Earning my keep

 

A few weeks back, I posted a ranty column about how everyone thinks millennials are dumb and how I know a lot of dumb millennials but we’re not all like that. I ended up deciding it was too ranty to publish at work, so I rewrote it to be a little bit less self-serving (sorta) and wanted to post the new version.

There’s a running joke around the office that every time I tell a story about an old job, it’s always somewhere different. I certainly don’t make the task of remembering said former places of employment very easy considering I’ve had 12 different jobs since 2009. But what throws me off is how surprised some people are when I say I’ve worked so much, especially last summer when I worked 58 hours a week.

I think what it comes down to is the trope of millennials being an exorbitantly lazy bunch that relies on the money of parents and others to get them through. I’ve seen some examples. Most of the other members of my high school graduating class were given their cars, whereas I paid $1,000 for my wonderful little 1998 Mercury Tracer. I went to a private college where I was the only one in my friend group who had to work through school to pay for it. And I also worked at a college town bar, where I was called a multitude of names for refusing entry to anyone with a fake ID because heaven forbid I turn down an Ivy Leaguer.

You could also make the argument that I’m just as spoiled. I went to a private college instead of sticking to UConn or Three Rivers, and now I’m $100,000 in the hole. I was able to come back to Connecticut after graduation and live at home rent-free while I get myself financially situated. And unlike a lot of recent college grads, I actually have a job in my field.

So yes, there are people in my generation who may not necessarily “earn their keep.” Like any stereotype, however, it’s important to remind people that not all of us are like that. Hard-working millennials do exist.

A US Census study showed that in 2011, more than 70 percent of college undergrads worked at some point during the year. Most of those students worked less than full time, but more than half of them worked more than 20 hours a week, which is more than the 10 to 15 hours recommended by colleges to avoid academic problems. My school only allowed 20 hours a week on campus, but the only thing stopping me or anyone else from working more hours off campus was our own academic standards (and maybe transportation).

Those jobs during school can also lead you somewhere else. Sometimes it’s a place you want to go, like how my experience as a volunteer at a science museum for kids led to two science writing internships. Sometimes it’s not directly related to your major but rather another field, like how a former student manager in my department of IT at school now does IT stuff full-time, even though he went to school for television.

And if all else fails, you’ll probably see us doing odd jobs to make ends meet. Before I was hired here as a reporter, I worked for an EB subcontractor installing computers, writing for a science news site, and delivering newspapers (more on that at another time). Pretty much all of my jobs (a dentist office, the campus mail room, a library, and so on) have been of the odd job persuasion. I know the age-old joke of art/music/English/etc. majors going to school to become baristas, but at least they’re doing something, and someone has to make your coffee.

Roundup

Not the herbicide. I needed another way to say “year in review,” not a political bashing for making a reference to a company that has ruined the name of a potentially lifesaving technology.

ANYWAY.

I didn’t do a whole lot of posting this year, so I should probably take this time to wrap things up.

My final semester was pretty good – I only took 15 credits because part of me wanted to give myself a break for taking 18 credits the entire rest of my college career (though I ended up working 30 hours a week instead). My senior capstone, Issues in the News, was really depressing, but it gave me a lot of… well, issues to think about. My fun class, which was the anthropology of travel, did the same thing but in a fun way. My narrative journalism workshop gave me a great excuse to be lardacious and eat at a greasy spoon every Saturday for the entire semester, and it was a fun project. Science Writing apparently wasn’t memorable enough because I had to go back into my transcript to remember I had taken it, but the professor was cool and it was a class I really needed to take considering what I want to do in life. I survived another semester of band on bass clarinet, which really wasn’t that tough aside from those long drone notes in Carmina Burana, but fortunately in the concert there were six of us so I didn’t have to risk passing out. And I got myself into Strings, which I probably wasn’t supposed to do because I’m not a music ed student, but the prof let me and I really enjoyed the class. I mean, where else am I going to be able to learn the basics of a bunch of strings instruments for free? (well, “free” in the sense that I didn’t have to shell out physical money for lessons; it was a credit, so $1,355)

My boyfriend was finally able to come to one of my GSO concerts, but not before his car died on the way up, so his only other driving friend had to bring up the herd. Since we were supposed to eat before the concert and that didn’t end up happening, I got Moe’s delivered so I could drown my upset in tortilla chips, and then we ended up going to the original restaurant after the concert for dessert and drinks.

I had a 7-month remote internship with Modern Notion, which was neat because I got to do science writing stuff without having to drop my entire life’s savings to live in or commute to NYC. It was a valuable experience because I got to practice writing science stuff for the general public, which can be a little hard considering I understand most of what I’m reading and I know what I’m saying but the average person might not. It also got me used to a more reporterly deadline schedule with multiple things due during the day rather than the monthly cycle I was used to with Buzzsaw.

I graduated. That’s always nice.

