Being in my thirties in the Bay Area has taught me one irrefutable truth about the world.
There is no such thing as security.
Security is born of purpose, and purpose is the white rabbit that we’re expected to have snared by adulthood. I’ve long since learned that purpose is something that everyone strives for, but cannot be handed. Most people who seem to have figured it out are the ones who find their purpose in religion, marriage, and/or parenthood, with few finding it in their work, if they’re lucky enough to be born knowing what they want.
So where does that leave me? I’ve long since abandoned religion as little more than spoon-fed ideology espoused by those who can’t or won’t think for themselves, and vis-a-vis marriage/parenthood, frankly, I’ve never seen the appeal of such crushing ordinariness (she says as someone who is hoping to get married within the next two years). I don’t consider myself special, but I do consider myself unordinary, or at least marginally unconventional. Unfortunately, that’s still a broad and meandering path to purpose, one with many different crossroads, and I’m still stumbling along with no map to navigate it. And I’m approaching middle age with no more certainty of myself than I had when I was leaving my teens.
I’ve been pursuing purpose for as long as I can remember with no sense of certainty of where I’m going or what I’m capable of, and as a result, I have no sense of security. I live and work in an area that has no sense of loyalty, that costs more to live in than the average English major can reasonably earn, and loves contracts and not contract workers. I basically spent the first two-thirds of my life building my home and foundations, with my family, friends, and memories, only to have the major tech companies of the world swoop in and knock it all down to build a new campus on it. I hear the food is excellent, but the parking is garbage.
I remember growing up with the expectation of a job I could start out in and grow up with as part of a company for 30+ years, the parameters set by the claims of my parents and grandparents,. Instead, I wound up in a world where job security is afforded to the privileged and employee loyalty is a rare commodity thanks in no small part to the fact that employers who actually care about their employees’ livelihoods have become mythological creatures that you read about and hear stories about, but never actually see. Sailor’s yarns only to be woven after a long day of drudgery washed away in the comfort of liquor, which we all seem pretty dependent on these days. I cannot build a foundation. I can only chase after purpose, but it keeps escaping down a hole I don’t have the wherewithal to keep going down, especially knowing how those stories often end.
I also do an awful lot of complaining. I just don’t know what else to do with myself.
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.
Hey, sometimes I feel the need to rant about my personal views on life. M’kay.
So, for those of you who don’t know me (HA!), I was raised to be extremely self-sufficient. My grandmother sometimes tells me she’s worried she’s too hard on me because she’s determined to make sure that I’m smart enough to make my own way in the world. My mother raised me pretty much single-handedly and she only had a high-school education, but she’s certainly not stupid and worked her ass off. So, suffice it to say, there will never be in a time in my life where I will ever need anyone else to support me, and that’s how I think it should be. But I was in the car with a dear friend of mine the other day, and we got onto the topic of her sister-in-law, who is a dear, sweet girl, but ran into a marriage at the first conceivable opportunity, and has never in her entire life supported herself in any way, shape, or form. To preface the remaining bit of this rant, let me just state that I know her life is her own to lead, and her choices are her own cross to bear, and I have no right to pass any judgment on how she lives her life. But women like that just baffle me, and the entire conversation got me thinking about the dichotomy between men and women when it comes to self-sufficiency.
We live in a day and age where a marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership, with no one person supporting the other more than vice versa. At least, that’s the theory, and I have a sneaking suspicion that that’s part of the reason why the divorce rate is so high. But I don’t see that as often as I’d like to. I’d like to think any marriage that I ever get myself into would involve equal support, equal contribution, and that if something should happen, I would never be in a position where I would be screwed out of comfort or the ability to take care of myself. I don’t ever want to need alimony or child support or to take half of his money because I didn’t earn it. Again, this all goes back to how I was raised – a woman makes the choice to marry, to bear the children, and to support herself. If I couldn’t do the latter two on my own, I would certainly not get myself involved with the former. I’ve heard too many stories of women who boast of their husband’s financial status, who live under the impression that he is going to take care of her for the rest of his life, and is absolutely baffled, not to mention royally screwed, when he hits the cliche midlife crisis and runs off with a twenty-year old. All the usual mistakes are made – the man assumes the younger woman loves him for his personality, not his money, the now ill-to-do wife is left with nothing but broken promises and nothing to fend for herself with. There have been women in my life who have never worked a day in their lives because they went straight from their parents’ house to the marriage bed, and when the marriage crumbles, they are left with nothing – no work experience, no ability to maintain their lifestyle, nothing.
Now ask yourself a question – how often do you see that with men?
How often is the man the submissive partner in the relationship, who feeds off of his wife’s breadwinnings? How often does the wife dominate in the money-making end of the marriage, and then leave her husband for a younger man when she gets bored with him? Not particularly often. So really, people can talk about equal roles in a relationship, but as far as my observation goes, women are making a pretty poor name for themselves when they get themselves into situations like this knowingly, living under the fairy-tale illusion that marriage equals their permanent protection. That they have no need to protect or support themselves because there’s a man who will be there to do it.
The fuck is this? The fifties? I thought feminism was supposed to have progressed! But these stories are still common. Before, it was my grandmother telling me about an aunt of hers who was so certain of her place in the world because of her husband’s money. When he divorced her and left her with nothing, her certainty didn’t save her. She had no work experience, no savings, and nothing to save herself with. She ended up having to live with her daughter. And now, it’s my friend telling me about her sister in law, who’s over thirty, ran into marriage with a guy she knew for six months who makes a good amount of money that allows him to buy her a house to move from her parents’ place into, and has never worked more than 15 hours a week in her entire freaking life. The writing on the walls is all there. In the beginning of a marriage, all of the intentions are good. But the divorce rate didn’t reach 50% because people kept their promises. It is true that a man should be more faithful to his wife, and his promises, than his need to prove his virility, or whatever the hell the reason is for leaving her for another woman. But a woman has her own role to play in her protection. A woman should be able to work a forty hour a week job. She should be able to get health insurance for herself, and any children they may have. She should have a nest egg, and all the preparations she can get if, for whatever reason, she finds herself without her husband there to save her. All kinds of things happen, besides divorce. He loses all the money in a ponzi scheme, he loses his job and there’s still a mortgage to pay, or, heaven forbid, he dies and there’s no life insurance. What then? What on earth are you gonna do to help yourself? These are all the questions that have been drilled into my head since childhood, and as a result, I find the idea of being dependent on a man absolutely repugnant. It actually made me cringe when the sales clerk at the consignment store made three burly moving guys take my tiny, 20 pound tea table to the car. Something I’m sure they did for insurance reasons, but it doesn’t change the fact that I felt completely repulsed by the notion of someone else doing for me what I could easily do for myself, had I simply made the effort. So maybe, in many ways, I’m lucky that my grandmother was so hard on me. Maybe it did suck a bit of the romance of marriage out of my brain, because I have to look at everything logically and I always have to prepare for the worst, which is not conducive to a romantic outlook. I have difficulties with dating men because so many of them wanted to take care of me, which I don’t want. I want to take care of myself. The idea of being someone like my friend’s sister-in-law makes me physically ill. I’m not trying to hoist myself and my way of thinking onto any kind of pedestal – I know plenty of women married to good men who respect their independence, women who know how to take care of themselves if the worst should happen. Strong women. But it makes me sad that despite all of our advances into gender equality, this is still a one-sided scenario.