I’m A Millennial. Please Stop Being A Douche To Me.

Ok. If anyone out there is reading this who a) has a facebook or twitter account and b) is approximately 16-40 years old, you’ve probably stumbled upon this article recently.

I have a lot of friends who have posted it, most of whom I adore (sorry, Trev!) – but here’s the thing. On one hand: okay. Okay. I get it. Some of that shit is totally valid.

On the other: fuck you, guy.

In recent months, we’ve been subjected to a lot of vocal hand-wringing about this generation, not least of which was the Time Magazine article about the Millennial Generation. “They’re narcissistic. They’re lazy. They’re coddled. They’re even a bit delusional.”

Do I know folks in my age demographic who fit that description?  Yes. Oh, hell yes. Who doesn’t? Someone please explain the concept of the ‘selfie’ to me again.

Do I know grown-ass adults who fit that description? Again: Hell yes. Meet my grandfather. My grandmother has cooked his breakfast every day for the past 50 years of their marriage. I adore him, but looking at the man who can’t put his pants on in the morning unless he knows someone else is already making the coffee and eggs: you want to tell me what, exactly again about my generation being lazy and coddled?

This argument is infuriating for the same reason younger generations have always been infuriated by the old trope of “In my day, we walked to school uphill and barefoot in the snow.” It’s horseshit, and we know it.

Do I think I’m a magical, special unicorn snowflake, destined for greatness? Eh. Not particularly. Wanna know what formed that opinion? I survived high school, got straight A’s, and didn’t make it, unlike a small handful of my peers, into the Ivy Leagues of my dreams. (Look, not to be that guy, but: perfect SAT verbal score, active involvement in community service organizations, years of community theatre and church leadership, lifeguard and swim instructor, peer mentorship groups, wrote for the yearbook. Like, you know, everyone else who applied to college in 2004.)

Ok. I shook it off. Went to a great school. Was truly challenged intellectually for the first time in my life, surrounded by other kids with similar backgrounds, all of whom had worked their ass off for years, most of whom astounded me with their drive, ambition, and natural talent. Incredible teachers. Terrific mentors. I was outpaced by many of them, and it made me work harder. I wouldn’t change a thing.

And let’s be real about college. Was I occasionally found drinking Bud Light at a frat party on a Saturday night? Fuck, yeah. We all did. You know what else I did? Graduated with honors from a top liberal arts college. Worked my ass off at my part-time job. Spent hours upon hours building skills that would translate to my future career.

I graduated in 2008. Remember 2008? Oh, right. The housing market collapsed. Global stock markets plummeted. The Great Recession happened. I had $25,000 of student loan debt and a liberal arts degree in English and Theatre.

In other words: Oh, Hey, Real World. I’m Katherine. I’m HERE! What’s that, you say? We’re all kinda fucked? Oh. Okay. Neat.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was hired after graduation for a yearlong apprenticeship at a theatre company, a job in my field that I desperately craved. I was paid $375/week plus health insurance. This whole story is a longer post for the future (hell, it’s probably a book), but here’s how I can sum it up best. On my very first day, my boss, a woman I admire and respect beyond measure, welcomed us. She smiled at our eager young faces seated around a conference table, in our best “first day of the rest of our lives” outfits, and said, “Okay. Here’s the deal. You all come from college environments where you have been told that you are the best and the brightest, and there’s some truth to that. You beat out 300 other applicants for this job.  You get to be proud of that, for about four more seconds. Now welcome to the real world. No one here is going to pat you on the fanny and tell you when you do a good job. We’re going to call you out when you fuck it up instead. Got it? So – just don’t fuck it up, ever, and you’ll do just fine.”

It was harsh. It was also the best advice I’ve ever received.

I worked my ass off for that company for a year. Did I fuck it up sometimes? Yeah. Absolutely. I made tons of mistakes. You know what it taught me? How to grow up. How to take responsibility for my actions, especially when something was my fault, and even when it wasn’t. It taught me to budget my finances. It taught me how to slog through the worst days of demoralizing gruntwork. It taught me how to survive on peanut butter sandwiches.

And here’s where it gets really interesting. After that year ended, I pursued my dream job. Four years later, here’s the payoff: I am a fairly respected costume designer in the regional theatre market of the city of Philadelphia. I’m doing what I set out to do, and that feeling is incredible. I have received accolades from my peers, from national press, from whatever fucking internet publications care about what I do and want to nominate me for things. That’s fucking AWESOME. I love that I am my own boss, that I run my own small business, which is simply myself and my trusty sewing machine. I love that I pay my own health insurance and cell phone bill. I design 15 or more shows a year. I rarely have a day off. I dabble in graphic design on the side. I help run a small theatre company. I pick up odd jobs where I can find them. I mostly love it.

And here’s where it sucks: if I’m lucky, I can make about as much money as I did at that first job right out of college.

And here’s where it royally sucks: If I’m incredibly lucky, I can go back to grad school, accumulate more student debt, and pray that someone in my field with a cushy university job dies so I can take over their gig.

Because until that happens, the freelance thing is kind of my best option.

And while I’m still freelancing here, I’m never going to make more than 25 grand a year. I broke 21 last year – the best of my career so far – and my accountant just shook her head in depressive dismay at my shock and delight.

Wanna know where 25 grand a year gets me? Not all that far, once you factor in car payments and student loan payments and rent and groceries and insurance.

Okay, you say, but: you chose to pursue your dream job! You must have known it was going to be hard, forever and ever! You chose to smack the label of ‘artist’ on yourself; surely you must have anticipated some hardship!

Yeah. I sure did.

On one hand: Fuck yeah, I did. I’m a rebel artist warrior! I’m following my passions! I’m living my dreams!

On the other hand: What the fuck am I doing with my life?

And on still yet another hand: Okay. Then you tell me. If I’m never going to make enough to live comfortably and I’m willing to change that: you just point me towards the jobs I should be applying for instead.

I’m good at a lot of things. Those things aren’t STEM fields. I’m not good with numbers. I’m not good with science. I’m not good with technology or banking or computers or software engineering.

I’m a good designer. I’m a good teacher. I’ve recently discovered that I’m not a half-bad writer.

Which, I’m afraid to inform you as well as myself, simply aren’t skills that are prized at this particular time in American history.

Where does this leave me?

