Someday I’ll be old enough to read fairy tales again.

I just realized why the early 20s is supposed to be one of the hardest, if not the hardest part of a person’s life.

I was filling out applications for REU programs for this summer and after the typical biographical fill-in-the-blank questions, I inevitably always get to the essay questions. This one in particular had a question that I hadn’t had to answer on any of the other apps:

Specifically, where do you see yourself career-wise in 5 years?

One of the previous questions had asked a vague question about my career and education goals but this asked for specifics. I had 2 objections to this question.

Firstly, some people my age are still undecided about their major so how exactly can they expect me to know specifics about where I’m going to be in 5 years?

Secondly, there is no way that I’m going to be able to be get more specific than the answer I gave for the previous question so I (and everyone else) will be making the answer up.

However, I wanted to get this app done so I could send my professors a list of email address for letters of recommendation. So I googled entry-level positions at pharmaceutical companies and clinical research facilities in order that I may neatly construct an answer that soundly remotely feasible.

You want to know what I found out? The jobs that I’m looking for have incredibly high requirements in order to even be considered for the interview. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a lot of competition over only a few jobs. And yes, I feel like that’s how it is everywhere with any degree, but it finally hit me how hard it’s going to be when I graduate.

No wonder people my age either hate fairy tales or obsess over them. Happy endings seem a long way off when you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. You have the option of ignoring the stories that seem a hint too cheerful because they are constant reminders of exactly what your life could be and isn’t. Or you can swallow them whole and gorge yourself on fake realities because it somehow makes this reality seem a little less harsh.

Can you do both?