This is a rebuttal to Taylor Cotter's piece, "A Struggle of Not Struggling."
First I want to start that I fancy myself a female journalist has-been, and my inspirations were not Harriet the Spy and Carrie Bradshaw. I am based in reality and count my early inspirations as Barbara Walters, Maureen Dowd, Gloria Steinem, Connie Chung, and I could go on and on. I would assume (and hope) most women wanting to get into the field of journalism look up to actual women working in that field and not unrealistic fictionalized versions. If Carrie Bradshaw is the reason you want to be a journalist, then you probably shouldn't be a journalist.
When I read Ms. Cotter's piece, I was upset and more than a little jealous of the success she has found so early in her post-college life. When I was 22 and fresh out of college, I would have loved to have landed my "dream job." Instead, wanting to pursue a career in journalism, I took a job at tiny newspaper in a town of under 1,000 all the way across the country, where I was paid minimum wage (since I was responsible for the product in the whole paper, I probably would have made more money if I were paid 10 cents a word).
At the time, I was actually one of the lucky ones. I was working in journalism, and in fact, was the only one out of the graduates from my college newspaper (where I was an editor) to get a job directly in the field.
I imagine, Ms. Cotter, my college newspaper colleagues I referenced would be more than happy to trade lives with you. You can give up your new car, your apartment in Boston, and feast on dinners of Ramen every night. In fact, what's stopping you? You obviously enjoy the life you lead. If you truly didn't and wanted to be a poorly paid freelancer, you could easily quit and pursue those endeavors. More power to you if that's the path you choose.
The job turned out to be dismal and horrible, but it was employment and I never took it for granted, almost foolishly so. I wasn't treated well by the publisher, dealt with a sexist boss, and went through more editors in a year's time than I can accurately count. However, watching the lives of people close to me collapse in financial ruin, I knew I was truly blessed to have full-time employment.
With so many of your peers struggling, I find it infuriating you would write this "first world problems" essay, when you could've had the opportunity to do so much more with it. This kind of whining about your unhappiness with your success is meant for your personal journal and not the pages of the Huffington Post. You are obviously intelligent and did all the right things in college (getting good grades, having internship after internship, etc.). You wanted to be successful. Your story on how you made that a reality so soon after graduating is compelling and could be very helpful and encouraging to recent graduates and those entering the last years of their college experience. Instead you chose to write about how sad you are because you are successful, even after you obviously worked hard to be able to achieve that success.
My job at that small newspaper ended abruptly a year after it began and I was forced to move back home. I had no 401K. I had no savings. Money I had earned went to pay for medical bills from a medical procedure and a car accident that also left me with no car. I had quickly gone from being the one in my circle of friends with a "big girl job" and the starts of a career full of promise, to being completely and hopelessly unemployed and seemingly unemployable.
I was still one of the lucky and fortunate ones though. I have extremely supportive parents, who let me live back home and put up with my unemployed status with only minimal eye rolling. I managed to do odd jobs to make a little bit of spending money and picked back up my high school job of lifeguarding, worked at a bakery, and worked as a nanny. It took two long years, hundreds of applications, dozens of phone interviews, and a half dozen in person interviews, before I was able to find the actual "big girl job" I was waiting for. One that would allow me to support myself and allow me to live in my dream city of Washington, D.C.
Now, a little over a year after moving to D.C., I am working in a job I enjoy, and one I feel helps the lives of others. I'm about to move into a fantastic apartment with a great friend. I have health insurance, a 401K, paid vacation time, and some money saved I hope to put towards travel. I finally feel like I'm in a good place in all aspects of my life.
It only took me four years to get here.
Millennials are struggling across the country. A recent article on The Huffington Post outlined the worry of increased suicides among young people who are in financial hardship, specifically when it comes to paying off their student loans.
When so many people are struggling, it is hard to feel any sympathy (or empathy) towards someone who is by all accounts living the dream.
Ms. Cotter speaks several times of idolized characters in her essay. Carrie Bradshaw, Harriet the Spy, and the cast of Girls. She wonders where the "struggles are she sees on Girls." All of these are fictional. Her reference to Girls seems particularly misconstrued. Lena Dunham, the creator, writer, star, executive producer, and whatever other title she might hold, has found great success in her life. Her character, Hannah, whom I imagine Ms. Cotter is referring to, even with all her troubles, is still a glamorized version of a millennial. Twenty-something women can't get by with that apartment in NYC with a part-time barista job. They aren't always lucky enough to have their parents or friends help them out financially. At least that's what the real-world New Yorkers I know tell me.
While so many are struggling to make it up to the world Ms. Cotter is in, she dreaming about being at the bottom. Here's hoping she takes some time and realizes how fantastically lucky
and fortunate she is.
Or if not, then I hope she takes that freelance job, and opens up the door for someone who would be truly grateful for that 401K.