Fuck if I know.

On the whole, I’m happy.
On the whole, I like my life.
On the whole, I’m proud of my achievements and I’m going to keep going, because what the fuck else am I going to do.

And also:

I exist in a world in which I don’t understand what a 401K is all about.
Social Security will not likely exist by the time I will need it.
I will never have a pension.
I’ve never even filed for unemployment. Because as a freelancer, I’m never in one place long enough to qualify.

This is not unique to my job description.
This is unique to my generation.

I live in a world in which the teachers in the city of Philadelphia are on strike because their budget issues are so rampantly unresolved that they are returning to work without contracts, paper, or desks. I live in a world where we’re slashing budgets so that the kids of the next generation won’t know a childhood with art or music classes.

I’m a woman in a generation fighting insane battles for reproductive rights that we didn’t even know until recently that we needed to be fighting, because we had simply assumed that we had already won them.

I live in a world in which we have a black president and yet we say hateful racist shit on Twitter when an Indian-American woman takes the Miss America crown. I live in a world in which we give a fuck about Miley Cyrus.

I live in a world in which we perpetuate the unpaid intern system.

I live in a world in which, since 1979, the average American worker has seen a 75% increase in productivity, and yet wages remain flat.

I live in a world where the top 1% of earners have seen their income quadruple since that exact same year.

I live in a world that simply seems too crazy for me to handle some days. I live in a world that sometimes makes me simply want to hide under the covers and not come out until it’s fixed.

And here’s what’s super fucked up:

I live in a world in which I still believe there is hope for the future.

If I’m a special fucking unicorn, and everyone in my generation is a special fucking unicorn, then okay, we all are special fucking unicorns, and I know that’s an oxymoron, but I can’t help but think that just one of those special fucking unicorns is going to figure out how to fix this mess. One of those special fucking unicorns is going to cure cancer or become the next president or write the next great American novel, or figure out how to fix the fucked-up-ed-ness of everything my generation is currently dealing with.

And if you do, Special Fucking Unicorn I Have Yet To Meet, I sincerely salute you.

I might not have retirement savings, or even enough to cover next month’s rent, but you bet your ass I’m going to put some money aside and buy you a beer.

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176 thoughts on “I’m A Millennial. Please Stop Being A Douche To Me.

  1. Pingback: Generation pain | Permanent Days Unmoving

  2. All you learned is how to say the f-word, repeatedly.

    Didn’t anyone tell you…

    we have OTHER words!

    We have words that are powerful and explicit, and others that are downright lovely! So many words!

    Calm it down, lady, or no one’s going to take your writing seriously. At least, not me, another generation Y-er, with a somewhat similar sitch.

    • I couldn’t agree more. The language used made the author seem like she was trying to play grown-up. Very unbecoming, and boring.

        • Yes! That’s tone policing, right there: “I don’t want to hear what you have to say, so I’m just going to pretend the problem is that you didn’t spoon-feed it to me nicely and with sugar on top.” Fuck you!

        • Totally agree with you, Jesse. “A” and Kim’s comments are condescending and patronizing. Actually, “A” and Kim — you are the one’s that I can’t take seriously. Your prissy comments only affirm the author’s original point:

          Dear people sitting comfortably on high to the point where you get to enjoy complacency: please stop being douches to those who aren’t and don’t.

          So if you read the article and you have nothing to add to the actual point being made, then keep your mouth shut and change the channel. If you are offended by — or try to, but just can’t understand — the point being made: then realize that maybe that is because you are a part of the very FUCKing problem.

      • Are you sure you’re in your 20s? Because that sounds a lot like something my mom said to me when she overheard me say “shit” at my brother’s wedding.

    • Oh, please. Calm down with your pearl clutching. Fuck is one of the most fantastic and descriptive words in the English language. She used it well.

    • I liked the author’s message and I didn’t let her word choice interfere with her message, because if I did I would have really missed out and that would be a shame.

      I liked her use of the f-word. I get it. The author seems intelligent and trying to be realistic with what’s going on, but at the end of the day, there is an undeniable frustration. I try to laugh and stay optimistic when I look around and watch the news, but if someone were to ask me to use 1 word to describe it all, the f-word wouldn’t be too far off.

      I understand the concern that maybe the author won’t be taken seriously because of her language choice. But who are we afraid of? The older generation? Will we prove them right because we use a curse word? Please. Maybe it is time we stop worrying about that they think. It seems they have already made up their minds about us anyways.

      They aren’t impressed by us? That’s fine, I’m not that impressed by them either.

    • You’ve apparently never read Salinger. Go pick up ‘Catcher in the Rye’ again.
      On your list of virtues, go ahead and check the box of “wide range and variety of vocabulary PG13″ and pat yourself on the back because nobody cares.

      The message was fiery, but present, and the outcry to the concerns we, as a society are facing, is clear and sharp.
      The language was vulgar, but humorous perhaps darkly and too generously sprinkled. However, this person isn’t a professional writer, so lay off.

    • >we have OTHER words!

      And here you are *using* those other words, and avoiding those nasty swears, and in spite of all your passive-aggressive “nice”-toned false civility, you are adding NOTHING of value at all to the conversation. I’d happily wade through a couple of objectionable curse-words to read writing that’s well-written, factually accurate, advances a worthwhile argument and supports it, flows naturally, and generally does the WORK it sets out to do.

      What was your comment meant to do? The only thing it’s succeeded at is painting you as a sexist troll who has to rely on the myth of women’s hysteria to dismiss an argument you can’t engage with. “Calm it down, lady”? Really? People like you are part of the reason I think she’s not angry *enough.*

      I guess the *tangible* result of a “useless” English/Theatre degree is that the OP is producing convincing article of lasting value, while you are producing ragey butthurt Internet comments. The unfairness highlighted here is that we live in an age when her writing and yours have exactly the same monetary value–$0–placed on them. I think your comment highlights the problem nicely.

      I’m very fortunate as a fellow member of the Failure-to-Launch generation to have work in the field of university writing. I wish to Hell and back that more of my students wrote more like her and less like you. A few marks off for “colloqualism,” by the way (which does not even apply to the context of a blog) would be much preferable to flunking on account of your sentence fragments, capitalization problems, and general pointlessness.

