I’m a Millennial in America. My Generation has Forgotten Me.

I know what the overarching perception of millennials is. It’s hard not to, considering there are daily news articles about whichever industry millennials are killing. We’re lazy, we can’t stop looking at our phones, we’re flighty in the job market, we demand free lunch at the office, and we’re snowflakes who can’t handle real life.

I’m going to conveniently forget that the group that has this particular set of beliefs about my ilk is the very same group that raised us. Moving on.

Apart from our glaringly obvious personal faults, we’re also responsible for the tech takeover of the modern world, building our kingdom of circuit boards and social media on the foundation laid down by Gates, Jobs, and Wozniak. We speak several programming languages, we can code operating systems, we can build artificial intelligence. We’ve transformed the world into something almost unrecognizable within a single generation, with all the instantaneous force of a meteor impacting the surface of the Earth.

Well, maybe you did. I, unfortunately, made the grievous error of choosing to be an artist in an increasingly tech-heavy world. I’m college-educated with a Master’s degree and over a decade’s professional experience. And I cannot afford to live in the kingdom that my generation has built.

I represent a curious middle ground in the millennial spectrum, in that I’m neither particularly tech-savvy, but I also don’t work in a so-called unionized trade. I’ve seen tech bros jet through Silicon Valley streets in ridiculously expensive cars while plumbers laugh as they go by because their unionized job pays them over $100k a year and they don’t have student loan debt. And I’m expected to laugh along with them while I’m taking home less than half of that at the job that tech bro has hired a contracting agency to hire a subcontracting agency to hire me for. With minimal pay, no benefits, and no long-term security.

In short, you’ve allowed the artists of the world to fall through the cracks. To be forgotten, until you realized you needed us as stilts to stand on so that your position in the world can be just a few feet higher, so that everyone else can see you better.

The plumbers need artists to design their logos and paint them on their trucks. The tech companies need writers to churn out user-facing content that non-tech bros can understand. They need musicians to compose jingles and songs for their soundbites and advertisements. They need catchy fonts and slogans for their advertisements. And meanwhile, the plumber is using a music app to stream the songs for less than what the song is worth to the musician, while everyone tries to pay their creators in “exposure.” Because we do this for fun, right?

You’ve recognized the need for people like me, but you won’t pay us enough to live in your world. You’re allowing us the crumbs you drop on the floor. You are forgetting us until you need us. You plant yourselves in our backyards and overrun it until we can no longer live there. And everywhere we run to hide, you follow, like a perverse game of cat and mouse.

Just stop. Enough is enough.

I am an artist in the Bay Area. I am a millennial. And I am not a consumable commodity. You need us to interface your business with the common man. We are as essential to your success. We are tradespeople deserving of respect and protection. We understand how your businesses work and how they appeal to the masses because as artists, we are more sensitive to the human condition. You need us just as much as you need a plumber when your golden toilet breaks, or tech support when your iPhone stops working. We are worthy citizens of the kingdom.

It’s time you started acting like it.

 

Ballestrasse: Begin Again

I’ve done this before, but hey. I have a bad habit of coming back to the same crossroads I’d already traversed.

So let’s reintroduce:

My name is Michelle. I’m 32, and I’m stuck in a rut. It’s the oldest story on Earth.

Like so many before me, I meandered down the prefab path of public education, armed with only my wits and the belief that college and a career would lead to success, stability, and happiness. And, also like so many others, I fell into the trap of security, or, rather, the desire for it.

My twenties were by and large unpredictable, down to my job, my finances, and my excursions. I was poor and terrified of the future, but I was also brave and aloof, unafraid to take chances, and with the energy to make an adventure out of my life. Poverty was temporary, I was convinced. I earned a Master’s degree in an overseas program I spontaneously applied to, I taught English as one of my eleven consecutive jobs, I jumped out of planes and walked across bridges and decided to jump on another plane the moment the one that took me home touched the ground. I came back to the states armed with an expensive piece of paper, and the bravery to take on the world.

And then I got a full-time job.

