In smacking down a mocking Gen Y meme today, Adam Weinstein pretty eloquently sums up what it's like to be a) a Gen Y-er struggling to pay for basic living expenses on stagnant wages, and b) a struggling modern-day journalist (otherwise known as a successful modern-day journalist). His message is depressing and if you're young, it's not particularly revelatory. But I find myself in a similar conversational run-around frequently with older folks ("If you're not making enough money, why don't you work harder/quit your job/ask for more money?" and "I didn't have that much debt when I was your age, I don't know what you could be spending your money on." etc, etc.), which is why this bears repeating:
"Stop feeling special" is some shitty advice. I don't feel special or entitled, just poor. The only thing that makes me special is I have more ballooning debt than you. I've tempered the hell out of my expectations of work, and I've exceeded those expectations crazily to have one interesting, exciting damned career that's culminated in some leadership roles for national publications. And I'm still poor and in debt and worked beyond the point where it can be managed with my health and my desire to actually see the son I'm helping to raise.
... Last weekend my baby had a fever, and we contemplated taking him to the ER, and my first thought was—had to be—"Oh God, that could wipe out our bank account! Maybe he can just ride it out?" Our status in this Big Financial Game had sucked my basic humanity towards my child away for a minute. If I wish for something better, is that me simply being entitled and delusional?
... I once listened to a professor, who is in his sixties, read us the first published piece he'd been paid for, in the late 1970s. A thousand words or so. The rate, he says, was something like two bucks a word. That's four times what the Village Voice pays today, even for an award-winning investigative cover story. It's geometrically greater than what most writers can earn today writing daily brilliance for nationally renowned publications online. And writing daily brilliance, which many of them do, is hard goddamned work.
If I had a dollar for every older writer or editor who confided to me that "I don't know how young writers do it today; I certainly couldn't," I could buy every property that publishes them.
So no, we shan't be doing as well as our parents, and no, we shan't be shutting up about it. If anything, those of us who have been cowed into silence because college-educated poor problems aren't real poor problems should shed our fears and start talking about just how hard it really is out there, man.
This state of affairs does not exist because we're entitled and have simply declined to work as hard as the people that birthed us. American workers have changed from generation to generation: Since 1979, the alleged Dawn of the Millennial, the average US worker has endured as much as a 75 percent increase in productivity…while real wages stayed flat.
I'm tempted to quote the whole thing but you should just go read it on Mother Jones yourself.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!