now?

I know it will be a long and painful road to financial security, but I’m determined to live a full life while traveling down it.

I’m not sure how long it will take for me to be debt-free and to feel financially secure, but I do know that when I get there, I won’t look back wishing I had spent more time living and less time worrying about bills.

Do you have student loans? Credit card debt? What goals have you been putting off because of them? 

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