I was not blessed with a job right after graduation, so I worked 3 days a week at my old computer job, 2 days a week at my internship, and 7 madrugadas a week delivering newspapers for a total of 58 hours a week. I’ll have another column about that coming up in a few weeks, but the TL;DR version of that is that the hardest part of delivering a newspaper is the time, with pissy customers with no concept of time at a close second. But one of the guys on my route was also a Royals fan, so he filled me in with baseball news if we ran into each other in the morning, and I got to listen to NPR.

I did get two job offers, but I had to turn down the first one with the Cortland Standard (yes, that Cortland) because I wasn’t going to be able to afford both rent and loans. The second one was at the company I was delivering for, so now I’m writing for the paper I delivered over the summer. I like it because it’s a little bit of everything (writing, layout, editing, town stuff versus features, etc.), and I get to be the person who writes happy cutesy things when the rest of the news is gloom, doom, and death.

I finally won NaNoWriMo after 3 unsuccessful attempts. I actually posted regularly about that so I won’t rewrite it here, but it was fun and I’m glad I was able to do it. I have a revision plan set up for next year, and I’m hoping to get the story done and at least partially edited by the end of July.

And I guess that’s it. Nothing catastrophic other than my loans, but those are my own fault. Overall a good year.

Words not published

A title with two meanings today. 1, my NaNo story is nowhere near ready to be read by anyone other than myself (it’s not done, and even if it was, it’s in desperate need of editing). And 2, I wrote a column for the weekly paper I write for, but it’s a little too ranty to publish, so I’m going to post it here instead.

So I guess that means these words are indeed published, but nowhere where anyone will read them…

As a spring college grad, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be among the youngest, if not the youngest, person in a given situation. As such, I end up sitting awkwardly through the occasional rants of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers that accuse members of my generation of being extraordinarily lazy, entitled, delusional, and just plain bratty.

Dental office floater, December 2009 to August 2010.

I get it. I went to a private college for four years. I have a liberal arts degree. I got a half-ride and a job in my field and my student loans are still more than half of my income. My job is a cushy 9-to-5er writing cute happy-ending stories. And I still live at home because I can’t afford to have my own apartment anywhere within reasonable commuting distance. So yes, you could argue that I am in that crowd.

Concession stand cashier, Summers 2010 through 2013.

I’ve also witnessed how some of my peers can fit the narrative that Gen Xers and Baby Boomers paint. Pretty much everyone I knew from high school of driving age had a hand-me-down or (the horror) a brand new car. At school, they drove five minutes from their apartments and parked their late-model wheels over the line not only horizontally but also vertically and sometimes even on the sidewalk.

Campus dining hall, September 2011 to December 2012.

They also spent a lot of time at the local bars, fighting with the bouncer to let them in with fakes, fighting with the bartenders to be served RIGHT NOW, fighting with another patron who accidentally hit them while dancing, fighting with the employees kicking them out, and fighting to stumble back up the hill at the end of the night.

Science museum guide, September 2011 to May 2012.

They skipped their 8 a.m. to recover from fishbowl night the night or because the class is boring or because they were too busy doing things that weren’t homework. They were the dreaded project partners who ditch the scheduled work meeting to go to a concert or just don’t respond to any emails and hand in a single haphazardly thrown-together slide for the presentation five minutes before it’s due.

Assistant technician, July 2012 to August 2015.

They were impatient. The person checking IDs at the bar isn’t fast enough. The person making sandwiches at the campus deli isn’t fast enough. The professor’s response to a last minute email isn’t fast enough. The car in front on the way to the movies isn’t fast enough. The time left before spring break isn’t fast enough.

Student mail worker, January 2013 to May 2014.

And they didn’t work. Phone bills? Car payments? Student loans? What are those? Delivery four nights a week? Why not? Newest tech? It’s a necessity for functioning in modern society.

Library assistant, September 2013 to May 2014.

Student desktop technician, September 2013 to May 2015.

Hostess, September 2014 to May 2015.

Editorial intern, January 2015 to August 2015.

Newspaper delivery driver, May 2015 to August 2015.

I know the tropes. I know people who fit them to a T. Sometimes I’m guilty of some of them too. (I’m probably being bratty right now.) My point is that most of us are better than that. We buy our own little junkers with what little we have saved up. We spend late nights juggling overnight shifts cleaning bathrooms, finishing up 20-page research papers, and sleeping. We roll ourselves out of bed for that 8 a.m. chem class that we really don’t want to go to but we do because we have to. We take moments out of our day to thank the guy who made our omelet or the lady who drove the bus after the bars closed or the friend who brought us downtown to go grocery shopping.

Staff writer, August 2015 to ???

And we work.

50,108

I have emerged successfully from the depths of NaNoWriMo. It only took four tries, and the exact word count changes depending on which backup you ask, but I finally hit 50K last night. Somehow it was a lot easier to get it done this year, though I’m not sure whether it was because of my schedule, my lack of local friends to distract me, or my need to get out of the house that was conveniently satisfied by weekly write-ins.

