Mask & money

I know this is not the case for everyone, but I’ve never properly thought about how much money it would take for me to live one full year of my life. At least until this month, the kickoff of the final year of my undergraduate degree.

There’s a certain urgency to your final year of college unlike that of high school. At 18, all you want is to get out of your parents’ house and start your next steps to becoming a real adult with all those extra freedoms. The college application process is stressful, but once you’re in, all you feel is set for the next few years. Nowadays, though, I’m almost done with that supposed “next step” of an undergraduate experience.

And instead of excitement at the prospect of freedom, all I can seem to feel is dread. I’ve spent all of my college years riding out a scholarship that’s paid for most of my expenses. And soon enough, that’ll no longer be the case. I’ll have to make a living for myself beyond the easy confines of a university program that promised a head start at an adult life.

I hate to say it, but it all feels a little disingenuous now. Sure, a college degree is required to enter a lot of salaried fields, but it still feels as if I haven’t been taught anything real about sustaining myself as an adult.

Having lived through a health and economic crisis the past year and a half, I also had a crisis of my own as I’m sure many did. UncertaintyThat was the buzzword used to sum up what felt like a lifetime of confusion, trauma and absolute chaos. But I think that uncertainty hit differently for people my age, especially those feeling broken down by a disrupted status quo.

To be honest, I started to freak out about how to move forward from here, so I did the math.

And while my cost of living is very low for now—Cincinnati’s rent prices are fairly low and my parents cover insurance and medical costs—I don’t expect it to last. I know that the price of my life will steadily increase when I move and when I suddenly have to cover every single bill myself.

I’ll be blunt. I currently live on less than $1,000 a month, or $12,000 a year. Again, with a few missing “adulting” expenses and a very, very cheap apartment setup. I know it’s almost insane to think that’s the number that I’ll actually need to live off of – it’s over halfway below the poverty line.

And then I take a peek outside my own frugal spending bubble, and what do I find? What I knew all along. In most major cities, it costs well over my monthly cost of living to even pay base rent. To save for home ownership seems delusional and absurd in the modern market. Salaries are low, very low for the cost of life these days.

And I won’t even have student loans like most people my age.

The world I’m graduating into just doesn’t seem to support positive outcomes for people. It all feels wrong. But hey, I guess we’re in it together.