      Here’s a tell-off without using any of the big nasty swears word-fearing cowards are so offended by: go home and come back when you’re ready to contribute.

    • So the most important thing you find in this well positioned argument is…that the author swears with the F word?

      My God.

      It’s not like there are social-political problems facing our culture and future prosperity, but the biggest fucking problem is the word FUCK?

      For fucks sake.
      People like you riding on a high horse of moral ambiguity are the problem.

    • This is a blog. A personal place for the author to put her views. I doubt she’s going for the Pulitzer. Thankfully, her demographic is people like myself and the others who commented below that think you and Kim need to extract your heads out from your snooty assess and find another fucking blog to read— And I say that in the most cheerful way possible in the face of your condescension :D

    • I had to reread the part of your comment that said “another generation Y-er” multiple times, because from the rest of your prissy, tightassed, tone-policing comment, I assumed you were 85 years old shaking a cane from your porch and telling the youths to get off your lawn.

  3. You may have had to give up your dreamy dreams, but your narcissism is intact! As far as writing skills, I couldn’t plow through the whole article, although I gave it the old college try. It’s as if you packed together every bourgeoise cliche and made white bread out of it. Truly nauseating.

  4. As a baby boomer my comments may not carry any weight but… I’ll add my two cents worth. As for graduating with student debt just as the world crashed, I suspect the people standing in food lines during the 30s would envy your situation. And as for not earning more than 25K a year, I work with nurses aides who wipe dirty asses for a living, have done it for more than 25 years and still don’t earn more than that. At least you’re working in a field you love. Speaking of which, you chose to work in this field so you don’t get to complain about how little you can earn doing your job. You could have chosen to get an MBA and spend the rest of your life fighting work traffic and worrying about your next bonus. As for the millennials, they are having a tough time coming out of college and getting jobs. The economy is still recovering. Those who will go on to make a difference in the world will work past that and go on to do great things. Those who expected things to be handed to them, and there are people like that in every generation, will whine about how tough life is.

    • I’m 29. I’m a similar situation as the author. Worked hard all through high school and college, got an arts degree and chose a vocation, and then promptly upon graduation, the world fell apart financially and the vocation that I had been preparing for for years suddenly wasn’t as lucrative as it was the day before. In 2007, it was much easier to pay your bills as a working artist. Our skills were devalued and our salaries slashed. I was paid $10 dollars an hour in 2010 for the that I had in 2007. In 2007, that job paid $17 an hour. Would I like to have an MBA and be working in a high level position? Absolutely. But not everyone can be an MBA, and some people don’t have the skill for that. It would also be nice to be an astronaut, a surgeon, and a Senator. I’m really sick of baby boomers just telling my generation to go out and get a higher paying job when there aren’t enough higher paying jobs to go around. I finally made it to a living wage and it took me seven years after finishing my undergraduate degree to get there. I’m also really sick of articles calling my generation entitled, lazy, and spoiled. It is callous to slap a label like that on an entire group of people. Or to assume that when we decided to be costume designers, pianists, writers, stage managers, arts administrators, chorus teachers, museum curators, interior designers, etc back in 2004, that we could foresee what would happen in 2008. I can’t run out and alter the entire course of my life any easier than you can. Telling is that we should have thought of this when we were 18 or 20, before the financial crisis happened, is pointless and rude.

      • THIS.

        I know for a fact, I suck at chemistry and science in general. Could I have taken over my dad’s dentistry someday? Probably. Would I have ever felt smart enough to do so when I could barely pass chemistry because I didn’t understand any of it, despite getting extra help and studying my ass off? No.

        I was always great in art. I was also lucky enough to have parents that fostered that creativity and never told me I couldn’t grow up to be an artist. I took at job at an advertising firm, after graduating from college in four years and working an awesome internship, where I was underpaid for my job. I was given crap work. I suffered through it for a few months and then I quit. My unhappiness was not something I wanted to live with for years. I am a full time illustrator and I have worked over 12 hours a day almost every day including weekends, for the last 9 months, to make this dream job of mine a reality. I have done work for some big name clients that come to me because I have a skill that they cannot get from someone else. I have made ends meet. It’s not easy, but I’ve managed it. All with the emotional support of my family behind me because they know this is what I want to do and they know I am good at it.

        To be called lazy and entitled is an insult to my generation. Yes, there are lazy and entitled people out there. But for every one of those, there’s one of us working every hour possible, at the risk of our health, to make a living wage, even if that means we are artists. I know for a fact I could never do the job a lawyer does, I could never be a doctor, an astronaut, etc. I graduated high school with a 4.0 and straight A’s, and a scholarship to my college. Does that mean I am smart enough to be a doctor? Hell no. That is a special skill set unto itself. I grew up in a family of doctors, the pressure was always there to grow up and be a doctor, and you know what? I am just not smart enough and I am OK with that. My little sister? She is. She wants to be a psychologist. She works with animals. She is smart. Could she do the job I’m doing? No. Because she didn’t grow up creating art, she grew up playing with animals and interacting with animals and taking lifeguarding courses. She, like me, was raised by parents who ran their own practice. We were raised to be hardworking and to do everything we could to work for what we wanted.

        I am incredibly lucky to be working in my field, and working from home. This is not an anomaly these days. With certain fields becoming more and more saturated, and job descriptions become more demanding (in graphic design you need to be able to do web, html, css, javascript, print, prepress, typography, illustration, branding, etc. Not ONE person can do all of that and do that well. They can do it all and do it ok, but not well), freelancing is not something unheard of these days. I am incredibly lucky that I get to do the job I love to do because I work hard to do it.

        So, baby boomers, try calling my generation lazy again, ok?

    • I’m 29. I’m a similar situation as the author. Worked hard all through high school and college, got an arts degree and chose a vocation, and then promptly upon graduation, the world fell apart financially and the vocation that I had been preparing for for years suddenly wasn’t as lucrative as it was the day before. In 2007, it was much easier to pay your bills as a working artist. Our skills were devalued and our salaries slashed. I was paid $10 dollars an hour in 2010 for the that I had in 2007. In 2007, that job paid $17 an hour. Would I like to have an MBA and be working in a high level position? Absolutely. But not everyone can be an MBA, and some people don’t have the skill for that. It would also be nice to be an astronaut, a surgeon, and a Senator. I’m really sick of baby boomers just telling my generation to go out and get a higher paying job when there aren’t enough higher paying jobs to go around. I finally made it to a living wage and it took me seven years after finishing my undergraduate degree to get there. I’m also really sick of articles calling my generation entitled, lazy, and spoiled. It is callous to slap a label like that on an entire group of people. Or to assume that when we decided to be costume designers, pianists, writers, stage managers, arts administrators, chorus teachers, museum curators, interior designers, etc back in 2004, that we could foresee what would happen in 2008. Telling is that we should have thought about this when we were 18, before the financial crisis happened, is thoughtless, pointless, and little rude.

