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Sometimes I just feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m under water. There’s so much to do, so much to accomplish and I feel like I’m drowning under the pressure of life. If you go on my social media right now you’d see photos of me at fancy networking events, awards dues and on stage at huge conferences. That is a part of my life I get to enjoy because of my career, but the truth is there’s a lot of my life that those photos don’t tell, so if you want to know what I’ve been hiding, keep reading.

A close family member I was relying on for money developed a gambling addiction in the pandemic. They moved to Las Vegas after I graduated to be in sunnier weather. It started off as something fun she did when she felt lonely, but a few months ago I got a call from her that changed my life. In one game of Baccarat she lost all the money we currently had access to.

I’ll never forget that call. I was out with my friend Opri at a pub and my face just fell. I went home immediately and started panicking. When I was 16, my house burned down and for a while we struggled with money until our insurance came in, it was one of the hardest times in my life. I felt so out of place, so lost and I was always worried about not having enough. This call brought me right back to that mindset.

Have the last few years been hard for you? I’m sure they have been. We’ve all felt the pressure from the pandemic in one way or another. I don’t know how many people are still struggling in the aftermath of all of the pandemic, but with an upcoming recession, I feel like things are going to get worse if we don’t continue the conversations. So that’s what I’m going to try and do here. I’m putting all my struggles out on the table so you know you’re not alone- and because therapy times in the NHS are longer than a party your ex shows up at.

Anyways, back to money. I’m struggling to make ends meet. I’m one year into my first job post uni on a grad salary, and I’ve dipped £300 into my savings every month since my mom was no longer able to give me financial support. I know there are people in worse positions than I am, and don’t get me wrong I am so grateful for the life I have, but it is a stressful situation for me and I won’t downplay how overwhelmed I feel. I’m living in an apartment that’s too expensive, in a city with crazy inflation and rising energy costs. I’m moving out in August when my lease is up, I rarely eat out, and I’ve started taking the Santander cycles as much as I can. It’s 20 miles a day which sounds like a lot but it actually goes fast when there’s this much on my mind. It’s nice- I like it more than I thought I would, plus I realised this week if I switch at Hyde Park I can avoid paying the extra £2 per trip for going over 30 minutes. Even with all  that, the reality is it’s still not enough to break even every month.

I’ve never taken my family’s money for granted, and I’m grateful to have had the help for as long as I did, but I planned for things long term based on an income that I wasn’t in control of. Lesson learned, I won’t make that mistake again and I’m finding empowerment in figuring this out on my own.

I have a solution for fall, but right now fall feels so far away, and I hate stressing about money because it brings me back to being the little girl who just lost everything in a house fire. I can’t take it. So, I got a job at Abercrombie folding clothes on the weekend to make some extra money. It stresses me out that I have to do this, but the alternative is worse. I hate dipping into my savings. I hate saying no to friends. I hate feeling like I can’t breathe all the time. I’m just trying to create a life I can live with for the next few months. I keep telling myself it will be ok. It will be ok. I know that, but still, sometimes when I say it I don’t believe it, but I reach out to those I love and they help me push through.

Are you wondering why am I writing this? Are you wondering why I’m sharing something so personal? And on the internet? They’re good questions, and I’ll answer them now.

I was talking to a group of people at a conference a few weeks ago, and one of my friends who’s older said, “Gen Z expects to join the company on Monday and be the CEO by Friday.” 

Then my friend Isabelle said “That’s because if you’re not CEO by Friday everything about our media and culture tells you you’re a failure.”

I’ve never related to something so hard in my life.

We can’t be everything to everyone, but I’ve noticed a trend in my generation is we try to be. Myself included. I stress myself out over being healthy, hard working, fun, attractive and relatable. It’s not a conscious choice, but it’s what I act on, and it comes with a lot of inner conflict because as you probably noticed, a lot of those words contradict each other.

What’s going to make taking on a second job difficult is that I already work a lot. Every day I wake up and the first thing I think of is my to do list. My social life is work events and one brunch a week with friends. I work seven days a week because I fear falling behind, even though I know I’m doing a good job of working towards my goals in a way I’m ethically comfortable with. I know a lot of you reading this fear falling behind too. Just remember everyone has struggles, and LinkedIn is just a highlight reel. I realised that in my effort to drive my career forward the way I’ve presented myself on social media has become fixated on only the good parts of my life. It’s ok to only post the good on social media, but it’s not something I’m comfortable doing given that I don’t value my own privacy much. It’s not a good or a bad thing. I don’t believe most of life is private anymore anyways.

I chose this life. I’m privileged enough to where any time I need to I can take a flight home to New Hampshire, USA, live with my dad and leave everything I’ve built, but I know that’s not what I want. I love what I do, and I love work but the constant pressure I put on myself shouldn’t be normalised. What I’m going through right now is short term and my goal is to not feel like this forever. I market myself as someone who is successful because that is what I want to be. I don’t lie, but there are things about my life I don’t promote that I want people to know about. I will continue to choose living in London trying to make it, but the life I live isn’t meant for everyone. Sometimes I feel like social media and the media in general sends the message that a life with an excess of sacrifice or success is the goal. I wish we had more successful people showing balanced lifestyles. I wish I could be one of them, but I avoid lying whenever possible.

I’m choosing to be brave. No matter how confident and blunt my story may read, I am scared of what people will think of me, but I’m ok with being vulnerable if it makes one person feel less alone.

There will be people in your life, or you yourself may be dealing with difficult situations that come with complicated emotions. Please check in on your friends if you can, and reach out to people you trust to tell them how you’re feeling. You’re worth the time. You’re not a burden, and I can tell you that 10 times out of 10 any person worth having in your life would rather spend twenty minutes on the phone than hear something bad has happened to you.

You may feel alone, but you never are. I promise. Like I said before, If you go on my social media you’d see photos of me at fancy networking events, awards dues and huge conferences. That really is my life, but it is only a part of it. If you’re struggling, I hope that after reading this you know that I’m right there with you.

Laura Gainor, Imagen Insights Gen Z consultant