Millennial Reality
April 20, 2016 5:22 PM   Subscribe

 
I'm glad he omitted the "Savings," "Lifetime Earning Potential," and "Estimated Age of Retirement" statistics. Laying rest to the bern and paying taxes was enough despair for the week.

So what am I supposed to do? Not me, a white albeit genderfluid male will be "fine" -- but the general we?

My parents are in their mid 60's. What will I do when their health starts to decline? I can't support them. I can barely support myself.

I can't move to a cheap area. I can't move home. I'll kill myself. I need the city. I can't afford the city. I'm addicted the internet. I gotta get off. I can't log off, it's my entire life.

I know everything. Who cares? Everyone knows everything. Should I want less from life? I don't want to die of starvation. I want to keep my spotify subscription. I want to fall in love. Am I asking too much? I don't need to own a house. It's ok. I don't mind. I don't need a car. I promise I won't travel much. Plane tickets are expensive.

Everything is expensive. Is there anything I'm not addicted to? I don't do drugs. Do I get brownie points? I'm an eagle scout. That's special right? I have the Hire Me Merit Badge. It isn't working. One of my bosses is finally going to pay me for work I did 4 months ago. I guess that's cool. I'm so well off. I'm so broke. I don't trust him but I don't want a real job. I don't think I'll ever have a real job. Everyone tells me I could get one; I'm talented like everyone else. All the movies and books tell me it's awful to have a real job. Older people on metafilter seem to like real jobs. Older people on metafilter seem kindof offputtingly satisfied. I don't want to be satisfied. And they're in so much pain. Everyone's in so much pain. I'll never be satisfied. Why do I care so much? Why don't I?

It's like this, round and round, all the time. Surely this is normal? I'm so afraid I'll never make it. But I'm more frightened that I might.
posted by an animate objects at 6:00 PM on April 20, 2016 [126 favorites]


Some of that sounds like my 30 year old sister, although she graduated college at 22 and makes five or six times the median. I don't know how helpful those statistics are, though.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:14 PM on April 20, 2016


If you were born on the 4th of December in 1988, it's your 10000th day.
posted by ovvl at 6:32 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm so afraid I'll never make it. But I'm more frightened that I might.

I'm not afraid to "make it". I like having a roof over my head and food on my table. I've seen what the ground floor looks like in America, and it's one huge meat grinder. Who in their right mind wants to fall into that? That's what I think as an older millennial. It's sickening out there.
posted by gehenna_lion at 6:35 PM on April 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


So what am I supposed to do? Not me, a white albeit genderfluid male will be "fine" -- but the general we?

You'll be fine. When I graduated from university in the early nineties unemployment in Canada was 10%. There was no Internet. Hell, there wasn't even Walmart or Starbucks. McJobs were really McJobs at McDonalds. I had to leave the country to find work because the jobs I was doing (moving furniture, cooking) totally sucked). I had to to pay my student loan (only $30,000, though and it only took me ten years).

The 2010's are not so bad in comparison.

My parents are in their mid 60's. What will I do when their health starts to decline? I can't support them. I can barely support myself.

The sixties are not so bad. My parents are in their 70's. They're fine. My father just had bypass surgery, but he's better than ever. I can both of them living well into their 80's.

So relax and chill, try to figure out how to move the ball forward.
posted by My Dad at 7:00 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like the whole thing could have been condensed to tweet size by just saying "basically everything is worse than you assumed for people who are about 30, and we have the numbers to prove it."
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:03 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ok, but it's also "not all Millennials are like the Millennials you probably know if you live in a big city and work for the media." Most snake-people-inspired think pieces are really about a tiny sliver of the population.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:13 PM on April 20, 2016 [17 favorites]


My parents are in their 70's. They're fine.

Well, lucky you.
posted by klanawa at 7:23 PM on April 20, 2016 [55 favorites]


Yeah, I think the "not all young people are educated urbanites" takeaway is more important for this piece than "the economy is shit for most people" takeaway, even though that's also true. I'm in the college educated big city demographic, but I moved here from somewhere else, and most of my high school classmates didn't have my path available to them. They're making the best of things with less education in places with fewer opportunities, but I don't read many think pieces about them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:26 PM on April 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


They're making the best of things with less education in places with fewer opportunities, but I don't read many think pieces about them.

They are writing think pieces about them.
posted by gehenna_lion at 7:36 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


The 2010's are not so bad in comparison.

I think you are right in a lot of ways. Many things are getting much better. But if you are seriously applying this bon mot to job prospects for Millennials, I think you may be slightly out of touch.
posted by 256 at 7:39 PM on April 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


Recently I read a comment that ascribed the perception of society as a zero-sum success game to the patriarchy itself. It blew my mind. I am still trying to believe that I (with my very privileged identity) can succeed without turning into the shitty successful people I know. And I know so many. Seriously. Every well off white male employer and friend I know is a total cad, and none of them seem to realize it.
posted by an animate objects at 7:45 PM on April 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


Most snake-people-inspired think pieces are really about a tiny sliver slither of the population.

