• January 2015

Millennials Under Pressure: Ways to Open a Release Valve

By Eurah Lee
Millennials Radio Show

Last month I wrote about an issue that many of my peers are facing: Handling with the double-edged sword of accruing heaps of student debt in order to pursue a college degree.

Certainly, we understand the importance of being well educated — that’s a key part of what’s required to land a good job in the “real world.” But sometimes, I feel as if the balance is off — that rather than my college education setting me up for success, I am being strangled by my growing debt, which feels like a noose around my neck. Have I made a deal with the devil, where I will be forever tied to the federal government by the money that I owe?

Or am I just doing what everyone else does — making sure I have the money I need to take the next steps in my life?

The pressures boil … am I doing the right thing?

To be honest, at 21, I realize that I am simply feeling the growing pains of becoming a responsible adult.

I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone. We are a generation that arguably has more opportunity than any other generation that has come before us. We are highly educated, and have been taught to believe in ourselves. Many of us also believe that we are free to chase any dream and that we can become who and what we want to be.

While the adrenaline rushes every day, it’s sometimes overwhelming.

I interviewed three people who I thought could shed light and guidance on the topic — a friend, a professor, and my mom. My hope is that we can find ways to open a release valve for the pressure so that we, the Millennials, can embrace the process rather than fight it.

Scroll down for their answers. — EJ

Eurah Lee: How can I be mindful when my mind is full? What does it mean to have balance?

My friend, Alberto Francese, says: “It’s very important to have a hobby or something you can do aside from all this work to let your mind free. Do something that still pushes you, but in a different way, aside from your academics and profession.”

Alberto Francese is the president of the academic fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma for students interested in pursuing a career in insurance, risk management, and actuarial science.

Eurah Lee: Does anyone really know who or where they want to be at the age of 20? If so, do our goals stay persistent in a journey full of changes? If not, how and when will we figure it out?

Professor Kurt Waters says: “Yes, you are living a dream. Too bad there’s so much work associated with that dream. But it is a dream nonetheless. I, too, think you are most suited for this adventure you are on. You are a brave soldier and I know things will get easier and easier with each week. There will always be speed bumps, always, but hopefully they will get smaller. Enjoy every minute. Work your hardest.”

Kurt Waters is a geography teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and a former professor at George Mason University.

Eurah Lee: One thing I am certain of is that I want my mother to be proud of me. But what is it that our parents want for us? What do they expect us to have accomplished at this age? And are they putting this pressure on us or are we putting it on ourselves? How can we decompress from the realities of growth?

My mother and best friend, Billie Kim, says: “Only think about yourself. Don’t worry about me or your sister. We’re fine, and will always be fine. Don’t think about anyone else’s future but yours.”

My mother currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where she teaches English.

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