The Penny People

My Post-Grad Dilemma of Finding A Little Success


I'm so lucky.

I think I only truly realized that a couple years ago, right after college.

After college, us Barely-Adults are carted off into the real world, forced to grab whatever job we can get in whatever city we can afford, and there most of us will stay. (Albeit perhaps a bit more comfortable and content later on.) Some of us are More-Like-Adults: people who somehow get the reasonable job they wanted and already have a plan to climb the ladder. Some of us are Still-Kids: Seriously, what the f**k is a job and how do I get me one?

I'm one of the latter, it seems.

And still, I'm lucky.

Because others like me will go to the New Yorks of the world. They will spend their life savings, scrape every penny out of bulging, copper-filled wallets that weigh them down, passed swiftly by slim wallets lined with green and worth hundreds. They will cram into crowded apartments with cranky landlords, broken pipes, and roommates they met through Craigslist. They will eat ramen noodles for a week straight in between job interviews and existential crises.  They will take side jobs they don't want but need and go on night-outs they don't need but want. They will chase after dreams they both need AND want. And many will fail.

I'm lucky. Because there I was post-college, without a full-time job, and somehow I didn't have to go through any of that.

Thanks to my parents, I am able to stay at home, in my old bedroom. Nearly all of the money I am earning and will earn is going into my savings, aside from a small "rent." I have my own bedroom. I have hot water all the time. I don't have to worry about not being able to pay rent. I live near a city, so I have resources and job opportunities. I have zero debt after college. More importantly, I have time. Time to find a job. Time to figure out my life. Time to breathe.

I'm lucky.

Everyone will look at me and see that I'm lucky. It's no secret. I'm one of the few who can get away with going back home and taking my time in a place full of opportunity.

Others don't have that luxury. And even so, even though it's scary, they'll still go to the New Yorks of the world. They'll still reach for dreams that seem to only be attainable if you have crisp 100-dollar bills strapped to your back like wings and someone to guide you instead of hundreds of copper pennies holding you down like shackles and a prison guard to keep you there.

But perhaps some of them know that, if they stack the pennies, however laborious that process seems, they can also make it to the top.

I'm somewhere in the middle. I suppose I have the opportunity to choose whether I want to fly to my dreams or build a tower of pennies, but neither choice will be easy. One requires me stick it out in one dreary place and save, save, save, even though the longer I stay, the farther away I drift, like a cozy boat at sea trying to reach the shore; the other requires me to drop it all and join the Penny People in the crowded apartment, eating ramen and watching Game of Thrones, talking into the night about our futures and crying over failures.

The choice should be easy, right? For starters, I'm actually given a choice, unlike those who are forced to jump through hoops. I mean, it only makes sense. I should stay and save. Stay and save. Stay and save. Be patient. Just stay and save.

Just stay...

Maybe if the voices in my head weren't so irrational, I'd be more inclined to believe that were true, yet somehow, I feel like it's a trap.

And maybe somewhere in the back of my head, I also realize that, even if I do join the Penny People, I will never completely be a Penny Person myself unless I'm insurmountably stupid. I have the support of my well-off family. I have a savings account, even if it isn't particularly large. I have connections around the country, even around the world. I'll never be without a safety net. I will never fully understand the fear.

Just stay...

I think I once said in a blog post that, one day, I'll be the owner of one shiny success and a mountain of failures. And I see all these people, running around with their pennies and somehow doing amazing things, and I wonder if they've succeeded or failed. I wonder if I've already failed, even though I've done nothing to fail at.

But maybe I've been looking at this all the wrong way.

Maybe this isn't about success and failure. Maybe it isn't about making mistakes. Maybe I've been thinking too much about how "I need to fail in order to succeed." Maybe I forgot that things aren't always black and white. Failure and success. Maybe I forgot what success was.

Because thinking about the Penny People squished on a couch, laughing about this week's blunders while stuffing popcorn in their mouths; buying way too much avocado because it was 3 for $1 and how could they pass that up; drifting slowly, aimlessly, while yellow streaks honk by in their world that moves at least twice as fast; finding others, different than them, and swapping tales of triumph and loss; I start to think that's success in its own right. Just one form of it. Success can be small and large, easy-to-get and hard-to-reach, short-term and far-reaching.

Success? No. Successes. It will always be plural. For what sort of life have you lived if you can only name one success? An ungrateful one, I'm sure.

Perhaps I've been the ungrateful one. Actually, I know I have. I could always see failure, but I could never see success even when it was right in front of my eyes.

I've succeeded.

I will continue to succeed.

I will also fail.

I'm lucky.

I will not stay.

I will not go.

I will fly. Not with green wings, but with no wings at all.

That is my—our—power.