I Spent One Year Trying To Be Financially Independent
Here’s what I learned.
It has been officially a full year of being away from home. Not only home, but also everyone that comes with it: parents, siblings, nieces, and friends. With the single purpose of being financially independent, and a suitcase full of unnecessary winter clothes, I left my covid-19 struck hometown of roughly 7,000 residents and moved across the country to one of Greece’s most popular holiday destinations.
And before you start asking yourself why a 24-year-old with a Master’s degree and three spoken languages cannot be financially independent, let me clarify. No one can be when the country’s minimum wage is around 610 USD/month, especially when every job pays exactly that amount just because they can. At some point, you have to accept defeat as a young Greek citizen and realize that one way or another, getting help is inevitable, if you are among the lucky ones.
As I am preparing that same suitcase for a quick trip back home, I can confidently say that this year was nothing like I expected it to be. Despite the fact that this was not my first time moving, it was the first time doing it without the support of my family. And while Hollywood makes it seem completely normal, I can reassure you that if “Friends” was filmed in the Balkans, Ross’ parents would have successfully moved that couch into the apartment.
You see, in the beginning, moving was an easy decision. Having everything planned out, I had zero worries about what my life would be like today. Clean slate, new town, new people, new everything. I would just… begin again. Not only that, but it was also my first true attempt at achieving what every other young adult is longing for nowadays: financial independence.
So now that we have gotten everything out of the way, here’s your guide to being financially independent in 2022’s Greece.
- First, you begin with the job hunt.
As every Gen Z adult who appreciates themselves, I get quick on the job hunt with little to zero expectations despite being overqualified for most of the jobs that I am applying for. It’s a touristic Greek island after all, and my English is close to perfect, so that’s not going to be a problem. And it wasn’t, really.
I get a job offer. Work at a juice shop? Why not, what’s there to lose? The more life experience I gain, the better, am I right? I take the job, it’s post-covid19 times. It’s not like I’m getting another offer any time soon, and let’s be honest: teachers like me have seen better days.
2. You need to get yourself the perfect “nest”.
I can smell the gentrification from miles away. German tourists bring more than their wonderfully uniform khaki sandals. Half of the apartments have turned to Airbnbs, and the rest are being rented from November until April, leaving me with few options. The apartment I found is old, and it costs half of what I now make in a month, but it’s okay. I am lucky to have a partner that can share the expenses -or even cover for me in the winter-. After all, we are young. A little “frugal living” didn’t hurt anybody, am I right?
3. Now it’s time to invest in yourself, so how about getting your Master’s?
We live in 2022, and as a teaching graduate, I know damn well how useful technology can be, so how great is it that there’s a relevant Master’s program in my new town! Let’s apply. I spent hours perfecting that essay. I got the interview, and run thirty minutes from work to my home under the worst heatwave the island has experienced, so that the professors can discreetly laugh at me when they ask “What do you do for work?” and I proudly answer “I work at a juice shop”.
I wonder if they ever worked a “real” job. You know, one of those jobs that your feet swell a bit, and your hands feel numb when you wake up. And if they did, did anybody make fun of them back then for doing that? Does Ph.D. stand for “Permanent human Damage”? Well, no hard feelings…
4. And since you failed, you need to try again.
I write more essays, ask for more recommendations, and spend my remaining 8 hours as well as my days off making sure I give myself the best chance at “making it”. And yes, I also spent my monthly tips on applications. A better university has now accepted me, but it costs twice what I expected. Celebrating is bittersweet. Mum called, and she said it’s okay, they can cover it for me. I wonder, will my parents ever get a break from me? C’ est la vie…
5. The summer season is over. Now what?
It’s November. My customers have been to the beach more times than I have. They ask me what I love most about the place and I say “what’s not to love”.
Everyone in the neighborhood knows I just moved there, but no one has enough energy to even invite me over for a drink. Most of them have worked six months straight with no days off. They’re burnt out. They want to stay home and hibernate until next April.
Is this what my life is going to be like from now on?
6. Pretend you know what you’re doing.
My TikTok “for you” page is flooded with the women I wish I was. Powerful, young, beautiful smart girls with cool remote jobs who pay their rent and get sh*t done looking flawless, as always.
And then there’s me. One year older, one year closer to the almost inevitable quarter-life crisis that might have already begun. There’s me, with one more job experience completely unrelated to my studies which I carefully try to fit in my CV as a “growing opportunity” because it’s much easier to explain that instead of getting into the trouble of discussing how a crisis that started 14 years ago has you making career and personal life decisions based on survival instincts and not personal growth.
The good thing is, that after all that… there’s still all of us.
My friends, my colleagues, my employers, my family and my acquaintances. Those who check the ATM to see if there’s enough to get by. Those who write “good morning” on your coffee cup before you open up the shop. They’re not YouTubers, or influencers and whatnot. They don’t live the corporate dream and they’re not digital nomads. They get bad days, they get tired, and can’t go out for drinks.
There’s still us. The “before” section of a marketed world full of “afters”.
And while the world wants us to feel bad about it, I can reassure you, we’re quite proud of it, as we should.
I wanted my first piece on here to be super personal, as I think it’s important for people to know the person behind the words. It has been a long time since I last published a piece of writing, so your feedback will be highly appreciated. Reach out, I would love to check out your work.