The stability of long-term employment was the one thing in my life I was convinced that I needed, to pull me out of poverty and into a life where I didn’t have to be afraid. After all, in college, I supported myself through jobs that gave me unpredictable schedules and even more unpredictable wages, supplementing where I could with loans and whatever my parents or my grandmother were willing to give me. Apart from the fact that I had very little financial education to start off with, I always managed to get myself into some sort of financial problem right after I’d spent whatever I’d managed to scrape on whatever excursion I could take to keep myself from going off the deep end. I spent three hundred bucks for a weekend in Disneyland, only to have my phone crap out the second I got home. I bought the video from my skydive twenty-four hours before my transmission would blow. I had savings, but they were gone almost as fast as I could put the money away, because there was no way I could save money, handle the onslaught of life, and do any actual living, short of becoming a robot. And because I was borderline suicidal throughout my twenties, living turned into an act of survival, as I would fall into depression with every tiny misstep, and whatever distraction I could get to mitigate the crushing onslaught of my mental illness was painfully and often shamefully necessary.

My parents were not well-off and my grandmother was retired, and more importantly, shelling out her hard-earned savings on her extremely childish adult sons, who couldn’t hold a job or a life outside of jail if their masculinity depended on it. So needless to say, I walked away from both with a heavy dose of guilt along with the money, and an increasing determination and belief that full-time employment would save me from the guilt and the fear of not being able to scrape together enough to keep a roof over my head without asking my family to bail me out.

Well, I was wrong. I’m employed, but I’m poor, and worse than that, I’m bored. Now my fear is a slow death by apathy, wasting away the best years of my life behind a screen, with nothing to show for it but a stack of (barely) paid bills, just like everyone else. And of course, the looming shadow of my depression skulking in the recesses of my mind, quietly reminding me that in the silence of boredom, its voice is much louder and clearer.

This is certainly not what I signed up for. And I still need to ask my parents for money.

So now, my every day involves sitting in a chair, staring blankly at a screen, and wondering what life would be like if I could pack up my boyfriend, my cats, and a few meager belongings into my hatchback, and drive off into the horizon, seeking fulfillment in the mystical land of Somewhere Else.

I heard it’s something called destination addiction – the belief that happiness is in the next location, or the next, or the next. No matter how far you go or how hard you try, your princess is always in another castle.

Destination addiction, whether you believe it exists or not, is why I started this blog, because a blog is a journey that has no destination. Most addictions, in any case, need treatment, and since there is no practical rehabilitation program or even a pill to take to treat the sudden onset of wanderlust, needless to say, I’ve had to improvise.

So I can promise you this blog isn’t going to be a whirlwind of my self-deprecation, because I’ve already spent over a decade doing that. Rather, it’s the travel journal I’ve decided to keep as I navigate my way through both the world, and adulthood. In the case of the former, I’ve decided to keep it deliberately as unplanned as possible, picking only a direction and not a destination. In the case of the latter, well, let’s just say my roadmap is out of date. So I’m working on creating a new one.

Starting now.

 

Life, or Something Like It

Once upon a time, I wrote about the difficulties of purpose, particularly if you don’t lead a religious life. Every day for me since I was 18, or probably even before that, has been an odyssey of figuring out what it is that I want to do with my life, and tragically, nearing the end of my twenties, I’m no more sure now of what I want to do as opposed to then. I’ve sort of jumped from one situation to the next with no real sense of permanence, and while I was one of the lucky few to snag a decent job after I returned from England, one with full-time pay and some benefits, I’m still not feeling particularly fulfilled. What the hell, world? Why does adulting suck so goddamned always?

So I got a job last month (hence the more or less radio silence) working as a copy editor at a small marketing firm in Belmont. It ticked off the list of criteria I was looking for – it’s a livable income, it pertains to my major, and it is actually the sort of job I knew I could be good at. So what the hell is the problem? The problem is, it’s soulless. I’m not doing anything that is even remotely meaningful on any scale. Hell, when I was making coffee at Peet’s, at least I was doing something creative, something that people enjoyed as well as got use out of. In even a tiny way, I was contributing something marginally meaningful. At this job, I do a gigantic heap of nothing important. I help millionaires sell big, gaudy homes to other millionaires. I don’t write. I don’t create. I check facts and spelling. I’m constantly insulted, stifled, and/or left with nothing to do at all because my boss refuses to teach me anything beyond that. I also get paid almost 10k less per year than what a copy editor makes on average in the Bay Area. So that’s cool!

