The Cult of Bootstraps

musings

I am a strong believer in personal work and development. I am living proof that determination can actually attain goals and do things. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in 25 years of living, and 26 brings more goals. Yet, there is also a wall that exists that many of us hit and only a few can crawl over. I’m banging my head on that wall right now.

The reality is that outside factors play largely into whether or not someone will succeed in the way they want. These outside factors come in many forms. They’re income-based, education based, socio-economic based. Sometimes it comes down to sexism or racism. And even though we all want to believe that we have to tap into some type of well-spring that will fix our lives the reality is out of our control.

One applies for jobs they really want, one is maybe perfectly qualified and ready for the commitment. Your write a stellar resume and provide great references and update your website and you pray for the job. Yet 70 people apply 50 are just as qualified as you but 5 are more qualified and have more experience. Guess who gets the interview? Guess who stands out. Probably not you.

It raises the point that for every job in a certain field there are possibly hundreds trying to break into the field. Add onto it a later retirement for most people, which isn’t opening up jobs like it once did, and less jobs to go around in many industries and one is stuck in a bubble of underemployment.

For people in the millennial generation our wages are low and our potential to move ahead is harder. We buy homes less, because we can’t afford them. We’re loaded down with student debt, buying into the idea that our education was worth it. We don’t have benefits with many jobs we have, and we are having a harder time breaking into the fields we went to school for. If we ever get there. Many of us are still slinging pizza and selling clothes at Kohl’s to try and make it.

Many of us that went to school for a try at the middle class are facing an existence that has had wages stagnate for our lives and that of our boomer and gen-x parents. Add on the great recession which knocked a lot of people out of careers and into a downward spiral and we have a hot mess.

While I admire the idea of creating happiness and creating wealth in little things it’s also important to understand the crunch that basic survival takes on those living it. So much of one’s energy is placed in how to pay all the bills and come out with enough to buy food. A lot of energy is placed on figuring out summer camps and how to afford it and stressing about credit scores and if one can ever get ahead.

The increments are tough too, we might get a new job and make more, but then we lose our medicaid or other benefits such as income-based rent. So one has to earn significantly more to make a difference permanently in their lives. If you live somewhere like Fort Collins it’s even harder to pull ahead as the cost of living and cost of rent is harder to afford. 

The reality is that every single person living in the lower class or lower middle class, is literally pulling themselves up every single day by their bootstraps, just to get out of bed. The reality is that it is often so hard to want to even be alive. I believe this feeds into the drug epidemic and why so many people rely on medications of various kinds.

Much of this is compounded by a lack of well-paying and benefit-heavy jobs. Which I also understand. When a business is trying to employ people but it lacks significant profit it’s hard to pay raises and insurance and taxes and vacation and everything else. Sometimes companies can’t even fathom employing people full time, or only employ a few people full time for these reasons.

So what do we do? As the gap between rich and poor grows so wide.

A few ideas that would help would be single-payer healthcare for everyone, education for everyone, improved high school education that is heavy on teaching valuable skills, more corporate taxation and oversight, and more programs to even the playing field. Of course this comes down to taxation and taxing either everyone equally, say 20%, or a higher tax rate for those that earn more.

Historically, the United States had it’s largest economic boom in the post WWII years as a result of higher taxation and more education with the G.I. Bill. We also held onto manufacturing jobs and “built” the United States and much of the world. While globalization has changed much of where we manufacture, we also have opportunities to create more equality and affluence. Perhaps those that worked on the oil rigs could be recruited to work with renewable energy sources?

Much of this starts as early as high school and is a goal of lifetime improvements and learning. It also has to be backed by money going to actually helping teachers and educators and not for-profit systems. We also could take a look at higher education and why the hell it has skyrocketed (administration costs) at such a horrifying rate.

While I respect the idea of self-improvement and fighting for what you want, there is also a lot to be said for the people that can’t afford to meet their basic needs. It’s expensive to survive and to have kids and when a family can barely pay their bills month to month, it’s hard to see where the next spa day and yoga retreat are coming to calm the mind.

There are little things every day that improve one’s mindset when facing hard odds, but at the end of the day we must ask if this is the continued existence we want and want for our children, or are we going to fight to make sure everyone has more opportunities?