    • Telling people they “don’t get to complain” is really a terrible response. OF COURSE they get to complain. Do you think it’s right that a nurse’s aide makes that little? (I certainly don’t). You’re engaging in exactly the type of rhetoric that she talked about in this piece: “You spoiled kids better count your blessings, because in my/your grandparents’ day, well….” It’s completely irrelevant and does not contribute to the conversation.

      • I couldn’t have said it better Becca. I have yet to find a dissenting opinion on these comments that does anything other than prove the author’s points further.

        It’s a helpful aid, I think, to this article about the anti-intellectual, anti-humanist turn in our culture to see real live examples of this turn commenting so freely.

    • I think it’s a fallacy to claim that, since things were worse once, no one is allowed to complain or discuss problems now.

    • Oh please. You chose that field, you don’t get to complain?

      Well, you chose to read her article, so you don’t get to complain about it.

      Or, how about: you baby boomers decided to birth millenials, so you don’t get to complain about them. How’s your logic sounding now?

      This is the point though, whether you care to admit it or not. We’re tired of you guys complaining about us complaining. Yea, we’re adults. Who were the adults, first? You’re telling us to be more constructive.. we’d love to. How about you take your complaints and be more constructive about them yourselves? Maybe you guys could focus on being better leaders for the next generation, how’s that?

      We’re not claiming to be perfect, and we’d appreciate you getting off of your high horse to lend the next generation a helping hand. Otherwise, keep your negativity to yourself. We’re all swimming in the same pool, stop peeing in it just because you’re leaving soon, thanks.

      • Who I am is a baby boomer but I’m also a dad to 3 boys. My oldest just graduated from Northwestern with a TV and Film degree so he’s right in line with the author of the article. My take on the situation is that people tend to think that so much has changed from one generation to the next where I tend to think that nothing has really changed at all.

        The people of every generation has movers and shakers and those that are happy with a simple 9 to 5 job. Either way is great and it’s a personal choice for each of us. The people that are successful certainly might have some luck on their side early on but more times than not, they do nothing other than persevere. They stick to their passion for years and years if not decades and then something clicks for them.

    • I effing love, love, love when boomer generation folk that have no memory of any of that ish and barely felt any effects of say, the Great Depression, WWI, WWII, etc, bring up how PEOPLE WHO WERE STARVING TO DEATH would be GRATEFUL to be in the author’s position.

      There are currently children starving in Africa, Karen. There are children starving in America. How many homeless people die in your city each year of preventable causes? What are you personally doing about that today?

      Are you taking jaunts in your backyard time machine to the 1930’s and practicing what it feels like to be hungry and dehydrated all day long while trying to work and raise seven children in the Dust Bowl so that you can come back to modern days and tell us all how grateful we should be to just have student loan debt and reproductive right battles instead of starvation and grotesque infant mortality rates.

      Because unless you are doing that, you can sit right down and shut your mouth and ponder on some of the atrocities your generation has been directly responsible for over the past fifty years and cease your trotting out of tired and meaningless comparisons to bygone days.

    • She’s complaining about how much she earns but isn’t saying that she also regrets it. There’s a difference. And really, not everyone is fit for a job that also happens to pay well. Artists are responsible for the design (and sometimes invention) of almost everything you own, every fictional show or movie that you watch, the music you listen to, the pictures in your house, the music at weddings and other events, etc. Some of this people are lucky in what they earn (such as musicians whose songs have made it to the radio); most are not. The author is saying that she understands that it was her choice, and this is just the way that it is, but she wishes that, with all the work she puts into her job, she could also make more. She’s not saying that there aren’t other people who work hard for little money; rather the opposite. Her story is one of many examples of this. While some people seem to think that she’s simply “whining” about her own life, she is simply using her life as a “Millenial” as an example. People do that. I respect your generation; I was brought up by your generation. Your generation needs to respect us, as well, and recognize that the world is a much different place now, and the Millenials are all trying to find their place in the world just as you once did.

  5. Your point is legitimate. But it’s blunted by your own telling of your story. Unfortuantely, you do come off a bit egomaniacal — and that’s a shame. Your message is a good one.

  6. The author clearly did not even read the entire Time Magazine article by Joel Stein (with reporting by Josh Sanburn). I have the magazine in hand, and the last sentence in the article states “Me, I choose to believe in the children. God knows they do. ” Along with this, the full article also gives an account of some very successful millennial “stars” today.

    The irony about all these millennials being upset by the article is that they are trashing an article that actually praises them. I’m a millennial myself, but I am so sorry to say that my peers really need to learn the difference between an abridged article version found on the internet, and actual, full articles in real magazines – especially if they’re going to be giving criticism!

  7. The irony in all this is that the author clearly has not even read the full ‘The Me Me Me Generation’ article in Time Magazine. If she did, she would have noticed that the author, Joel Stein (with reporting by Josh Sanburn), actually praises the millennial generation and ends his article by stating “Me, I choose to believe in the children. God knows they do.”

    The full article is only available to Time Magazine online subscribers and people who actually pick up the magazine in real life.

    I am a true blue millennial myself, but I am so sorry to say that my peers really need to learn the difference between an abridged article version found on the internet, and a FULL, authentic article published in a real magazine – especially if they are going to criticizing it!

    • This! But I don’t think it’s entirely a Millenial issue. A lot of people are just bad at researching or checking information, and having most of it readily available on the internet doesn’t seem to help.

    • I read the whole Time article and I still thought it was mainly critical and out of touch. A few positive closing remarks aren’t enough to make up for a tone of condescension.