There you go.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:49 PM on April 20, 2016 [21 favorites]


Most snake-people-inspired think pieces are really about a tiny sliver of the population.

Basically, the sliver that can get media jobs
posted by thelonius at 7:51 PM on April 20, 2016


My Dad: "When I graduated from university in the early nineties unemployment in Canada was 10%. [...] The 2010's are not so bad in comparison."

It may be worth keeping in mind that the US and Canada experienced the Great Recession rather differently (both series indexed to 1992-04 = 100 for the sake of fairer comparison). Unemployment in Canada was around 20% lower in 2010 than in 1992 while in the US it was around 40% higher.
posted by mhum at 8:10 PM on April 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


Then there are those of us who saw exactly what this article describes coming around the corner and fled the country. It's great out here, at least it's better than what I left, I wholly encourage it.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:10 PM on April 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Then there are those of us who saw exactly what this article describes coming around the corner and fled the country. It's great out here, at least it's better than what I left, I wholly encourage it.

I'm currently planning on getting the hell out of the US. Considering how little people care about how things are going down here, including progressive places like Metafilter, there is 0% chance of anything getting better. Hoo boy it does not look good.
posted by gehenna_lion at 8:13 PM on April 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'd be interested in median and mode millenial profiles.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


Recently I read a comment that ascribed the perception of society as a zero-sum success game to the patriarchy itself. It blew my mind. I am still trying to believe that I (with my very privileged identity) can succeed without turning into the shitty successful people I know. And I know so many.

Slavoj Zizek calls this Capitalism with Authoritarian Values. I think it's why so many people react with irrational rage towards Zizek; it's because he's right and the cognitive dissonance is too much.
posted by polymodus at 9:31 PM on April 20, 2016 [12 favorites]


Most snake-people-inspired think pieces are really about a tiny sliver slither of the population.

jesus christ I just finally quit the game for the night, don't tempt me!
posted by numaner at 9:56 PM on April 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't want a real job. I don't think I'll ever have a real job. Everyone tells me I could get one; I'm talented like everyone else. All the movies and books tell me it's awful to have a real job. Older people on metafilter seem to like real jobs.

Just wanted to comment specifically on that.

There is a real level of cultural messaging that I know I at least went through that you need to "do what you love".

This was really, really, really terrible advice (something I only realized in retrospect)

It made me feel both guilty and anxious about choosing a job that
1. I had skills for
2. with a reasonable salary and
3. sane employability

over all the jobs I knew I'd "love" (not that I knew that for a fact, since I'd never actually worked in them as a career before) that had terrible starting salaries plus insane hoops to leap through to become a success. I felt like I was selling out, and giving away any chance at "real" happiness.

Then I started working and discovered there's a lot of satisfaction in just being able to get a job done plus having a normal, reliable paycheck. I am happier now than I have ever been in my life, but I also feel really angry how much I was lied to.

I spent a while before this post trying to think, conspiracy-theory-style, who these lies benefit.

The fields that are most likely to be things people "love" - game development, fashion design, academia - are also extremely exploitative. The relentless pushing of victims canon fodder young adults into such fields seems... Look, I'm not sure it's deliberate. But at the very least it's unsavory.

The branding of a sane life as "boring" ties into this, I think. Stable, healthy relationships are boring. Stable, healthy jobs are boring. As long as you expect abuse, you'll put up with it. How can you value your own emotional health over "passion", you are such a boring square.

It benefits the boss to make you undervalue decent salary/benefits/stability in favor of such lofty ideals as fun/passion because only one of those things costs him actual money. The more needy and desperate you are, the easier you are to exploit, so set young people up to be as needy and desperate as possible (as if they weren't vulnerable enough). Saddle them with so much debt they have to take any job...
posted by Cozybee at 10:20 PM on April 20, 2016 [104 favorites]


(also, I think it says something about the extent to which this message is pushed that, having written the above, I'm immediately feeling defensive about being judged, because it's not really socially acceptable to say it.)
posted by Cozybee at 10:23 PM on April 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


The fields that are most likely to be things people "love" - game development, fashion design, academia - are also extremely exploitative. The relentless pushing of victims canon fodder young adults into such fields seems... Look, I'm not sure it's deliberate. But at the very least it's unsavory.

The branding of a sane life as "boring" ties into this, I think. Stable, healthy relationships are boring. Stable, healthy jobs are boring. As long as you expect abuse, you'll put up with it. How can you value your own emotional health over "passion", you are such a boring square.


I've spent my career working in boring, stable, sensible jobs. Doesn't make the abuse and exploitation any less real. What you're seeing is an undermined labor movement, a philosophy that worships the wealthy and demonizes working people, a media system owned and controlled by 6 multi-national corporations, and a government completely owned by the same people. It's the same anywhere you go, things only differ in the degree of abuse and exploitation.*

* Unless you're one of the lucky few with the anomalous good employer who takes that rarity and makes it into a generalization. I've had "good jobs" before, but they were still pretty shitty, cut-throat, low paid, or unstable. The "bad jobs" I don't even want to talk about.
posted by gehenna_lion at 10:26 PM on April 20, 2016 [9 favorites]


(also re-reading my post, just to be clear, I meant game development /fashion design/academia to be examples, not an exhaustive list. I'd add an ellipsis if my editing time wasn't up)
posted by Cozybee at 10:27 PM on April 20, 2016



The fields that are most likely to be things people "love" - game development, fashion design, academia


A lot of this is because the people that make it in these fields have it pretty great. They are well paid, respected, and can have fun at work. They then tell everyone else how great it is and people dream it could be them that makes it big. Almost no one does, of course but a few do and the cycle repeats.
posted by chaz at 10:29 PM on April 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Gehenna_lion, I agree that the problem is everywhere, and there needs to be a societal level solution, but do you think it's not more/less pervasive in different fields?

Also, obviously there's personal circumstances involved. I wanted a job I could leave if the boss was unbearable, but that means living in a location where there's multiple places of employment, which is obviously simply not an option in vast swathes of America.
posted by Cozybee at 10:33 PM on April 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


A lot of this is because the people that make it in these fields have it pretty great. They are well paid, respected, and can have fun at work. They then tell everyone else how great it is and people dream it could be them that makes it big. Almost no one does, of course but a few do and the cycle repeats.

Do they have it great? The people I know who work in those fields have had nothing good to say about them, and have either escaped to boring corporate land, or long to do so. Unless you're a workaholic who likes working 60-80 hours a week. Personally, I know what the face of death looks like, so I think it's crazy to live like that.

When I hear people say how great that life is, what I hear is, "this is a nightmare, but I've invested too much into this, so I'm going to talk about how great it is to cover my ass and get some cred out of it."
posted by gehenna_lion at 10:36 PM on April 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think it was Balzac who recommended that an artist have a boring personal life and explosive art. That doesn't seem to match his actual life at all; probably I'm misremembering, but maybe it was a warning.
posted by clew at 10:41 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


A lot of this is because the people that make it in these fields have it pretty great. They are well paid, respected, and can have fun at work. They then tell everyone else how great it is and people dream it could be them that makes it big. Almost no one does, of course but a few do and the cycle repeats.

Why do I find this so funny? It sounds like you know a lot of unicorns and I haven't met any.
posted by futz at 10:54 PM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not a millennial, by any real definition, but at 39, and with a resume that can be described as "shot fulla holes by long term depressive problems," I sympathize a lot with some of this.
posted by Archelaus at 12:13 AM on April 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


> The branding of a sane life as "boring" ties into this, I think. Stable, healthy relationships are boring. Stable, healthy jobs are boring. As long as you expect abuse, you'll put up with it. How can you value your own emotional health over "passion", you are such a boring square.

This really ties in with my thinking on the subject, too. I've worked in all sorts of places. I've worked in IT environments where the boss's only method of motivating the workforce is to manufacture a constant sense of crisis and high pressure ("everything's going to go down!"). I've worked in non-profits where people aren't sure from one quarter to the next whose job is going to be funded this time next month and the backstabbing is constant.

I think the real problem with our current situation is the expectation and the assumption that everyone wants to move into a big city and live that sort of lifestyle well into their 20s and 30s. There are loads of jobs here in the north of England in all kinds of sectors, but they're inevitably in the centre of huge cities like Manchester and Leeds. People assume that you'll leap at the chance to live in a shared shoebox in the middle of a bustling city - I've had people try and sell jobs to me on the basis of an office with arcade machines and table football, or regular office nights out with the lads.

Meanwhile, all I really want is a quiet, modest home of my own in a small town where I can settle, that isn't going to disappear in six months' time and a job that's stable, where I'm treated with respect, where I'm allowed to quietly get on with my work until home time and then go home. I don't want a fast-paced big-city lifestyle, I don't want to live like a student at 30. I want to settle, be part of a community. I'm lucky in that my wants and needs in life are incredibly modest - I don't have student debt because I never went to university and I've no interest in finding a partner or having kids, for instance, so my financial requirements are just for myself.

I think the whole "do what you're passionate about" has really become a bit silly these days. I regularly see job ads where they ask that you're passionate about, for example, "customer service". Very few people are passionate about their job and a lot of the "lucky few" we see who've turned their passion into their job (think people who move to Cornwall and become a surfing instructor or whatever) have done it by eg. having a partner who works a highly-paid job while they build it up.

What's more important than doing a job you're "passionate" about is being true to yourself, your wants and needs and identity, and I think that's something that's truly lacking in today's job market. I'm tired of having to pretend I'm passionate and excited about working for someone else's company - passionate about someone else's ideas and vision. I'm genuinely not, and the sooner we get away from this idea that we all have to be positively orgasmic about our work, and the sooner we go back to viewing it as a means to an end - work to keep a roof over your head and be true to who you really are - the better-off we'll be.
posted by winterhill at 12:42 AM on April 21, 2016 [35 favorites]


Cozybee, I don't think you should feel defensive about what you're writing, as I'm pretty sure you're totally right.

And I'm saying this as someone who is trying to do what they love (artificial intelligence/computational neuroscience in an academic setting). It's going okay for me, but the system is horribly exploitative. The worst thing is that people are sold on the terrible pay and job security of academia based on the idea that they can do what they love, but then they're often not given the freedom to pursue their own interests until much later in their career.

In my case, I have had to develop an iron spine in order to constantly tell my various supervisors that no, I'm not going to work on their piece-meal problems which are of no interest to me, because I actually have a vision for the kinds of problems I want to work on. And it's not just frustration that I get in return, but incredulity and the aggressive expression of, "Who do you think you are?"

It's only through a combination of a lot of self-motivation and even more luck that my career has not been burned down by petulant professors who are insulted by the fact that I don't feel honoured to be in their presence. Of course, part of this good luck has also been based on working with professors who don't operate like this, and I wouldn't even say such professors are rare - after all, the research and ideas are supposed to be what it's all about. Still, a lot of people end up getting treated like disposable PhDs, and having their creativity and passion used up and withered away in the process. Moreover, they're told throughout that they're supposed to be thankful for the opportunity.

Bear in mind, this is all from the perspective of someone working with neural networks, which as a field, is probably about as awash in money and opportunity as you can get. If you don't have the good fortune to be passionate about a technical subject with a lot of hype, I think the chances of making it in academia without catering to the whims of your bosses become vanishingly small.
posted by Alex404 at 4:17 AM on April 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


Note on the housing chart. Take your age, add 15 and compare cohorts. That is who this number is comparing to when they were your age. What this chart says is that if you don't own a home today, as you get older there is less and less a chance that you will own your own home. The real areas of housing ownership disparity reach all the way up into the late GenXers - who yes, may own a home - but for those who don't, they have a lot less ability in the future to do so.

What is a good sign is this: the only group growing is the youngest cohort. That isn't billionaire blood showing - that's a familial strategic plan to make sure the younger group does have stability. It is the realization that secure housing does directly impact financial security.

Think the implications of a 30 year fixed mortgage for someone older than 40. There's a death clock you also have to put on your ability to repay a mortgage. Realistically, when will you die? Realistically, when will you stop working. Don't know? Look at your heritage. Sure there are a lot of people who choose to retire early, but when is that point where your parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle - relative really ceased to be able to handle 8 hours of strenuous activity followed by 4 hours of strenuous post work responsibilities? The reality is - regardless of what the social security administration says - personally I've got a timer of 69 years before I will have to curtail my work life balance - if I am lucky. So death clock + reality spells out that the homeownership negative curve is going to continually ripple and grow. On the back end, rather than pay for an Ivy League or Private school what about a good state school and solid assistance with your first real housing down payment?
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:33 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think the "not all young people are educated urbanites" takeaway is more important for this piece than "the economy is shit for most people" takeaway, even though that's also true.

That was the section I noticed the most as well. I remember seeing that in the past in a lot of profiles about Gen X and Millennials more recently, where the stereotype is always educated, white, and living in a big city and/or a tech center. Those aren't unimportant narratives, but they don't represent the majority of the cohorts, either.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:38 AM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am still trying to believe that I (with my very privileged identity) can succeed without turning into the shitty successful people I know.

At some point I decided to move my own goalpost to something like "succeed at not being shitty, even if that means less success (as defined by the dumpster-fire of late capitalism)." I'll let you know how it works out.

So far it's a lot of student loan debt and wages that will probably never cover it.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:31 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Older people on metafilter seem to like real jobs.

I wouldn't go that far... it's just that I spent close to a couple of decades below median income, and it's nice being in the middle of the middle class instead. There are a lot of very grumpy morning commutes, a fair amount of internal screaming, and the occasional bathroom cry. And that's even while recognizing that I work at a place where management is sane and everyone is pretty easy-going.

I have hopes that, before I reach retirement age, we go to a universal basic income so that I can afford it and so that a whole lot of people I know who are worse off than me can too. I don't know if those are realistic hopes or if we're in for a world of hurt.
posted by Foosnark at 5:58 AM on April 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have had to develop an iron spine in order to constantly tell my various supervisors that no, I'm not going to work on their piece-meal problems which are of no interest to me, because I actually have a vision for the kinds of problems I want to work on. And it's not just frustration that I get in return, but incredulity and the aggressive expression of, "Who do you think you are?"

If you think supervisors giving assignments that you're not interested in is a problem in academia, you're really not going to like the corporate world.
posted by Candleman at 7:47 AM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


@Cozybee: "There is a real level of cultural messaging that I know I at least went through that you need to "do what you love". This was really, really, really terrible advice (something I only realized in retrospect) ..."

I am a millennial-human-person and I chose to follow that advice - and it's advice that I regularly dole out in the context of my professional life. I want to push back against the blanket assumption that "you need to do what you love = terrible advice".

I honestly believe that it is far more nuanced that this and we are failing to provide young, career-minded folks with the mental tools for flexibility, adaptability and resiliency.

When I was 22, "do what you love" meant being a published academician, paid to write both for academic and lay audiences, with a side gig as a public intellectual. I would teach - and by "teaching" I really meant "facilitate seminars for graduate students." Insufferable. Blargh. Anyway.

Today, I'm a church pastor.

It took me a decade to realize that I wasn't in love with a "career," but rather, "a process."

I'm paid to write and teach and participate in a very visible way in the life of my community. My office hours are weird and all over the map - and I have conversations with all sorts of intellectuals and philosophers and thinkers-of-big-ideas on a daily basis in the college town I call home. I make decent enough money. I write and write and write and teach and teach and teach and I get the added bonus of being invited into the most intimate moments of my parishioner's lives - as an observer/supporter/healer/cojourner.

If you asked me at 22 - "Would pastoring a church constitute 'doing what you love'?" I would probably give you a funny look and say something like, "you've got to be kidding me, right?"
Because I didn't know what I really wanted.
I wish somebody had sat me down and asked, "why academics?"
Because I would have said, "I want to get paid to write and teach and think and talk."
But I was tricked into believing that there was only one path toward that reality.

My friend who dropped out of art school - now he restores stonemasonry and paints historic homes.

My colleague the master gardener - who runs a not-for-profit nature center.

My frenemy the "professional poet" who does just fine as a motivational speaker who runs after-school programs for kids in our city.

My friends who discovered that the difference between being a nurse and a doctor was the difference between having their joy on the daily and sacrificing their youth to "make it" in med school.

I'm ranting.

"Do what you love" or "follow your joy" is only terrible advice if "your joy" means one inflexible concept of career and adulthood. Finding your joy is more important - and finding it in the broadest terms possible.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:46 AM on April 21, 2016 [17 favorites]


Then there are those of us who saw exactly what this article describes coming around the corner and fled the country. It's great out here, at least it's better than what I left, I wholly encourage it.

People toss this out like it's the easiest thing in the world. The umpty-billion threads on AskMe full of people panicking about their visa status and trying to work legally elsewhere and trying not to be deported away from their jobs and income would suggest otherwise.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:16 AM on April 21, 2016 [15 favorites]


Do what you love" or "follow your joy" is only terrible advice if "your joy" means one inflexible concept of career and adulthood. Finding your joy is more important - and finding it in the broadest terms possible.

I'd agree with this, although I think the advice to "do what you love" still implies a certain relationship between work and life that isn't right for everyone. I think "do what makes it possible for you to be happy as possible" should be the real message. What "I love" has little to nothing to do with what I do at work. What I love is all outside of the workplace and always will be, home, family, vacations, relaxed weekend cooking projects. "Following my joy" means finding a job that pays for those things and intrudes on them as little as possible, not finding employment that makes me happy in and of itself.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:37 AM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


Baby_Balrog, why does the thing I do to pay bills have to also be "what I love"?

I think Winterhill amplified what I'm trying to say - why is it a problem if I like my job well enough, no more, why does it need to be something I'm in "love" with, something I'm "passionate" about?

You and the rest of the cohort who tell me that I'm doing something wrong by not tracking down exactly how to make money from something I'm crazy for - why? Why is that wrong? Exactly who is being hurt by me doing my job, doing it well, and then from 5 to 9 putting it entirely out of my head?

Not to mention that financial anxiety is grueling and exhausting and depressing, and it gives me real joy to have a steady stream of savings and an emergency fund to last me through small to medium disasters (I'm nowhere close to having enough for the real biggies like longterm ongoing expensive illness, so for now just relying helplessly on the whims of my insurance, but at least I actually have that).

Why is "not being constantly worried because the job you love covers rent and bills and nothing else" not considered a valid decision-making priority?

I admit I made my career choices out of my intense, red hot fear of poverty. And I spent my time in college worrying very much that this was a terrible way to go about things and I'd be miserable for having "betrayed myself" and blablablabla. This despite seeing the mess someone near and dear to me made, getting waist deep in debt from a post graduate degree in something they loved that they'll be paying off till they die because the field doesn't pay well.

So yes, this post is very defensive, because I still feel very defensive about this.

But at the end of the day-

I want a job with coworkers who aren't evil or crazy-inducing, in a company that isn't evil or crazy-inducing, that pays enough money so I can raise my family with a reasonable sense of calm and security, visit friends, spend on experiences, donate to causes I care about, have some time to volunteer and to read books and to do my hobbies. I'd also like to be reasonably competent at the job, and I'd like the job to be sufficiently enjoyable I don't wake up dreading it each morning (as happened in a previous job I worked at).

I think that's a very, very long list of demands, and I'm really lucky and really grateful to have a job that meets all of them, and now that I actually have that job I look back at my anxieties in college and simply don't understand why this picture is supposed to be incomplete just because it lacks "love" on that list of things going for it. I need to love my husband, I don't need to love my job.
posted by Cozybee at 10:28 AM on April 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


The fields that are most likely to be things people "love" - game development, fashion design, academia - are also extremely exploitative. The relentless pushing of victims canon fodder young adults into such fields seems... Look, I'm not sure it's deliberate. But at the very least it's unsavory.

Maybe. But part of it comes from people who do have very good, successful lives thinking, "sure, this is great, but what if I had pursued something sexier?" It's not regret so much as knowing that there are huge opportunities and paths not taken out there just waiting to be grabbed. No one is willing to say, "being a fashion designer or game developer sucks. You should totally live the awesome life of being an accountant." (yet both those sentences are somewhat true)

But also, in a world with less income inequality, it used to be that following you "passion" would entail some financial sacrifices, but ones that were worthwhile given the tradeoffs. Sure, someone might make twice as much money as you, but both of you still have a good house to live in, and the "fancy" neighborhood isn't that much better than the "decent" neighborhood. In a world of income inequality, the other guy is making 10 times more than you are, and you're going broke trying to live in a neighborhood you're happy in, and sending your kid to the public university is going to put everyone into debt. So the boomer-era platitudes of "following your passion" really only applied when the stakes were much lower than they are now.

I've been willing to trade sexiness for autonomy. It would be nice to have both at the same time, but I realize that I'm not willing to be exploited for the privilege of being in a "sexy" field. And now that I've gotten older, I kind of realize that I'm more easily satisfied by things: in the sense that money buys autonomy, I see that my goals of autonomy could have been reached by entering a much more reliably lucrative field (but the people who went into those fields right out of the gate now complain about their lives, so...).
posted by deanc at 11:27 AM on April 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


You and the rest of the cohort who tell me that I'm doing something wrong by not tracking down exactly how to make money from something I'm crazy for - why?

I'm going to guess it's because they're assholes.
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:45 AM on April 21, 2016


A lot of the messages we got were forged around the time we were born and when we were young or forged by the realities our parents knew, and those realities aren't necessarily valid by the time we get into adulthood. A lot of people received a push to go into science and engineering because of the echo of the space race and scientific discoveries that the public (and private industry) was dumping money into in the 60s and still was by the 70s and 80s. But this was less viable for all but a few top achievers by the 90s. But by the 90s, "anything" was possible. Journalists were founding online media publications and they were having IPOs. (Looking at you, Salon.com) it seemed that no matter what you did, you could "succeed." You could create a market for whatever you wanted to do. So people who were in their childhood during that era absorbed the messages that were true at the time. Things can change radically between the time you were born and the time you become an adult, and the adults during this transition period don't see the changes happening, so they prepare the next generation for the reality that is becoming obsolete.
posted by deanc at 11:51 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


"Following my joy" means finding a job that pays for those things and intrudes on them as little as possible, not finding employment that makes me happy in and of itself.

Yes, this. I think some of the emphasis on "doing what you love" is because work takes up SO MUCH of our lives now. If I can work an 8 hour day, with an included paid hour for lunch, that is a short commuting distance from my residence, that gets me home at a reasonable hour to have dinner with my family, and that doesn't require me to be on call or answer emails or even think about the job in my off time, and that has reasonable job security, then it doesn't really matter whether it's something I love. But if I'm going to be expected to respond to emails at all hours, work a 10-12 hour shift (without overtime, since so few jobs qualify for overtime now) that I have to commute 2 hrs round trip to, with no job security, or that saps all of my mental or physical energy for the remaining hours of the day, then, yeah, I better freaking love what I do.

