Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
I am one of the millennials you keep hearing about in the news. I graduated from university last year. I am unemployed and I live with my parents.
Just like my peers, I am tech savvy, glued to my iPhone and laptop. We dream of starting our own companies rather than joining the existing ranks.
When I left school in the spring of 2013, I was full of optimism. Sure, the economy wasn't looking good, but I was moving back to Toronto – the land of opportunity. At long last, I was entering the adult world of independence, money and hard work.
In reality, it meant moving back in with Mom and Dad, a minimum-wage job, and more hair-pulling frustration than I'd ever thought possible.
My first job right out of university was at a small, vegan, gluten-free bakeshop. I contacted the owner via e-mail and set up an informal meeting the following week. After a 15-minute interview, I was hired on the spot. I was ecstatic. This whole job thing was a breeze. Why were people my age complaining about the high youth unemployment rates? All you had to do was apply yourself and the job was yours.
I was about to get an education in patience and hard work.
Working at the bakery was a confidence builder: The team was fantastic and the part-time hours gave me time to pursue other passions and continue my job hunt. But I had my hopes set on something a little bigger. I dreamed of working as a social-media manager at one of those super-cool tech startups, or maybe in a coveted internship at the Toronto International Film Festival. When I wasn't boxing baked goods or washing dishes, I was focused on researching and applying for jobs. I even managed to fit in some networking with mentors and old friends.
Seven months later, my search had produced zero successes. To add insult to injury, my perfect driving record was destroyed. I got into two car crashes within a month and my insurance skyrocketed. Then, in spring, 2014, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was completely heartbroken.
Just when I thought God had lost my address and I was ready to give up, I received some thrilling news. I got a phone call from an old employer and mentor. He and his best friend had started a film company and were shooting their first movie in Iceland that summer. He wanted me as the film's script supervisor and Kickstarter co-ordinator.
I signed up for the adventure immediately. The next couple of months were intense. I read everything I could on script supervision, film continuity and crowd-funding. I spent five weeks in Iceland while we shot the film. The experience was life-changing. I met some of the most creative people, filmed on top of a glacier and hiked up riverbeds. My next job would have some big shoes to fill.
After the movie wrapped, I found myself back in Toronto and once again living with my parents. On the top of my to-do list was finding a new job. At first I thought I'd aim high, apply for a "career" type of entry-level job – film exhibition intern or assistant community manager. Two months later, I was still unemployed. I reworked my strategy, looking for any part-time work as well as full-time career opportunities. With bills piling up, the pressure was growing.
After three months, I'd had some interviews and semi-positive leads, but no success. I focused on being resourceful, and getting by on babysitting and photography gigs. But I longed for full-time employment, to be of use to society and begin growing my savings account.
Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, I received some incredible advice from a very unexpected place. A few weeks ago, I was babysitting some of my favourite kids. It was dinner time and I had served the meal. The two older girls were finishing a game downstairs, so the youngest and I began eating our pizza at the table.
Out of the blue, this little four-year-old girl looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, very seriously: "Kat, don't ever give up. Keep on trying. Just don't give up." Then she took another bite of pizza and continued to munch away.
I was shocked. How did this little girl know exactly what to say? She had no idea what difficulties I was experiencing, yet she had just given me the words of encouragement I badly needed to hear. Some people might say it was a sign from a higher power, while others might call it mere coincidence. Whatever it was, my perspective positively changed and I had a new motto.
I am still unemployed. I know that there are others who have been so even longer – many from my generation, the infamous millennials. I hear us called lazy, entitled and even narcissistic, and maybe that's true. But what if our generation was recognized for something else? What if we were the generation that never gave up?
So that is the task I challenge my peers and myself to accomplish. Every time we want to just give up and move on, or find a simple answer to a hard question, let's remember the words of my wise four-year-old friend. Don't ever give up. Keep on trying. Whatever you do, just don't give up.
Kat Gatti lives in Toronto.