Reflections of a Broke-Ass Creative
My friend is writing a screenplay about the life and times of people our age. Recently, while we were brainstorming about one of the characters and his relationship to his parents, she said something funny. She said we writer-types think we’re just delightful creatives, living the life everybody wants and figuring it out as we go, and that we’ve boldly bravely rejected the boring “grown up” life our parents tried to sell us for all those years. Our parents, she said, on the other hand, feel they earned their way through life, that SERIOUS work and a desk job are the HONEST, DECENT road to success, and that we “creatives” are a bunch of bums. This was a funny concept to ponder, and it was made extra-funny because she used the word “bums.” Hah! Bums.
But ponder I did. I sat there and had a nice long think about my parents. When my parents were my age, they were married. They had jobs and a mortgage and were about to have a baby. A baby! They had ALREADY made rational, concrete decisions about stuff. Decisions! Do you know how fucking inadequate that makes me feel, considering I have approximately no money, my boyfriend who is merely my boyfriend also has no money, and I scare/am scared of babies? Not to mention the very words “concrete decision” make me snicker nervously and pee a little. The contrast between us is frightening. It’s like they did it all just to piss future-me off. (Meta!)
For many people in their twenties, particularly those of us in god-awful-nightmare fields like journalism, it hasn’t been easy to get by these last few years. How many of your friends are either without or semi-without jobs now? I have out-of-work friends with resumes that could shoot bullets of blatant capability into your amazed eyeballs – whip-smart young lawyers and public policy-Masters-degree-holders and freakishly intelligent writers. I also have friends who, like me, hadn’t been out of school very long when the economy started to tank, and were ALLOFASUDDEN forced to learn no one gives a monkey’s ass about your crappy Bachelor’s degree or your sad-sack pro bono internships, and that finding a job in a cutthroat market without sufficient prior experience was like trying to fish a whitish-yellow cat hair out of a barrel of buttery mashed potatoes with your teeth. And also you’re blindfolded. And drunk!
This personal and professional struggle takes a toll on a person, lodging existential problems in her weary 26-year-old bosom. Consider me: An arguably bright modern lady, faced with all this colossal pressure and teeming with so much performance anxiety that in order to deal with my dearth of accomplishments I’ve essentially become paralyzed. The stunted economy has left me nowhere to place all this creative energy, causing me to do basically nothing of value for years and years. Nothing worth mentioning anyway, unless you count finding creative new ways to enthusiastically elude my potential or discovering Xanax as a coping mechanism. (Which are one and the same, if you think about it!) (Oh, ok I also took the GRE to entertain myself/stroke my poor bruised English-major ego, knowing full well I wanted a job, and grad school costs muchos dolares, plus you have to convince the entrance people you have direction, so hah, that’s out of the question.) These activities, along with much rant-composing, do not a serious grown-up person make.
But what about what my friend said? Isn’t there merit in living the creative destitute urban life we always wanted while we still can, and figuring the rest out later? Isn’t writing or making art while meandering waywardly through the vast unknown preferable to forgoing our passion, forcing ourselves to take distasteful but safe nine-to-fives in piteous uncreative fields, just so our parents will stop crying “bum!” at us? I AM A WOMAN OF LETTERS, DAMN IT. I, like so many others, am actively seeking the right vehicle for all this rampant vigor.
Perhaps, then, this “bum” discussion, this apparent generational gravitation toward creative/arguably less “secure” professional lives, is not so much an indicator of lack of drive but rather a comment on our ability to adapt to shitty market conditions. Perhaps our frustration is being mistaken for laziness. We are looking to fulfill our potential, and finding legitimate (paid!) ways to do it takes repeated trials and time, oh dear god, lots and lots of time. So stop judging me, disembodied voices of Moms and Dads resounding in my brain. I’m on my way.