My dear friend’s older brother is one of the brilliant writers behind The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, a webseries that has been critically acclaimed, and whose accolades include, you know, an Emmy or two. But the thing is, five years ago, he was stuck where I am now – working a job that didn’t give him any joy or satisfaction, so he took the risk, quit that job, and devoted himself to his passion, to great success. I know that that isn’t typical of most people who quit their jobs to become writers, but JFC, what do I have to do to push myself to take that kind of risk?

My best friend and I were discussing yesterday that one of the problems I have in my life is that I don’t do well with routine – having a predictable, day-to-day schedule doesn’t fit me particularly well, a side-effect, no doubt, of 9 years in the coffee industry, where no one day was the same as the day before. Today, I read the words “fabulous,” “contemporary,” “chic,” and “wonderful” so often that they’ve lost all goddamned meaning – you’d think every house in the Peninsula was a fabulous, chic, contemporary masterpiece with a wonderful master suite. And none of these are houses that I’ll ever see, let alone own. So what’s the friggin’ point?

It’s clear that I need to do more, or at least different. My biggest penis-envy inspiration are people like Ryan Sohmer, the guy behind Blind Ferret Entertainment and Least I Could Do, Bernie Su, the aforementioned writer of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, and, of course, the incomparable and dearly missed Monty Oum, the brilliant writer behind RWBY, as well as the founders and contributors of Rooster Teeth Productions. Not just because they’re all monstrously creative people, but because they took risks and brought something great to the world. That’s the sort of life I want to live. That’s what I feel like my purpose is. It’s like the sun – bright, shining, and so close, but equally difficult to touch.

I guess step one is stop being afraid. Step two? Figure out how to make it happen.

Wish me luck.

An Open Letter to My Niece

Dear Aella,

When I first starting writing this, you were still marinating in your mama’s tummy, and would be for another 45 days or so. At this time of writing, I’ve met you, and I’ve held you, and I’ve fallen in love with you – you’ve got ten fingers, ten toes, your papa’s lips, and your mama’s nose, and you’re absolutely perfect. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And I love you more than people think is possible to love anyone, ignoring the fact that you aren’t even mine. But it doesn’t matter – the one thing I’ve learned from your parents, particularly your mother, is that blood isn’t what makes a family. I love your mother as much as any sister, and by extension, you, too, are the love of my life. I may not be blood like your Aunt Thea or your Aunt Aubrey, but I hope you’ll always love me as Aunt Michelle. And as Aunt Michelle, I wanted to write you a little something so that you’d always understand that, if you ever forget.

I knew you were a girl from the very moment your mom told me she was pregnant – I’m pretty sure I drove her crazy with my assertion, but I’ve only been certain of two things in my entire life, and your being a girl was one of them.  (I’m not going to tell you here what the other thing is, I haven’t seen how it’s panned out yet, so you’ll have to ask me after you read this). You’re my very best friend’s first child and my first niece, and there’s so much of the world I want you to experience to the best of your abilities. Your mom and I represent two very different, but equally strong and capable types of women who have both dealt with a variety of unique experiences, and we’ve learned a few things. Your mom will raise you with what’s she’s learned, but as your aunt, all I can offer is supplementary. I’m less of a fairy princess than your mom is, though – she’s definitely the sugar to my lemonade. She’s probably going to read this and think I’m being a downer, but I wrote it because I want to remember what the world was like before you were born, and I want you to understand the world in which you live now. Life is full of gifts, but they are fleeting, precious, and not without their prices. I think more than anything, that’s what I want you to understand, because I want you to grow up to be the kind of woman who understands the value of her choices.

I get preachy and feministy a lot, just as a warning. But you’ve probably learned that from me by now, so none of this should come as a surprise.

Value your mind over your appearance – I can pretty much guarantee that you’re beautiful. Your mother has always been beautiful, your aunts on your father’s side are beautiful, your grandmothers are beautiful. You will be gorgeous and you probably won’t even have to really try. Beauty seems like it’s everything when you’re young, and while I hope you aren’t subjected to the same sort of pressure to be pretty as girls were when your mother and I were growing up, if you are, please remember that it’s not everything. Beauty is transient, and it’s subjective. The people that really matter are the ones who think you’re beautiful no matter what – beauty is not what is going to make your life worthwhile. It’s easy to think so when beautiful airheads marry rich men, but those women will grow old and die knowing the emptiness of their choices. Your beauty should be measured by the intelligence you’ve acquired, your ability to love and be loved in return, your kindness and compassion, and your ability to be strong and stand up for yourself and your beliefs.

