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Post-Grad Depression Is A Full-Time Job

Her Voice

College presidents, guidance counselors, and commencement speakers across the country have a way of thrilling us for all the endless possibilities that await us beyond graduation.


Daydreams of corner offices, beaming entrepreneurial endeavors, and overall success fill our minds as we wait to be handed our degree and take off towards adulthood. Interestingly enough, many college graduates like myself, have had a post-grad experience that's been everything but a fairy tale. In fact, all of the "You are the Future" sermons might get you through the door, but they often fail to mention what happens when things don't go as planned.

You see, I've had a relatively unconventional post-grad experience. Despite my many efforts, there were no internships or entry-level job offers at some trendy start-up company awaiting me upon graduation. For nine months, I worked my share of retail jobs at minimum wage with managers that were prepping for their junior prom. While most of my other classmates had moved on to their big corporate jobs in Charlotte and Chicago, here I was in some no-name town, ringing up Happy Meals and being chastised for a mysteriously broken ice cream machine.

Although these humbling gigs allowed me to hone in on my customer service skills, they did a heck of a job on my self-confidence. At the time, I hadn't considered how much having gainful employment would affect my self-worth and mental health. Still, I persisted, and finally received a job offer at an advertising agency in the heart of Midtown, New York City. I couldn't believe that after countless rejections, I finally earned a position in alignment with my skill sets and professional goals. I was certain that the worst was behind me and it would only be up from there.

Whew, was I laughably mistaken.

Before I knew it, things took a turn for the unexpected. After an irreversible fallout with my roommates and the big wigs over my account choosing to part ways with our agency, I was left with a big decision:

Do I live in a homeless shelter and finish this New York rags-to-riches story, or do I pack my bags and head back down below the Mason Dixon line?

I made the sensible choice and packed all of my belongings into a single suitcase, and made the trek back to the small town I called home. If you think finding a job after graduation is hard, try finding employment in a town that isn't necessarily running over with opportunity, so it was back to McDonald's I went.

It wasn't long before I quit my cashier job in hopes of finding something better paying and in alignment with the degree I spent thousands of dollars on, only to fall into more no's and months of unemployment. It seemed like the very thing that was supposed to open the doors of opportunities was the very thing closing them, and no amount of résumé revamping could stop it.

The rejections and letdowns were more than I could stand, causing me to sink into a depression that I saw no way out of. I had never felt so hopeless, low, or worthless in my life. I had no money, no job, and no community to lean on at my darkest hour.

You don't know what your lowest point is until you reach it and you don't know how dark your darkest is until your light is completely gone.

My dad and sister were instrumental in speaking life into me and getting my head back on straight. Still, I was so embarrassed that I ever got to that point and for them to see me there. I was always the smart, positive, goal-driven person in their eyes and at that moment, I thought that I had let them down. Thankfully, they were there to remind me of one thing that I managed to forget this entire time: my worth.

Ever since we were young, we've been accustomed to a standardized grading system. If we perform well, we get a high score, if we don't, we get a low mark. From kindergartners to college seniors, it's been this way and we've placed our worth and value in how well we perform within these social structures. Then, once we enter the "real world" and navigate our new reality without an instruction manual, we're forced to find our new identity and ask ourselves who we are outside the landscape of academia, scholarship, and educational ranking systems.

After graduation, I placed my worth in my degree and the opportunities it was supposed to allot me. When all those fell through, I placed my worth in my lack of success and it nearly ended me.

The light bulb lit up when I realized that the only true grading system there is in life is progress.

When we're able to take a step back and see how far we've grown, how many times we gotten up after being knocked down, and the small steps we've taken in the right direction, the learning curves is now only about the you today vs. the you of yesterday.

No matter if you have an associate position, work as a part-time barista, or spend your day searching for new positions on LinkedIn, you have a job. Waking up in the morning and choosing to show up for whatever lies ahead in your day takes work and every time you say "yes" to the journey and "yes" to life, that's a promotion that no manager could ever give you.

So, if you're struggling in between where you are and where you want to be, I am pleased to inform you that we are all full-time employees of life. Your dark seasons are not the end, they're just the middle; show gratitude and be present in your fight. You're a warrior in this thing called life, and that truth should be celebrated.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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