    • She’s mostly referring to another article.
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html
      The article she is mainly counteracting is written in a way that is very degrading to Generation Y/whatever you want to call it. The author says that everyone in this generation thinks that they are a special unicorn, and even includes some dumb illustrations that make the article even more degrading. Finally, at the end the author tries to give advice to our generation, part of which seems to contradict what was said in the article. With respect, I would advise you to check your own sources before you criticize an article, and realize what the author is referencing.

  8. And this so perfectly defines why I don’t so easily fit or find any comfort in the “workaday world”.
    “Now welcome to the real world. No one here is going to pat you on the fanny and tell you when you do a good job. We’re going to call you out when you fuck it up instead. Got it? So – just don’t fuck it up, ever, and you’ll do just fine.”

    Number one, I’m human, I NEED to know that I’m doing a “good job” or how else am I going to know if I am doing a “good job”? Second, I’m human, I MAKE MISTAKES. If you can’t deal with that then you need a robot and not a human being to employ. Third, I’m human. If you ONLY EVER give me negative feedback then I’m going to think that ALL I EVER DO IS FUCK UP.

    WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY do we pretend that business and humanity can’t, won’t, and should not ever mix?

    WE ARE HUMANS DOING BUSINESS!

    • Not sure how old you are/your experience in the work world. I’ll lay out my experiences for you though. As a 20 year old with three internships albeit internships where I developed workforce level skills in cold calling, media analytics and content marketing, and a year and a half of fundraising under my belt, I can’t really relate to what you’re saying at all.

      Number One: “100 attaboys don’t make up for one major fuck up.” A favorite quote from my PR professor. Firstly, you’re not going to get 100 atta-boys when you start a job. Your job is to put your head to the grindstone and do excellent quality work, meet deadlines, and give input when you’re asked. You’re new. Your boss has experience. So maybe try to listen.

      In my work, I often progress from menial tasks to making client sales, designing deliverables, or communicating with vendors. Based on the feedback given to me by my bosses, as well as my own impression of my work, this is because I put in hard work and contribute feedback when I am asked.

      I’ve seen plenty of places where humanity and business mix. My father has worked for the same company for ten years, and both of my parents consider his staff, co-workers, and bosses family. We vacation with them, spend holidays together, and regularly see those who aren’t in town. My boyfriend, also a millenial, is starting out his career in cost controlling and finance. He considers his boss a mentor, and has made good friends in the town where we live through work.

      I’m sorry if you’ve only received negative feedback, but I think that may be a marker of the integrity in your own work. You are essentially defining the “millenial” stereotype by seeming self-centered, lazy and indulgent.

  9. Passion is great. I have a degree in Theatre as well. It was what I loved doing since I was a kid and couldn’t possibility see myself doing anything other than it. I knew it would be hard, because that’s what everyone says. But honestly, I hated sacrificing so much and getting so little in return.

    Now I am back to a nine to five job and have stopped pursuing theatre entirely. It is beautiful work, but not ever going to pay me anything I can live on. So, I guess I’m speaking to the personal narrative woven here, and NOT the macro/political ones, but you do you girl. There is no place in this world for the artist to live comfortably by creating solely. Society doesn’t monetarily care, regardless of the importance of art for our souls. The only other way is to supplement through teaching, as you say…and reference how difficult that is on top of everything else. (Not to mention of course, what if you have no desire to teach?) I have done that too…and it sucks!

    I wish my brain was more inclined to numbers, sciences…anything that is actually valued by society. Instead I’m stuck making sure those exact people have nice catered meals, fully stocked office supplies and are happy. That’s on me this choice sure. But society? How do we change that and actually make all that hard work translate into a livable wage for all those artists working their tail off!? Sigh. XOXOXO

  10. I just think… 20-somethings are SUPPOSED to be unhappy… that’s what perpetuates the angst/gumption that leads to actually getting something done. I am shockingly less unhappy (dare I say… HAPPY?) in the past year or so of feeling more settled in my life. I don’t think that CAN come any earlier than your late-20s or early 30s, nor should it. Our brains are still developing in our 20s, and we need that time to figure out who we are, what we want, and what path to take… I think pretending to have it figured out earlier (and thus, achieving ‘happiness’) is just a recipe for a future mid-life crisis. Did the article talk about our parents’ propensity for THAT? I’m not saying he doesn’t have valid points. He does… I just think he’s ignoring the fact that these millennials/Generation-Y-ers will grow up… and will probably not, as a whole, be unhappy. And, who knows? Maybe, because we actually think we’re special unicorns, we’ll also accomplish more… because we grew up thinking that we would/should.

  11. I love this, but kind of hate I as well. This is simply my opinion, I’m not going to pull out any statistics and I will be the first to admit I hae not done nearly enough research yet. As far as thinking you are a “special fucking unicorn”, don’t we kind of have to? As the author points out our generation (Y) has a lot of problems that other generations haven’t really had to face yet. We are unique in our bad financial and social circumstances that are somewhat beyond our control. To produce beings who are well equipped to remedy these circumstances, don’t we have to somewhat believe we are unique and “special” enough to fix them? To strive for greatness with realistic expectation is how you get things done.

  12. I know many many people who would give their left arm to have had your career this far. Most people I know in the creative arts had a similar upbringing and education to you and attended brilliant schools and held down two jobs and worked hard blah blah. 4 years down the line they are moving boxes in warehouses for less than $375 p/w and sleeping 3 to a room in order to pay their rent and try to live their dream.
    I appreciate that designing 15 shows a year for pittance must be frustrating but I, and many of my peers, would be delighted to design just one, for free.
    And yeah, I get that your success is not the crux of this article, but you sound a little smug and whiney.

    • Isn’t that one of the points, though, that her career is successful creatively, but not financially, and is just as dependent on luck as hard work? One needs both to survive. You were forced to choose a job outside your field, and that’s a symptom of the system being broken. In order to be comfortable you end up needing either to be extremely lucky, or insanely prodigious. But most of us are just good, or average, and that shouldn’t mean we’re doomed to earn peanuts, or not work in our field at all, as is in your case. Pardon the assumption, it’s quite possible you’re an amazing artist, or that you at least have the potential to become one, but that just exposes another problem: if, wanting to earn a decent wage and do the job we trained for, we aren’t allowed to start out at the bottom (which in some cases literally doesn’t pay) but must leap to the top straight away, how can we ever develop our skills?

      It’s this dissonance between ‘don’t consider yourself special’ and ‘be the most special person in the world otherwise no one will want to pay you a living wage’. You and the author are both victims of this paradox. Sure, you’d be happier if you were in her situation, but her situation still isn’t good enough, it’s not what we should be content to aim for.

    • You only think she sounds smug because she has the job you want. Go work smarter until you get it.

      If four years down the line your friends with privilege out the wazoo getting liberal arts educations after a nice middle class upbringing can’t parlay their skills into something more valuable financially than warehouse work then maybe that is where they deserve to be working, FYI.

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  14. I’m a working actor and I totally get it. I work my ass off and will never have a pension to call my own, Am I happy yes, I love my company. But people need to appreciate that just because our generation doesn’t have houses, pensions, and company health care doesn’t mean we don’t work hard. It means times have changed and we are doing our best.

  15. Oh how we laugh at Gen Y’s absurd levels of expectation, but hang on a minute… where did this come from?

    Us baby boomers of course. We practically invented Narcissism. (Well the Greeks actually came up with the story many thousands of years ago but we took it to a whole new level).

    We were the ones who missed the wave, who hit the curve ball, who… ok enough with the metaphors, let’s go back to 1969 and the Summer of Love.

    Suddenly anything was possible. Pre 1969 we couldn’t change a damn thing. We had no idea what was going on in the world. We were frightened, controllable creatures. If we were men, chances are we’d have to fight in at least one World War. If we were women, our only chance of freedom from a stifling home life was finding a man who’d marry us so we could set up a stifling home life of our own.

    Then a wave came in. A wave of possibility. One that gave us the confidence to see the power of authority for what it was – AN ILLUSION!

    For a while we surfed this wave gleefully… refusing the draft, claiming racial equality, sexual equality, the right to say no to the powers that be. Life was exciting and full of the potential to do great things. We were visionaries.

    Then we looked in the mirror…

    And, like the Lady of Shallot, we were doomed to a very different fate.

    “Hmmm I look pretty good in this ‘change the world’ shit.”

    • I’m a Baby Buster, so quite a bit older than the author (but younger than the Boomers), and I can relate so well to what she’s saying and what you just said. My great-grandparents on the one side were either crofters or slum-dwellers in Scotland, or farmers in Canada. My grandparents were working-class but managed to buy their own homes and secure a fairly modest amount of financial security, and my two grandfathers both were able to pursue careers of their choice, rather than just taking any job to stay alive. My parents are retired well-paid professionals who got jobs in their fields right out of school and were making something on the order of $70 000/year in inflation-adjusted 2013 dollars when they were in their early 20s!

      If we have expectations that we could work hard at what we want to do and still be reasonably compensated for it, that’s kind of because we have no precedent for downward mobility! I’m in my late 30s, graduated from school when I was 23, and have spent less than 5 years total in well-paying work in my field. I also don’t have STEM aptitudes, and managed to come of working age during a recession, and then start looking for (non-programming) jobs in IT just as the dot-com bubble burst.

      And yet, more and more of the world’s wealth is being sucked up by people who already have more money than they could ever use, so why does all this “you’ll eat shit on a shingle and like it!” writing lately have a whiff of class warfare to me?

  16. I know nobody is still reading but fuck it. There, I wrote it. Fuck. (But if I write it one more time, that’s too much.)

    Not only am I a boomer, I’m one of those professors you are waiting to die so you can take my spot. God damn, I suck.

    Obviously, I don’t give a shit about your language. But about that first year, where you “grew up.” One of the reasons millennials catch so much hell, is because that is what high school and college used to be about. Go to class (the equivalent of go to work on time), turn in your assignments (the same as do what your boss assigns) and learn to enjoy raman and bud light (which is the same thing as it is today.) Too many millennials didn’t learn those rules when it was low stakes and now you are wasting the time of people who pay you. That pisses people off. If, as you say, you did well in college and you didn’t follow these rules, you were treated too special while in school. That’s another thing that pisses people off. I suspect you did learn these things and that is why you are successful, so now why are you so sensitive?

    About money, get over it. Boomers went through the same shit in our early career days but we didn’t grow up in 3000 sq ft mcmansions. That’s not good or bad, it’s just the way it is and was. But when you moan about money being tight, it sounds like you expected the life your parents gave you to continue without earning it. It just sounds that way, it might not be true, so simply watch what you say. For most Boomers, those early years were just more of the same, so not a lot of noise about it. Just close your yapper about money.

    I teach college and I know about college finances. It is absolutely NOT necessary to take out $100,000 in loans. I can point you to a number of great state schools where in-state tuition is $10K, even close to $6500 for a single year. It takes one year to establish residency. To pay more is another choice. Does anyone complain about what they paid for some really fancy shoes that they purchased because they like fancy shoes? If they do, it’s really to brag about what they paid for really fancy shoes.

    And please, don’t moan about not being good at STEM. I teach STEM. Hardly anyone is good at STEM at the start. Those who end up good at it, work at it, even if they don’t enjoy it. Math was never fun for me, or even pleasant. Cognitive scientists tell us it takes ten years to be good at complex things. Those “good” at STEM work hard at an age that is fairly young to be working hard on abstract ideas. That makes it extra challenging. You are smart. You could have done that too, but probably and I admit, I’m just guessing here, you probably liked having friends more. (I say that because you often mention doing work social things. Not a lot of work social things in STEM.) Another choice people make, probably a healthy choice. That’s not for anyone to be sad about. Yet I notice the same idea in other comments – as if STEM talent is genetic, as if it grows like webbed toes or albinism. It’s a decision to do something hard at a young age and then sticking with it. Reminds me of being great at guitar, but with guitar, you get dates. I suggest you enjoy more sex.

    I bother to write this only because you are better than this post and to remind you, you are doing fine. Money will come.

    • Rick…if you teach STEM, might I suggest that you’re good enough at it to be biased and unable to imagine how someone could just NOT be suited for it? Not everyone can be good at everything. Not everyone ‘could have done that, too’. I know because I tried, at an early age, and the subjects fascinated me, but I just couldn’t make the grade. I was in love with chemistry and biology and physics until it turned out I failed test after test, assignment after assignment, and I fell behind so badly that the teachers assumed I wasn’t working hard enough. They were wrong. I did work hard. I just wasn’t good at it. And being bad at so many subjects made it impossible to catch up.