Think for yourself. It’s a double-standard for me to be telling you that, but I always think it’s worth being said. It’s easy to be liked by others if you give in to their expectations without a fight, but you will never be respected that way. Respect is far more valuable than likability. It’s what separates real friends from the false ones, the worthy from the unworthy. A woman who thinks for herself is a woman who will never be controlled and will always have the power to live her life in the way that she wants. That being said, remember the value of choice – a woman who decides to be a stay-at-home mom is just as powerful, amazing, and respectable as a woman who is the CEO of a major company. The point is, you learned what you wanted, you decided on what you wanted, and you went for it without anyone telling you otherwise.

Always demand more. People are always so afraid to question things – they accept what is because it is easier to do so than to kick up a fuss. The one thing that I’ve always admired about your mother is she gets things done when I was always too anxious to argue back. She’s mellowed out over the years and I’ve toughened up in that respect, but the point is, we’ve learned how to accept nothing less than what we deserve, and that’s what I want you to have from the very beginning – everything that you deserve.

Never back down from what you know in your heart is right. If you see someone being mistreated, speak up. If you know someone is in the wrong, correct them. But on the flip side, be open-minded. The world is never constant, nor does it follow any rhyme or reason. There is no single right way to live a life, and yours certainly won’t be the first. It’s important to stick to your guns when you know you’re right, but don’t be so inflexible that you’re not open to learning new things, or seeing things from a new perspective. You will never be right a hundred percent of the time, and your perspective should not be permanent. Learning is the most important part of growth, and that means more than what you learn in school – I mean what you learn by sitting with the broken, walking with the healthy, and running with the strong. Don’t follow blindly – question everything you’re told, and the only way you can do that successfully is to look at the world through the eyes of others who live very different lives than yourself.

I’m venturing into the preachy territory, and you’ve probably gotten bored of this already. You probably won’t even ever read this, although the Internet does seem to make everything permanent (another important thing to remember!), but that won’t stop me from wanting you to be the most extraordinary girl/woman you can be. And I want you to know that your parents and family and I love you tremendously no matter what path you choose in life. You will always have my support, and my love.

And probably my extra room whenever you need to run away. And probably money, because that’s what aunts do.

Love always,

Your affectionate Aunt Michelle

PS. Your mom doesn’t want me to swear around you after you’re old enough to learn what the words mean, so I figured I’d start practicing now, although you probably won’t be reading this until you’re old enough to make those sorts of decisions for yourself. Just saying.

Caitlyn Jenner Still Matters

Just because this has been cropping up in my Facebook feed a lot as of late:

This whole Caitlyn Jenner thing might seem like something trivial in comparison to the other important issues that are happening in the world. I’m not going to sit here and argue about why Caitlyn (And it’s Caitlyn, not Bruce, and she is a she/her, not a he/him/it. That really should not be so fucking hard to understand) is a necessary presence in the media – google Leelah Alcorn, google transgender suicide, and you will see why the prevalence of a popular media figure bringing the transgender movement into the public eye is a good thing. I don’t have time, nor the patience, to keep explaining why she matters. I’m also not at all indicating that her importance is any more or less significant than the accomplishments and sacrifices of others. But this is exactly like the‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ movement – no one is suggesting that black lives are negating the lives of anyone else just because their plight is the current focus of media attention, just as Caitlyn is not negating the importance or attention deserved of soldiers in the war, or Akon’s contributing solar power to millions of Africans. Those things are really fucking important, and Caitlyn’s presence in the media DOES NOT NEGATE THAT. What I’M sick of seeing is people who are blaming Caitlyn herself for her being in the spotlight in lieu of the others INSTEAD of blaming the media. She did not go up to Vanity Fair and say “Fuck Akon/the troops/whoever else, you have to put ME on the cover because I said so.” It is the MEDIA’S fault that due attention is not given to other issues that are, yes, believe it or not, JUST AS IMPORTANT AS TRANSGENDER RIGHTS. Two of my friends are trans. Several of my closest friends are gay. Almost all of them have suffered in some way, shape, or form from bigotry, ignorance of their plight, or outright physical abuse. Several of them have contemplated suicide because the world we live in was so cruel to their kind. Anything that gives them hope that the world is shifting, that it’s becoming more accepting of them, is a good thing, and that doesn’t become meaningless because someone else in the world has suffered more, or is doing something one’s opinion could consider more important. I’m not here to argue over who’s doing more. I’m here to say that if you want me to take your opinion seriously, if you want to make a difference, you will STOP putting the blame on the person getting the attention, and shift your blame to the ones ignoring others who are just as worthy of attention.

