Don’t Act Your Age

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel

It’s easy to fall into the expectations of a culture. It’s easy to yield to social, familial, and religious pressure. It’s easy to “be” for others, but is harder to put your foot down and be yourself.

Out culture has a lot of unwritten rules. By 18 you graduate high school. By 22 it’s college. By 25 maybe a post-graduate program. Depending on your track, there are more hoops and expectations. Somewhere in there, before 30, you might find a spouse, buy a house, and resemble something like an adult.

These age brackets adjust slightly, depending on the culture and the time. Babies often come by 40 instead of 30 now. Career success is somewhere around 40 maybe 50, depending. Marriage is okay by 30, best by 40. It’s all constructed on norms and expectations, built around the cultural ecosystem we live in. Yet all of it is just expectation, not a reality based on what one NEEDS to accomplish. Some of us have more responsibility younger. Some of us never were truly kids. Some of us will never fully grow up. It just is.

With all of these expectations being fabricated, then I think it’s damn time that people do what makes sense for them. If my generation has positively accomplished anything, it’s that we are breaking the norm. (Whether out of necessity or choice is another question all together). We have abandoned the suburbs for lofts, and lifelong mortgages for vacations. Some of it is having a lack of money to participate in the US of A economy like our ancestors did, some of us just don’t want the shackles that uprooted so many in the recession.

While I advocate for education and knowledge, I also know that college is not the only way to be educated. I am married to one of the smartest people I know who could never get comfortable in a college setting, even though they tried. He doesn’t flout his skills and knowledge, he just exists, happy to work and make improvements, happy to have a family to come home to. It’s not ideal, but his earnings with a few community college classes almost matches that of someone with a M.A. The degree has never made me superior, it only lit the path to my own growth.

No doubt, the system has failed this generation, and my dear Gen-X friends that also feel swallowed in debt and poor paying jobs. I feel if the system has failed us, why should be jump deeply into the system? Why be the pinnacle of 30 with a house and 2.5 kids and car payments and so much debt there is hardly money for groceries? Where is the joy in that?

No doubt, I want the “good life” like everyone waved in front of my face. I want a house, I want a dog, and a yard, and to take a family vacation every year. Yet, we run into the wall of we don’t earn enough for a house where we live. We don’t earn enough to live fully here, as a “30-something” should. Yet we do earn enough to pay our bills and have some fun once in a while. We earn enough to enjoy trips abroad every few years, and take road trips in between. We earn enough to get by and laugh a little. We earn enough that I only grind my teeth a couple of night between pay days, instead of them all.

So while I “WANT” this and that, I refuse to be a part of “keeping up with the Jones’s” or buying into familial expectation of what my house and life is supposed to be. I think everyone should examine this too. If something in our culture serves you and your dreams, go for it.

I went for college and a mountain of debt, but my growth was much needed and treasured, I would not change that. If buying a home brings you comfort and joy that’s great! But make sure that the value you have placed in it comes before other desires. If having children is something that you long for, then have children when it makes sense. If having children is not that important, then REALLY evaluate if that’s a road you should go down.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put in Eat, Pray, Love “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” I value most things on similar terms, “is this REALLY what I want?” “Should I REALLY commit to this”. I also leave if something is not serving me or my longer-term goals. Some days it is hard, it’s definitely scary, but it’s important that you only act the age you are in your heart.

Happy Travels!

The Confusing 20s

musings

Hi, I’ll be 26 in a few weeks and I’m in the phase that I’ll call “The Confusing 20s”.

I always thought I wanted to do a certain thing….or certain things. I always wanted to do something creative, I do creative things every week. I write and cross-stitch, sometimes I knit and paint. I put together crafts. I play with a lot of hobbies and artistic endeavors. For myself it is a chance to make something happy in a time of chaos or stress. Really it’s peace in that which is the constant reality of the chaos of life.

I never thought I could make a career from “art” so I chose something practical. Something I also enjoyed. I consider myself intelligent and able, I learn quickly and I like challenges. I want to be a lifelong learner. So I chose to go with journalism and programs that meant that I learned a huge variety of skills. This meant a B.A. where I also majored in History, just for fun, and graduated with a 3.2 GPA, not perfect, but I was proud.

I then took on a M.A. program with a school and program that had a 90% employment rate 1 year after graduation. There I would learn from internationally recognized journalists on how to be a better journalist. It was what I wanted in a very exciting and passionate field that I really love. Once again I didn’t graduate with honors, but I finished on time, and got really good marks on my work. Which, 2015 was a hard year due to losing my grandmother, but I did it, I pushed through.

The reason why I went for the M.A. was so that I could be a better journalist and walk into a role somewhere as prepared and enthusiastic as possible to do a job I was passionate about. Within a few days of finishing the work on my M.A. I was applying for jobs. That was December 2015, and here I am in January 2017 and I have yet to land the dream job. Or really, any job that is full time, has benefits and offers me some financial stability.

This has been a growth process for me. A scary and hard growth process. It has meant I have really had to grow up this last year and not just in jobs but in what my habits and actions have been. While working and jumping around with part time jobs here and there, I have had to cut back on my spending, refinance my debt and even skip paying bills so that we had groceries. Student loans and being behind on them has meant bombing my credit score and that I probably won’t be able to buy  a home any time soon or if ever. It’s really stressful and upsetting.

See my expectation was that I would get through college and get a great job. I always TRULY believed this would happen and I have never had trouble finding a job to get me through what I need to get through. That’s from High School to age 25, I always had a job and something to do. Sometimes it was to save and travel, other times it was just to have extra income. I’ve worked hard to have that.

Here we are 20 days into a new year, a new chance, and more is moving. I’ve had interviews and interest in me as an employee and things are going well with the part time job I currently have. I have backups to my backups, but it’s still hard. I never thought I would be making so little when I have so much education, when I took the “safe” bet on my education. The jobs I am finding and interviewing at also have no direct relation to my education, some overlap, but nothing direct. Which I find confusing and frustrating.

I feel like I have done everything “right” in this attempt to build myself up from a childhood in poverty, but I am finding that the road out of the hole is really slick, really steep and full of holes and drop-offs. All around it’s confusing and frustrating and extremely tiring.

I often ask myself “what am I meant to be doing?” and my gut tells me that I’m doing what’s right and what I’m supposed to. I want to “do more” but I also have to eat and pay bills and find a way to survive. While my fiancé has helped us keep the boat afloat, he supported my school endeavors so that I could do more.

Maybe this is all part of the longer journey in which I better understand poverty, achievement and the financial plight of my peers that are college educated and working poor-paying retail jobs. Sometimes it’s the location of where we are living, but other times it’s the reality that there is not a job or that one is overlooked. I have been told that maybe I’m overqualified and that maybe people see me as too expensive. Which is possible and maybe I’m not presenting myself as strongly in my cover letters. Maybe it’s a lesson in how to assert myself and demand recognition and try new techniques.

I think the biggest lesson is that it’s easy to believe the narrative we’re told in school of “graduate, college, graduate, good job.” “Keep your grades up, work hard and you’ll be great” “try your best and things will come through”. All of these narratives are great for encouragements and great for driving people to carry on, myself included. However, they are not the only truth and they ignore the complexities of what is actually existing on this planet.

For instance, how can you say this to a child that’s starving in Yemen? They might be trying their hardest but it doesn’t change the reality that civil war and too little water for crops. Just something to chew on.

While I bite my nails every time I see a less-qualified peer get a job I wanted and sometimes shed a few tears, I am fighting very hard for the right fit and the right job and my instincts tell me something will come along.

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