      Also, that’s a lot of assumptions to make about the author.

      • Madzia, I don’t know a thing about your education so I can’t comment on your failure. I do know it takes good teachers to learn how to do science – although it runs counter to current pop culture, it’s very hard to teach yourself science. It must happen through interaction and by doing. If you didn’t get that, it’s a tough row to hoe.

  17. This post was just terrible and the humor in the title was not lost on me, although I’m not sure the author was trying to be funny.

    This whole post is a whine. I’m a millenial/Gen Y, grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood, the daughter of two laborers who did not go to college, and the second person in my family to get a degree (in liberal arts) and now also paying back student loans and earning shit-all in terms of salary to ever support a family with.

    It is true that the boomers fucked up a lot of shit, and we’re stuck dealing with the mess. We’ve grown up in a weird new type of American society where we see things like death and life and healthcare commodified. It’s a strange time.

    But moving past that, about three-quarters of this post is the self-centered perspective bullshit that the HuffPo article was talking about. Get a fucking life. You got a completely useless luxury degree and you’re seriously wondering why no one “prizes” you? FUCK, REALLY? The world doesn’t need costume designers, and the whole point of your life isn’t there for you to shape and enjoy. Seriously, grow up and do something else or enjoy the lot you have in life without complaint.

    The Internet and TV has changed our perception of life, our expectations, and entitlement. Like the song goes “how ya gonna keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Paree?” You’re not in a movie, and you’re not the main character. This isn’t a fucking “choose your adventure” game. Until Gen Y douchebags learn that not everyone can be a socialite or million-dollar entrepreneur, the world will be a better place.

    You can and should be mad at baby boomers for fucking up the economy, and be mad at baby boomers for defunding Social Security and fucking up their and all of our health. But when push comes to shove and your family gets old and ill and needs caretaking, or you have children to feed, college days and studying doesn’t mean shit. You need to be dependable, strong, quick thinking, and practical. Your life is something more than your personal wants and needs. You are part of something bigger than just your life. Work hard and be humble. Be kind to others. It is simple, but not easy. Accepting your place in life and in the world takes much more grace and maturity than the never-ending climb toward that piece of cheese 6 figure salary prize. This generation is so impractical (thanks to the greedy fuck baby boomers that birthed us) I don’t know how half of us found our way out of the womb. The reason why The Greatest Generation is called so, and every agricultural generation before, is because they got shit done.

  18. Amen to the post.

    I’m reminded of a joke about a gringo coming up to a man sitting on the beach, fishing. The gringo asks why he doesn’t go out and get a job. When asked, “Why?” he replied to make money. Again, “Why?” Answer: to save up money. Again, “Why?” Answer: to retire comfortably. Again, “Why?” Answer: To sit on the beach and fish all day. [cue the drummer]

    [shrug] I love dance, but opted for an office job to cover the lifestyle I wanted. Tons of respect for those who stick with what they love, and can make it work. It’s a hard-won “luxury”, with full bragging rights, and hell yeah, you’re a rebel artist warrior special fucking unicorn that farts rainbows, burps butterflies, and entire troupes of artists earn their living wearing what you make. That’s not a bad bubble-of-influence.

  19. Sorry, but I’m not sure I understand the point of this article. Racism, reproductive rights, and the budgetary issues of the Philadelphia school system don’t explain to me why you don’t know how to use Excel. Because that’s all it takes, really — you don’t need a STEM degree to be a customer claims supervisor for 45k a year plus benefits, with evenings free for grad courses in theater tech. You just need people skills, an ability to make to-do lists, and Excel. All the other stuff is just narcissism and bullshit, and it’s crippling you. Which, I suppose, is the point of the HuffPo article.

    Oh, and you don’t need a paid internship to acquire these skills. You need a temp job, and a friend to help you with your resume. Stop making life sound harder than it is.

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  21. Yes, Katherine. I feel you, it is like I wrote this. As a former freelance theatre teaching artist, I know your struggles and elations. I remember my excitement at breaking 20k one year. I remember thinking “WTF am I doing?” The next thing I’m going to write is going to be annoying: just wait until you decide you want to add mom to your list of jobs. It is the cherry on the top that can make your sundae an avalanche. I thought this many times: why wasn’t I warned about the reality of being a working adult? why didn’t somebody tell me to be practical? because if they tried i wouldn’t have listened anyway.
    Keep up the good fight. but know you are not alone in thinking the fight is fucking shitty sometimes.
    (Please excuse all errors. this was typed with my left hand while breastfeeding my daughter.)

    • I don’t understand the replies like this. Ok, so you had a business plan where you would earn money as a freelance theater teaching artist and the plan didn’t generate enough income to make it work. The same could be true for sellers of pickled eggs, dog-walkers, or bright green fabric vendors. There was not a customer base to support your business. That has NOTHING to do with your education and everything to do with supply and demand. If you want to earn a high income, find something people will pay large. I just acted as a business consultant which can garner high compensation – but for this advice, I don’t think it meets the mark.

  22. Every time I read one of these gen y puff pieces I want to respond but never do. I feel like I have a bit to add here, so here goes my first comment. I don’t think this generation communicates the issue well enough without sounding like whiny babies that are crying because not enough people are buying crap off of their etsy workshop, and whoever is outside of this generation (or anyone with the “holier than thou” attitude) just doesn’t have the empathy to try to relate or the knowledge to know that there really are outside market forces and economic shifts that are making it increasingly difficult for normal people to get a job that pays a living wage.

    I will communicate with my own experience because people like stories.

    Throughout the early 00s I was passed over for promotions; those promotions given to people who were visibly less competent than me. Every time I asked why I wasn’t chosen, it was because I didn’t have a college degree…ANY college degree. So I took two years off of full time work, busted myself and got a crappy liberal arts degree so I could say “Look! I have a degree!” Then I injected myself back into the workforce, worked hard and worked my way up into where I am now. By no means am I rich, but I make enough money to pay all of my bills on time, contribute to retirement, and take vacation…the dream lifestyle of yesteryear (ha).

    My point with that last paragraph is to say a few years ago one could, with any crap arts degree, get promoted for simply having any degree and a hardworking ethic. That is definitely not the case these days.