If there were more jobs that offered an 8-hour day with paid lunch, with telecommuting options or at least a location close to where people can afford live on the wage/salary paid, that provided a reasonable benefit package, and that people could leave at the office when the workday is over, then I think we'd see some separation between one's career and one's identity. But if all I do is work, commute to work, or think about work, then my work is pretty much my life and it's not unreasonable to want that work to be something I don't hate or find morally reprehensible.

So the boomer-era platitudes of "following your passion" really only applied when the stakes were much lower than they are now.

I don't know that the stakes are higher now. There just aren't a lot of good jobs, even for STEM majors. Someone who wants to be an artist might look at the situation and think "I could go into STEM, but I wouldn't be very good at it, and I'd dislike it, and the available positions around here for those kinds of jobs only pay $10/hr or only pay on 1099 or are temporary positions with no benefits....why would I live like a "starving artist" doing what I hate when I can just be a starving artist and at least feel psychologically fulfilled." The economic prospects of millennials are pretty bleak right now; many of us are getting into the "nothing to lose" mindset.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:53 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't want a real job. I don't think I'll ever have a real job. Everyone tells me I could get one; I'm talented like everyone else. All the movies and books tell me it's awful to have a real job. Older people on metafilter seem to like real jobs.

I'm a millenial who works a job, and I enjoy my job. Would it be better if I didn't *have* to work 9-5 Mon-Fri and I could just go off and do what I want when I want? And only work on projects that "inspires" me? Sure. But my job gives me a steady paycheck. I don't worry about money. I sleep well at night. And I work on my passion on my weekends and evenings. (I'm married and all this applies to my husband as well.)

And anyway, there's something inherent in a job coming with obligations that sucks the joy out of it. Maybe not all the joy, but some of it. So assume that your job will never be perfect and find one where you like the people and can stand the work, where the pay is fair and the schedule isn't too crazy.

There's all this existential angst and so much of it is tied up with identifying with what you do and what you own. What do you do to make a living? And what do you own? (House, car, fashion, whatever.)

None of that is practical. The practical aspects are: you need food, shelter, and health care. Maybe transportation. You need them today. And you'll need them tomorrow. Figure out a financial plan (including job and budget) that would hopefully cover that consistently for the rest of your life, which hopefully won't destroy your soul (or body).

*Then* worry about everything else. Mazlov's hierarchy and all that.

The "do what you love" advice? That's bad advice unless you're also getting a trust fund. Or unless what you love is "working for money." Do what you're good at, that will hopefully give you enough time and energy leftover to do what you love.

Honestly, I have very little patience for people who refuse to sacrifice a bit of their personal comfort and identity for financial security, and then whine about how unfair the world is that they can't have it all right now. Or for people who's idea of "basic necessities" includes eating out / drinking once or twice a month with friends and owning a vehicle even though they could take public transportation (but oh, no, it takes 2x longer!). There's a reason the ability to delay gratification is one of the biggest indicators of how successful someone will be. It's good to practice it as much as you can.
posted by ethidda at 5:26 PM on April 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Or for people who's idea of "basic necessities" includes eating out / drinking once or twice a month with friends and owning a vehicle even though they could take public transportation

See, I disagree with this. People all have personal preferences and visions for what kind of life they want to lead. It is perfectly acceptable to envision what kind of life you want, and then work backwards from there, choosing a job/profession that will provide it. Look where you want to live. Look at the real estate prices there: you're going to need a gross salary of at least 1/3rd the price of the home you want to buy, or 4x the monthly salary of the rent of a place you want to live in: so follow the path that allows you to do that. (account for rising real estate prices of 2%-5% per year if you're planning for the future when you will buy a place there) Envision your life going out to restaurants a lot, wearing nice clothes, and taking a couple nice vacations a year? That costs money, too... account for that and find a way that enables you to have what you want.

There's a lot of dignity in choosing a path that allows you to take care of yourself and your family and give them a good life. The only caveat, and the reason I didn't simply look at a list of professions and pick the most lucrative, is because I actually did know someone who had a profession that he wasn't particularly passionate about. He worked strictly 9-5, never did any work on weekends, spent a lot of time and money on his hobbies and lifestyle purchases (like a modest boat). He never maximized the potential of his career and wasn't willing to do the hard work to be truly excellent at his job, because he didn't care about it that much, and his lifestyle suffered for it, and his family stressed over money, when they all should have been living quite comfortably. This looked a lot to me like the consequence of half-heartedly pursuing a career when your head and heart were constantly elsewhere.

