On Being Another Entitled Millennial
I am a millennial with a virtually useless college degree and I am holding down an unpaid internship and a low wage retail job while I live with my parents because I can’t afford the rent in my city. Where’s my free money from the internet?
I am in debt from my choice to get an education, even though I went to a public state school and got scholarships. I made some dumb decisions like opting to study abroad rather than spend a semester working an internship (which was not required for my major and no one ever told me it was important). I sporadically worked a couple of part time jobs while I was in college because my parents were able to help me out and didn’t want me to lose focus on my school work.
After I graduated with a degree in History from a school with a cardinal direction in its name and little job experience, I struggled to get hired by anyone.
I’ve had some shitty jobs with low pay and toxic environments. I’ve worked at places where I dreaded going in every day and I routinely had panic attacks in the middle of the day because I was so out of my comfort zone. But I needed the money and I needed the experience.
I thought to myself every single day “I went to college, I’m better than this” while I drove 45 minutes across town to get to my miserable $8 an hour job.
But I wasn’t better than that.
Yeah, I went to college. And I spent those years writing research papers about obscure moments in European history, not preparing myself for a real-world career.
I’d long ago had dreams of being a writer, but that’s not a realistic or lucrative career choice. Getting paid to write was the far off dream while my everyday reality was getting paid to stand in a big box store and harass unsuspecting shoppers about the great deals on whatever random junk I had at my booth that week. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it gave me what I needed:
Money to put away in my savings account and a line on my resume.
After that job, then a couple more at fancy stores in the mall that were more fun and better paying but still not my dream job, an opportunity fell into my lap to do what I really wanted.
I accepted a position as an unpaid intern at a popular local magazine that I’d always wanted to work for. It is my dream job in every possible way, except for the lack of a paycheck.
I spend my days hanging around their cool little office by the beach where I am expected to do nothing but write and write about nearly any topic I choose. There are even snacks.
But there is no money.
There is always a catch, right?
But I understand that I still need to pay my dues. I am 25 and I have little relevant job experience. I still live with my parents, as much as I hate it and feel like I am not a “grown up”, I know the money I’ve been saving up all this time would be gone in an instant if I moved out at this point. The cost of living is too high and I’d be back knocking on my parents’ door in a few months.
I know a lot of people say it’s unfair to be an unpaid intern, it’s slavery, it’s corporate greed, whatever. And if I was an unpaid intern at Condé Nast, sure I might agree. But I’m putting in my hours at a small local business with 10 employees where I am treated very well and having a good time. I’m helping them as much as they are helping me. They are giving me the opportunity to gain experience and build a writing portfolio and make connections in the industry. I know this is what must be done. No one will hand me my dream job with a livable wage unless I earn it and prove I deserve it.
And if I have to balance doing what I love for free and also driving to the mall a few days a week to make $10 an hour selling clothes, then that’s what needs to be done. I won’t be doing this forever. I am still young. I am still inexperienced and unproven.
But some day, someone will recognize the hard work I have done. Some day, doing what I love will come with a paycheck and I will be able to move out on my own and be an independent adult.
This isn’t the world my parents grew up in, the world where my dad worked all summer collecting balls at a golf course to pay his way through college when tuition and books cost hundreds rather than thousands. This isn’t the world where my mother decided to move out of her house at 18 and skip college to start a career instead.
Things are different. Things are not easy.
I wish some benevolent internet person would start a fundraiser to pay my student loans and put gas in my car and fix the stupid keyboard light on my computer that doesn’t always work. But it’s embarrassing and humbling enough to ask my parents to house me and help me pay for these things at my age. And at their age when they should be enjoying retirement without their lazy entitled kids at home.
But this is the world we live in now. And as great as free money from internet strangers sounds, I know it isn’t as satisfying as working hard and digging myself out of this and slowly climbing up the ladder on my own. I will get the pay I deserve to get, some day. Not today. And that’s not ideal, but it’s okay right now.