    I have ample experience in my field, but my field is IT, and my degree is an arts degree. To get a new job I will never make it past the robots who OCR resumes looking for computer science degrees. So I’m stuck here until I network myself into a different shop. It really is luck. I have to know somebody who knows my work ethic who can shuffle my resume into the pile of hundreds of applicants with more experience and a relevant degree. I have interviewed with potential bosses who have less experience than I have, and been turned down. Not complaining here, it’s just really pure luck to get in sometimes whereas I know, 5-6 years ago, I could just walk into a job and start working because it really was that easy to get a job.

    And one point I am trying to make with that paragraph is to say that because giant corporations have laid thousands of people off with tons of experience, it’s an employer’s market. If you’re fresh out of college, even with a specialized degree you may not have a chance.

    I work in a data entry shop where, as little as 2 years ago, moving ahead was possible. If you worked hard you could be in a higher paying position in 6 months. In my current position I’m part of the management team that shuffles jobs to lower paying markets in South America and Asia. Every quarter we try to save money by combing through the tasks of every position, seeing what tasks can be turned into an algorithm and automated, and we are whittling every position down to a series of small computer tasks that can be done by people in other countries. Even I’m not safe – I’m expecting my pink slip within months because I, myself, have made things so efficient I’ve made myself obsolete. And hard work is no longer rewarded with a stable job in a good company so, you know, in three months I’ll be on etsy trying to get strangers to buy my “found art” pieces.

    The moral story of that paragraph is to tell you companies are definitely doing more for less, and they don’t want to hire you or anybody in this country because minimum wage in America is way too much. And if you think you’re getting that job after those old guys retire, you’re not. They’re doing more for less so they’re not filling those positions.

    Overall I just wanted to make the point that although nobody wants to hear the babies of gen y crying even though they’re doing exactly what they want, saying “then get a real job,” really isn’t applicable because “real jobs” will be gone in 5-10 years, and small service jobs and software companies will be what’s left in the US…and If you think you’re safe; you’re not. Really. I’m logging your tasks even as we speak because your company hired my company on the down low to find efficiencies in what you’re doing so we can export your job, and the crap you’re doing with those excel spreadsheets can be optimized with some macros that someone in India can run every morning.

    • Minimum wage in the US is NOT “too much.” The real minimum wage (federal) has actually dropped in real dollars since the 40’s when it was put in place. Right now, corporate profits are too much and higher end compensations are also too high. This is caused by current tax policy in the US. 25 years ago, corporations were incentivized to pay their employees more and improve their businesses. The incentive was high taxes. Before anyone immediately concludes that high taxes are always wrong, look around. Things were better for our country as a whole compared to today.

  23. I was hoping this would be a great response to the article you linked to in the beginning…but this was just another disappointing rant. You should not be surprised that you’re broke. This world does not value what you’re good at, sorry. I’m not good at math and science and programming either. But that’s what’s in demand right now. Oh well.

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  25. As a wannabe Theater minor myself going to a small liberal arts college in the Philly area I think you nailed it.
    Life is hard. Everyone’s lives are hard, relative to themselves. Our generation has different kinds of problems awaiting us. A lot of those problems I wouldn’t even begin to understand how to fix them if it weren’t for my liberal arts education. And yeah, it’s expensive but a lot of students receive a ton of aid so that everyone can have access to that quality of education. What I’ve learned in school so far is how to be a better, more open, knowledgeable person. I think those who graduate from schools like mine should have diplomas that read “kick-ass problem solver (and a pretty cool chick as well).” Maybe I’m being swaddled by my school by having a meal plan and nice dorms and access to internships. But the people I’m meeting in those dorms from 56 different countries with 1000 different opinions than my own, and the philosophers whose work I’m reading in those dining halls everyday are causing me to really SEE the world and understand why it is the way it is and how someone like me could make a difference.
    And if no one in our generation believed that they were the “special unicorn” that would one day save the world, then they never would. The world would never be saved. Then what?

  26. 50 year old chiming in. Loved your article, love all your articles actually. Love all your Snark. You are the Queen of Snark. And I love that about you.

  27. Ohmagod. I just wondered onto your page via a friend’s FB post, and shoot (or “shit,” if you like) : I could have written this myself.

    This has become the rallying cry of our generation, the largely white, college educated, working-poor middle classes. I shudder remembering how many times I’ve had this conversation with friends, worrying how to pay back student loan debt, or with my parents (and I’m going to out myself, here) arguing that moving abroad for graduate school remains more realistic than trying to work in the US with An MA In The Humanities.

    But, ya know what, it is. Or, at least, for me it has been.

    We have creative people all over the country clamoring about the ongoing lack of national support for creativity, for the arts, for educators at all levels, etc etc. And while all of that is true, we also inherited a failing economic system that no one, not even our parents, could have predicted. That said, Special Unicorns rely, well into their 30s, on the safety net – financial and otherwise – of their parents. It’s something of a vicious cycle, and one without a clear end in sight.

    Having taught college students for several years (as an adjunct, because “living wage for teachers, and benefits? shit no, foo’ “) I think the so-called “GYPSYs” we should be worried about are kids in college now. The Super Special Magical Rocket Shoes Unicorns, who have developed as such because The Special Unicorns mated with on another and bred, and *that* entitled generation is going to be leaving 4 years of higher education with fewer skills, less critical thinking and comprehension, and, from the looks of it, a worse economic situation that I, at 33, or the rest of my generation are in.

  28. Pingback: Sunday links, 10/20/13 | Tutus And Tiny Hats

  29. Just wanted to say that I loved this post. Extremely well written and nicely articulated. I skimmed some of the comments and just have to say – haters gonna hate. I don’t normally comment, but I felt the need to add some positivity here :-)

  30. Trust your instincts and keep doing what you love, no matter how much your accountant tells you otherwise. 20 years ago I was newly out of college with a theatre degree, emphasis in costume design and trying to make a living in costuming in non-LA or NYC metro area. I caved to the financial frustration and joined corporate america. Fast forward: I’ve got a nice salary but a job that sucks the soul out of me and I design at night (even knowing no one is every going to see my work) because I’m not doing what love full time.

  31. Pingback: What You Should Have Paid Attention To In 2013 | Good Good Girl

  32. Pingback: A reading list for your soul — Claire Porter

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