At the same time, I was aware of a lot of families who had a lot more money than my family did, and I caught on to the fact that they were the ones taking the unpaid internships and trying to make it in the glamorous fields, so I had a very keen perception of myself and my situation where I knew some paths were not really open to me because I wasn't willing/able to have my family bankroll my dreams: after my education, whatever I wanted to do, professionally, had to be paid for, and I had to accept whatever lifestyle came with whatever that job supported. Just the knowledge that there were some jobs that were open to people with trust funds made me keen on judging which career paths were most accommodating to people like myself.

But all the "nice things" are supposed to be the reward for going above and beyond and being in the right place at the right time. Everyone willing to be responsible and live modestly should be able to support a permanent home and a family and retire in dignity. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut. But you shouldn't have to have astronaut-level intellect and ambition just to land a full time job that pays a living wage and raise a family with it.
posted by deanc at 6:32 PM on April 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


I just don't see why the poors keep complaining about wanting frivolous luxuries when they already have an adequate supply of nutrient slurry and enough burlap sacks to keep their bodies covered even if they go for a whole week without washing them
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:05 PM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Honestly, I have very little patience for people who refuse to sacrifice a bit of their personal comfort and identity for financial security, and then whine about how unfair the world is that they can't have it all right now. Or for people who's idea of "basic necessities" includes eating out / drinking once or twice a month with friends and owning a vehicle even though they could take public transportation (but oh, no, it takes 2x longer!). There's a reason the ability to delay gratification is one of the biggest indicators of how successful someone will be. It's good to practice it as much as you can.

I'm all about the deferred gratification, but there's also a reasonable balance point where people can expect to do things like see their friends once in a while or live in a place they don't totally hate. Everyone's calculations vary, but personally I'd be willing to pay a financial price to cut my commute in half so as to spend more time with my partner. That's not the answer for all situations, but it's not automatically wrong either.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:51 PM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


There's also the thing where if you can't afford the $50 a month to go out with friends and there's no prospect of a raise in sight, you are in trouble when your landlord jacks up your rent $85 dollars a month.

To paraphrase a quote I heard in a previous thread: "America is where luxuries are cheap but living is expensive"
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:09 PM on April 21, 2016 [8 favorites]


To paraphrase a quote I heard in a previous thread: "America is where luxuries are cheap but living is expensive"

This reminds me of the conversation I had with random # in Sweden...
posted by Cozybee at 1:28 AM on April 22, 2016


DoctorFedora: "I just don't see why the poors keep complaining about wanting frivolous luxuries when they already have an adequate supply of nutrient slurry and enough burlap sacks to keep their bodies covered even if they go for a whole week without washing them"

Wow, way to twist my words.

I agree that we have a societal problem, in that there are not enough opportunities out there. People who work hard should be able to have financial security. People who are not able to work hard (e.g. because of mental or physical disabilities) should be accommodate in such a way that they can feel connected to their communities, whatever that means.

However, on the flip side of the coin, I know quite a few people who: In university, refused to share rooms and wanted a private bedroom in a nice apartment, and needed to eat out all the time and no interest in the cafeteria food (which wasn't as delicious but was nutritious enough... and cheap). Then chose careers that were not lucrative despite everyone telling them it would not be lucrative AND they would have to work extremely long hours to succeed. Now, they've graduated with a ton of debt, refusing to work more than 40 hours a week, and not making it in their careers. And then they're also eating out all the time while complaining that their job situation is untenable. I try to tell them that if they didn't eat out, they could save up money to take a pay cut for better career opportunities or move somewhere else where their industry has more opportunities, but it falls on deaf ears.

This is all extremely frustrating for me, because I would like my friends to do well. However, to them, they did "all the right things" so they should get their rewards now. Never mind, that the *practicality* of today's economy says that's not possible and that we should all be flexible in getting our needs met. (Again, those needs are shelter, food, health care. Maybe transportation. There are plenty of free ways to hang out with people.) Anybody can (and should) go out and complain that the graduates today face a harsher climate than those from twenty years ago. But in the meanwhile, it behooves the new graduates to tighten their belts.

It is possible to take personal action to compensate for the society not working the way it should. Should we try to fix society? Yes. But does that mean in the meanwhile we just let our personal situations spiral out of control? That's utterly foolish.

(And again, this is about people who are mostly solvent and who have discretionary income to spend, but spend too large a percentage of it to also meet their long term financial goals. This is not about people at poverty level or at dead end jobs.)
posted by ethidda at 10:46 AM on April 22, 2016


I am not 29; I'm 39. I did what everyone is told to do and got grad degrees in STEM. I then won the lottery by actually getting hired into a secure faculty job. And yet I still spend too large of a percentage of my salary to meet my long term financial goals. This is not because I am uneducated about financial matters. It's because the cost of living has gone up and my salary has not. It's because what is supposed to be a job that makes me mostly solvent with discretionary income ends up looking an awful lot like a dead end job by the time I pay the rent and the health insurance and buy the gas and the food.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2016 [5 favorites]


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