I would never, for a second, discredit or disparage the lives of our wounded/deceased soldiers. They are also heroes. I would never downplay the accomplishments of scientists in combating disease, poverty, or other societal ills. Akon officially has the label of “fucking awesome” for his work in bringing solar energy to millions in Africa, thus changing its landscape for the better. All of these people are heroes. But Caitlyn Jenner still deserves her place, and frankly, if you’re sick of seeing her in the media, and don’t think that it’s that big of a deal, then that means transgender normalcy has officially happened. And that’s still pretty fucking huge.

The Gay Marriage Debate – Can We End it Please?

This may end up on Champion Up North, for future reference.

As an American living in the UK, I’ve been paying attention to the progress of LGBT rights as they occur on both sides of the pond. While marriage equality has by and large seen a massive progressive shift in recent years, the US and the UK are both currently seeing another major step towards the inevitable acceptance of same-sex marriage. Or, you know, also back from. Looking at you, Ireland.

Being from the US gives me a certain degree of entitlement to say that the country is rife with absolute bell-ends who cannot get over the fact that gay marriage has officially reached tidal-wave status nationwide. With a 61% approval rating, the highest in history, there is nothing for the anti-gay movement to do in the United States but sink or swim. So it absolutely baffles me that this needed to go all the way to the Supreme Court to be hashed out by a panel of liberal and conservative justices, the latter whom even the most diehard gay marriage detractors are admitting will likely rule in favor of the cause. The Supreme Court began hearings on Tuesday to determine whether or not same-sex marriage can be banned by states (a little late for that, considering almost every state save for a select stubborn few have either lifted their ban, legalized same-sex marriage, or both). But then again, I suppose it shouldn’t be that surprising, considering the absolute circus that same-sex marriage arguments have become in the States, especially when you have politicians named Randy Boehning (pronounced exactly how you think it’s pronounced) pulling off the textbook hypocrisies of voting against expansion of LGBT rights and then getting caught sending dick pics on Grindr. And yes, that is his real name – I’ve had to convince a few mates here at Champion.

What’s that expression? Those who protest the loudest usually have the most to hide? So what does that say about Nigel Farage?

Friends on both sides of the pond, I implore you, can we let this circus end? Frankly, it’s fucking embarrassing that this is even still an issue for discussion. Every single argument that has been used in order to ruin the credibility of same-sex marriage has been done to death, and they have convinced no one. As fun as it is for the rest of us to see what sort of desperate scare tactic the bigots will whip out next (My personal favorites being gay marriage will kill 900k unborn babies a year, or gays at Starbucks will put semen in your lattes), the whole situation has officially gotten old. It’s time for a free-for-all. One last push to tip the scales in the favor of progress. The shift is inevitable – even though Ireland has, once again, ruled against same-sex marriage, it has been by the narrowest margin to date, 47-49. If we can make that sort of shift in one of the most conservatively Catholic countries on Earth, we can bring this to a quick and painless end much sooner than you think.

Elections are quickly approaching on both sides of the pond, as the UK gears up for election season and the US begins its presidential primaries in November. Same-sex marriage may be legal in the UK, but there are plenty of twats in politics who’ll do what they can to discredit the cause. And in the US, there are definitely large strides to be made before we reach the finish line. So, my fellow Americans, and my British compatriots, help us secure a future that is safe for the LGBT community. Make your voice heard. Let’s bring this situation to a well-deserved and peaceful end.