Admittedly, it wasn’t a piece of cake, either. I stayed up til 11 most weeknights to stay ahead of the 1,667 daily average, and I forwent my morning walks to hit the snooze button a bunch of times to make up for it. I didn’t do my best writing – it’s been a while since I’ve done any fiction, and I ended up using mostly dialogue to develop the story and answer the necessary questions. I had to deal with some unrealized internalized ageism when it came to my writing buddy (fortunately we get along well, but it turns out I really need to work on my agedar). And I had to do a lot of driving because apparently CT East only includes points north of Norwich, so it was either drive to Colchester and Glastonbury (which I would not count as “east”) or join CT Shoreline in New Haven.

So what now? I posted on FB for the first time in two months, realized I didn’t really miss much since I get my news through Twitter and obviously work, and still haven’t reinstalled the app on my phone because I can live without it. I picked up an old knitting project I started before I left for Ecuador, but that was mostly because I needed that set of needles for another project and totally forgot about the one I was working on, so now I need to finish this one first. I went to bed at 9:30 again last night and it was wonderful. I might try to convince myself not to hit those snoozes so I can get my morning stuff done earlier and practice that crappy student viola I bought myself for my birthday while no one else is home to hear me. And I’m planning on not touching my story until at least January so I can take a break and have some time to get some reading in and remind myself what novels are supposed to look and sound like.

 

Home stretch

One more week until I can rejoin society again! (and go back to my regular sleep schedule…)

Not much new to report on since last time. Novel is going well – I ended up writing just enough extra to get myself a full day ahead. I’m really hoping I don’t have to take advantage of that this week, but it’s there if I have to.  This week is going to be weird anyway because I pulled the short straw to work Thanksgiving (please, everyone, hold your murders and house fires), but even if I hadn’t, my gramma is coming out from Washington, and she’s one of those people who expects everyone to stop what they’re doing for the week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that that doesn’t mean Black Friday shopping because if it is, I’m not going. Family is nice and all, but I would rather spend the day writing by myself and almost passing out donating blood than standing in line for three hours to buy one thing.

Current count: 38,614

Halfway point

So about that regular posting during NaNoWrimo… I guess 200 extra words every day was too much.

Anyway, things are going well. Today is the halfway point (25,000 words), and I’m at 26,163 today because today was productive and yesterday I spent way too many words on a fruit tray. I’ve only had two days when my daily word count hasn’t been at least the minimum, but I’ve always written enough to be on top of the overall minimum, and I’ve been shooting for 2,000 a day to cover days where I have a lot of stuff going on or when I’m severely lacking motivation or an idea. The rest of the month is a little worrisome because I’ve only made it to 27,000 in the past and that was only once, plus I’m working on a very basic outline because I passed the previous attempts with this story a long time ago. Write-ins and making writing buddies with other members of CT:East have definitely helped with morale and production.

Work has been going well too. Election Night went a lot more smoothly than I had expected, mostly because I had my story half-written ahead of time and my town’s counting was quick and painless (no recounts, no machine problems). Stories have been fun as well; check out the professional page for an up-to-date list because the paper’s website only lists the 10 most recent. And even though I drew the short straw for working on Thanksgiving (the girl who was me before me was originally scheduled and it was either that or rescheduling Christmas at four different houses on Dec. 25), that will be a nice paycheck.

Only 23,837 words to go!

Going mobile

It’s now officially November, which means it gets dark out before we eat dinner and I’ll be spending the rest of my free time furiously clacking away on my keyboard for NaNoWriMo.

I went to a kick-off for the CT East group in Glastonbury and drove up with a friend I met on the region page. I brought pan de muerto to share, and I was under the impression that it was a meet and greet with snacks and such, but everyone else decided it was a write-in at the last minute, so I was stuck with a skinny notebook and my phone for writing. I managed to get my minimum word count done at the library on my phone, but there’s only so much work you want to do when you only have two fingers to type with rather than ten. Fortunately, I spared a potential disaster by not bringing my laptop: I spilled my tea all over my workspace and my lap, so if I had been on my computer, it would’ve gotten soaked, as would my phone since the tea hit my right leg and my phone goes in that pocket. So yay?

Overall, Take #3 (#4? #5?) is going well so far – between the obligatory midnight segment, writing at the write-in on my phone, and finishing the first chapter at home tonight, I have 2,451 words (though that number changes depending on which software you ask, so I’m going with the lowest number). The minimum daily word count is 1,667, but my goal is 2k a day because even though I’m hoping to get some writing done in the morning before I go to work, I have rehearsal on Wednesday nights and don’t get home til after 9:30, so I won’t get much nighttime writing done on those nights. Plus things happen like family events, and Thanksgiving will not be forgiving because I’m back home this year and we have family coming out to visit.

So we’ll see how things go, and hopefully I’ll remember to post to keep non-Twitterites in the loop.