Skip to main content

My life as a boomeranger

By Cassie Owens, Special to CNN
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
A good education stopped being the finish line, says Cassie Owens.
A good education stopped being the finish line, says Cassie Owens.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pew poll says 39% of young adults are living with or have moved back with their parents
  • Cassie Owens: I moved back home without a clear vision of my career path or prospects
  • She says entry-level jobs are hard to get and many of her peers must look for alternatives
  • Owens: The road to self-reliance appears stretched out for her generation

Editor's note: Cassie Owens is a music writer from Philadelphia.

(CNN) -- When I moved back home, I knew what I was in for. My mother tends to nag me. She can't help it. Fussing is in her nature, and her recent battles with fibromyalgia and a spinal injury have not been easy on her nerves. She is uncompromisingly neat, a characteristic that I have not inherited. My room is what she fusses about most. My junk reminds her that my return wasn't something we planned.

I graduated from college in 2009. After traveling for a year on a Fulbright scholarship, I came home to my mother without a clear vision of my career path, let alone prospects afoot.

According to a recent Pew poll, 39% of 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents or have moved back in with their parents temporarily because of the sluggish economy. Sixty-three percent of 18- to 34-year-olds know someone who has moved back home. These numbers don't surprise me.

Cassie Owens
Cassie Owens

My generation has been called the "boomerangers," meaning that young people like me and my friends are nesting with our folks again when we are expected to be independent.

Moving back home has not been easy to swallow. It's more than adjusting to life under the watchful gaze of parents. It's more than feeling anxious about finances. After spending my adolescence stressing out over AP classes and college admissions, then dealing with the rigors of university course work, I doffed my graduation cap only to find that somewhere along the line a good education stopped being the finish line. Facing the job market unsuccessfully has sent me back to the drawing board.

We boomerangers have a lot to contemplate. First, we must decide whether to settle for an occupation less than ideal or pursue interests that we genuinely love but may not be as economically rewarding, at least in the short term. My mother's support has enabled me to do the latter.

After coming home, I started to intern at a local newspaper and applied to journalism graduate schools. With extra time on my hands, I also began to intern at R&B Records, a nearby music store. The owner, Val Shively, has more than 4 million 45s, spanning the genre from the Orioles to the lesser Jacksons. He and a lone employee, Chuck, are walking encyclopedias of the rhythm and blues tradition. When I'm at the store, I mostly bask in their knowledge, sort picture sleeves and take notes. The experience has placed me knee-deep into a research project on Philadelphia's music history.

My friends' stories are similar in some ways. With entry-level positions more difficult to acquire, many boomerangers are forced to look for alternatives. Most of my friends are pursuing internships or graduate study. And still, we wonder: Will this be enough?

My cousin Evon juggles two internships at training and development centers along with a third internship at a radio station. He is pursuing a career in publicity, but through his excursion into radio has started to develop a programming portfolio. Arniece, a young woman I went to high school with, took over her family's kitchen last summer in search of the perfect pound cake recipe. She's now planning to get her bakery, Pound of Cake, off the ground. My friend Gabriel searched fruitlessly for a job in advertising before spending two years as a line cook, only to find himself as a visual resources coordinator in the special collections of university libraries. While my friends and I have enjoyed our experiences, the current job market has brought a feeling of uncertainty, which has been unsettling.

In 2009, a record number of high school students enrolled in colleges. While it is good news that more Americans are getting a higher education, it also means that competition among young graduates is intensifying. We're left to ponder how to get a leg up. As we vie for the same internships and graduate programs, we expect that our student loan debt will become deeper. Who's to say when we'll be able to afford our starter houses?

I can attest that many of my peers are taking time to hone their skills. I've watched them carve out niches for themselves, through internships and sheer will. I would say that my friends are all more enriched individuals. But the uncertainty still lingers. With the changing times, the road to self-reliance and success appears stretched out.

Fortunately, the end of my boomerang season is in sight. Come autumn, I'll be enrolled in graduate school. My mother and I are both excited. She's thrilled that she'll finally have my room in order. I'm thrilled that soon I'll get to make a room of my own.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Cassie Owens.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT