Balancing Creativity and Responsibility at 20

Lately, I’ve felt like I’m living in a movie. Honestly, I’ve felt this way my entire life. Everything in my life happens for a reason and things always seem to drift into their place. I’ve learned that time is the greatest tool of all, and any issue really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Existing as a 20 year-old with this wistful way of thinking is just as helpful as it might be harmful: the world I’m walking around in is fueled by a capitalistic mindset, in which each human must work to earn money to buy things they need. This works out in theory, but it doesn’t leave much room for creative expression or exploration as young adults are becoming fully-functioning members of society. From a young age, we’re expected to go to school, go to college, get a degree and find a well-paying job, ultimately preparing to have enough funds to sustain your living costs in retirement.

This poses many infrequently asked questions: how is someone supposed to know what they want to do with their life before they’ve figured out what actually interests them, or before their brain is fully developed? Why has society set up a system in which people’s higher education costs astronomic amounts which will take decades to pay off? Why do people have to save money to enjoy life during their retirement while spending their younger, more prosperous years working their asses off? How has nobody come to a reasonable conclusion for this ongoing issue?

I have never felt so frustrated about money. As I’ve been talking to my friends, co-workers and peers’ it’s evident that money is a major issue for many young adults in the world. Money is a topic I typically avoid talking about, as I’ve been raised by parents who are financial planners. In some cases, it almost feels taboo to talk about money as an act of modesty. I was raised to view money as a tool: to be cautious where you spend it and mindful to save it. 

I can’t count how many times I hear the phrase “I’m broke” on an average day on campus. Friends having to decline plans due to insufficient funds is honestly so disheartening. This is the time in our lives when we’re never going to be as young or free as we are right now so why is it so difficult to enjoy life and have a good time on a low budget? It’s the time when young people should be traveling and experiencing the world to gain knowledge, not thrown into a system of schooling to work to retirement. I don’t understand how it’s typical to finally enjoy life and relax when you’re too old to do anything exhilarating. 

It’s puzzling how students are expected to go to college in order to get a “good job,” yet they spend most of the income from this “good job” to pay back the debt from their degree — it’s a never ending cycle. The loophole is honestly mind boggling, and a simple solution to ease some of the hardship is to get a job while in school. This is a daunting task I’m able to relate to, as I’ve been balancing a job with my schoolwork for the first time in my college career. I’ve been keeping myself so insanely busy that I’ve barely had a moment to breathe. 

It’s obvious that balancing a job alone is a difficult task, but on top of schoolwork, social obligations and finding time to sleep, it becomes insanely overwhelming. I have to bring myself to devote equal time to my studies as my job. But in the limelight, my job almost seems more important at times, as it’s at least providing me income to sustain my living costs. I can’t buy groceries if I don’t go to work — but I won’t fail out of college if I miss one class to catch up on sleep. On top of it all, it’s difficult to find a job that will be worthwhile. Most places in New Paltz hire infrequently, and unless you’re willing to work harder than you’re getting paid, it’s unlikely you’ll find a perfect place with a steady paycheck. Also, some stores won’t be interested in hiring someone with a demanding schedule and who doesn’t live in New Paltz year round, so settling for a minimum wage waitressing job seems to suffice for now.

In some cases, parents may be a little more generous with how they set up their children in college. I somewhat find this counterproductive depending on the circumstances. Although struggling with money in college isn’t exactly glamorous, it’s the time for growth and learning how to become an adult- that doesn’t help if you have a credit card linked to your parents account. At a certain point in your life, it’s embarrassing to rely on parents for money for things if you’re able to get yourself a job to buy the things you want. There’s also such a feeling of freedom that comes with being financially detached from your parents. You can see them as human beings and not as people you’re indebted to.  

The major thought on my mind recently is how short college actually is (!!!!!) and how insanely fast it flies by, and I’m left wondering what I want to do to occupy my time until graduation. As I slave away waitressing on my Saturday nights I wonder if the FOMO I’m feeling is justified. The feeling of accomplishment gained from earning tips from a strenuous shift is honestly rewarding. And whenever I return home at night I realize that I really didn’t miss as much fun as I thought I was missing. Although I’ll never truly know what the best way to occupy my time is, the balance I’m aiming for is close to reach. 

At the end of the day, nothing really matters. The small quarrels with friends, failing a quiz, missing a house show for a pocket full of tip money, or even deciding you want to stay in while your friends go out. In the grand scheme of things, you won’t remember the small imperfections that seem completely consuming in a month from now, so there’s no sense in reveling in the bad, it’s more important to just focus on what makes you most happy and will make you feel accomplished after receiving your diploma.

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About Samantha Salerno 74 Articles
Samantha (Sam) Salerno is a third-year performing arts major who has a passion for writing. This is her third semester on The Oracle. She spent the majority of her summer working for the publication, Fire Island News. You can reach her by emailing