Profiles: Helen Conway

Profiles
My profile today is from Helen Conway, Georgetown class of 2015. Want more profiles like these? Check out the rest here!  
First, just tell us a little bit about yourself–where you’re from, what you studied, where you went to school, what you’re doing now in your final semester. Any plans for post-graduation?

 

I am originally from the DC area but grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine. I graduated from Georgetown last May with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. In July 2015, I moved to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala for a 6-month language and cultural immersion program for post-grads interested in health care professions. I returned in December and am currently working as a nanny for my baby nephew. I am committed to him through April. At that point, I’m hoping to work in community health to gain a more clear understanding of graduate programs to pursue.

 

What aspects of your life during this transition make you feel like a kid, and which make you feel like an adult?

 

One of my goals for 2016 is to learn how to “adult” and, so far, I’ve never felt more like a kid. There’s so much I don’t know and have never needed to know – especially when it comes to financial responsibility and independence. I pride myself on being independent and self-sufficient but learning these new skills has required me to swallow my pride and ask for help. In order to gain more independence, I have needed to be vulnerable and ask for help. And embracing that vulnerability? This is the one way in which I do feel like an adult right now.

 

What parts of adulting terrify you?

 

This may sound silly but the part of adulthood that terrifies me the most is how mundane it can be at times. I have a tendency of glamorizing older people — in high school, it was college students and in college it was adults. And when I reached each new stage, it wasn’t as exciting as it had seemed from afar. Yes, there are many wonderful aspects of adulthood but I have learned that adulthood is not as glamorous as it seems. It’s work and it’s paying bills and it’s making sacrifices and caring for family — whatever that means for each person. I’m still young and feel selfish in that I’m not ready to totally sacrifice my time and space for some aspects of adulthood that seem, frankly, very boring. Listen to David Foster Wallace’s speech “This Is Water” — it touches upon just this in a much more eloquent way.

 

What do you wish we’d been taught in college about “the real world” that isn’t taught? 

 

I have been thinking about this very question so much recently. I graduated Georgetown with a knowledge set about a very specific field. While I gained academic skills, I wish I had been taught more “real-life” skills, especially when it comes to finances. Budgeting, how to build credit, etc. I feel completely unprepared. Granted, Georgetown provided many of these resources – Professor Ryan’s Intro to Finance class, Financial Aid’s workshops – and I didn’t take advantage. I do wish it had been emphasized more strongly and more resources had been available.

 

The Millennial generation is often called the “me me me” generation. Would you agree with this depiction? How would you describe Millennials in three words?

 

I hear this all the time and roll my eyes every time I do. I was privileged to attend a university whose mission attracts thoughtful and motivated individuals, determined to make the world more just. So maybe I have a skewed perspective, but I have witnessed our generation step up in a big way to helenaddress the most concerning challenges to our collective health and well-being — climate change, economic and racial inequalities, labor issues, reproductive health access, food access, immigration, etc. And, frankly, these problems have deep roots that extend back generations. Yes, social media has created a culture in which curated lives and images have replaced real conversations and engagement and we could all use a reality check every now and then. But it is wrong, and harmful, to characterize a whole generation as one thing — this is not solving any problems. All this being said, I would characterize Millennials as motivated, problem-solving and creative.

How do you deal with the financial uncertainties of being a recent college graduate?

 

As a second semester senior, I remember being terrified of the financial uncertainties of adulthood. Growing up, I didn’t have many examples of financial responsibility and wasn’t taught financial skills. Nine months later, I’m still unsure. But I’m working hard to fight the instinct to shy away in the face of this uncertainty. I am lucky enough to be living rent-free with my brother and sister-in-law as I work as their nanny. This gives me some freedom from worry and I’m trying to capitalize on this to learn as much as possible to set myself up for future security. Thinking and talking about money is scary and can be uncomfortable but I’m embracing it — asking questions, researching, making actionable goals. And it feels empowering to take control of this aspect of my life and my future.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

 


I think it’s easy to think of “adulthood” as a point — “After I do x, y and z, I will be an adult. I will have everything figured out.” As a very goal-oriented person, this mindset is natural to me. Up until now, my life has been centered on goals to accomplish and points to reach. But I am learning to embrace a more process-oriented way of thinking. No one accomplished goal or life event will make me an adult — it’s a dynamic process. It’s not always easy but I am trying to treat myself with compassion as I navigate this process.
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