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Why it Sucks Being a Millenial

colorado, musings

Hi yes, hello it’s me, another 25-year-old bitching about their privileged life with a macbook and an iphone 6s next to me.

I don’t earn a living wage, and I live in income-based housing, the sweater I am wearing has a hole in it and I haven’t had a real haircut in five months.

But by god I have the newest iphone. Yet, what if I told you it’s because I do most of my work on these two devices and without them I couldn’t do ANY work in my field right now? These two devices also guaranteed I could do my MA work and get my degree.

Okay, I could go and work for a retail company, again, or I could flip burgers. But I have a MA and I am trying to understand why that means the only job interviews I have got recently are for Kohl’s and a bank teller position. Both jobs only require a GED or a high school degree. This depresses me.

I have a really fun job right now, taking photos for a local teahouse, and creating newsletters, and running their social media pages. It pays okay, and I love who I work for, the teahouse also donates 10% of its revenue to education in cambodia, so I feel really high in Karma points with this job and it makes me happy. I get a lot of free tea, but it’s hard to pay all my bills and my fiance, who only has a GED makes about three times as much as me as a manager for a gas station.

Yet, this is the reality for most people my age. Some of us are back living with parents, and some of us are having rent paid by our parents. Some of us don’t even have a car, or ability to afford internet at home. I have been able to have both. Most of us have astronomical student loan debt. I’m part of that club too.

I have probably applied for 150 jobs in the last 5 months and have only had 5 interviews. For the majority of jobs I have been perfectly qualified or overqualified for, but I still haven’t got an interview. And I am not only applying for jobs in what I am educated to do, I have stretched and applied for everything in every corner of everything I am qualified to do. Thus, I have only interviewed at Kohl’s and a bank. I turned down Kohl’s because I wouldn’t get much pay, and I wouldn’t have consistent hours. I didn’t hear back on the bank.

This is my life right now, and what is frustrating is that I bought into the idea some 8 years ago in my junior year of high school that if I went to school and graduated, even if I got a lot of student loan debt, things would come together for me to have a good job, even $40,000 a year. Which in reality, if you live in as affluent of a city as I do, that 40k doesn’t go that far. However, I bought into the idea, found things I was good at, got a double major in my BA, and an MA in a year. I even went to less expensive schools and made sure I applied like crazy for scholarships, grants etc. I chose my MA partially because it was half as expensive and half the time of other programs, so that I would have less debt and less problems. I don’t regret my education, but my stomach churns at how much it cost me.

The average income for someone my age is $24,000 a year. At the moment, I would be happy just to make that. The average for other generations is $38,000. Note this includes people of all education levels.

I am not the only one in these shoes, these debt-laden and insecure, scary shoes. It’s no surprise that I am on several medications to deal with my anxiety and depression. Compound that with existing problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, and the loss of 10 relatives and friends I cared about just in the last five years and I sometimes feel like I’m drowning.

I have been very lucky too, but I also have to be honest about the trap I am in. At the moment, I don’t know if there is a REAL opportunity into success and I know a lot of people also feel that way. I have talked to career coaches and I’m even making my own company to freelance. Yet, I still feel in limbo, following coaching and steps that I know work for others, wondering when my big break is coming. It’s not that I or anyone is doing anything wrong, but that so much of the deck is stacked against us.

Anyone that wants to say we’re entitled doesn’t really understand the struggle all of us face. The ones of us that are succeeding are the ones that had resources to avoid student debt, and parents that could financially back certain endeavors. They’re the ones that didn’t have to work part time through school and could afford to join sororities and take unpaid internships. While I was trying to figure out the cheapest way to make and eat gluten-free because of my celiac disease.

I don’t want sympathy in writing this, I just want respect in my struggle. I want to afford my basic needs, and I just want a grown-up job. I think most of us can agree to that. The reality is that the economy compounded with a minimum wage that doesn’t reflect a living wage, and companies and systems that don’t give us benefits and full hours are a big problem. I’m not even talking little guys, but big players that refuse to pay for healthcare….I’m looking at you Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Target etc. I also want a hand up not a hand out, meaning: someone give me a fucking chance!

If you don’t believe this read more here, here, here, and here.

“The most educated generation in history is on track to becoming less prosperous, at least financially, than its predecessors.”

Thanks for listening. I’m going to go apply for more jobs now.

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson