Friday, October 4, 2013

Why I am still interested in writing New Adult ... that other post notwithstanding ...

I've made my disdain for the TV show Girls clear before, but even though I don't love it, it highlights an interesting phenomenon -- twenty-somethings today face a terrible job market combined with crippling student loans. They usually can't afford afford good healthcare, but they can afford relatively small luxuries like Starbucks, iPhones, and the occasional pair of designer jeans. They were raised by parents with a 50% divorce rate and were exposed to more armchair psychology than is good for anyone.

And as one of them, I must say, it pisses me off when our entire generation is systematically dismissed as entitled whiners.

I worked hard to get where I am today, and it makes me mad that I will never achieve the same levels of success as people who simply managed to arrive where I am ... five, ten, fifteen, twenty years earlier. People who are now calling me and people like me speshul snowflakes for wanting (to someday achieve) what they already got.

I love my current day job, but I can't think too hard about it without getting sucked into a rage spiral. You see, I don't make very much -- but I work with people who do. Because they got raises when times were good, with benefits that are vested and can never be taken away. And now times are bad, and those of us on the bottom of the ladder are supposed to just be grateful for a job. Wanting more is to be labeled "entitled."

Like I said, I love my job. I love that it's interesting, I love that it's flexible. But I'm not so unrealistic to think that I will always be able to say that, when I know that the 5 attorneys at the bottom of the ladder will always have a very different (smaller) compensation package than others, despite expending very different (bigger) amounts on our degrees.

Wanting a fair shake is not "entitled." I'm not asking to make the same amount of money as an attorney with 30 years of experience. I just want to be on the same bell curve.

At my old job, I did a lot of work I didn't like. (In all fairness, post-2008 economic meltdown, a lot of people did a lot of work they didn't like.) And one day, I ran into a partner on the elevator on my way to do some of that work. He smiled awkwardly at me and said, "We've all put in our time."

The problem is, that was absolutely not true. He hadn't ever had to do what I was doing--and certainly not for an entire year of his life. "We've all put in our time" was just something we both told ourselves to feel better about the situation.

I left that job, in part because of that situation. After I left, I heard that the firm fired most of the remaining people who were supposedly just "putting in their time." Putting it in for what?

Not to sound like an Occupier*, but the fact is simply this--for the bottom 99% of us, we are all worse off financially than our corresponding 99% were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.** And there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that, and frankly, being a little angry about it.

New Adult, as a category of fiction, is important. It's important because art ought to reflect life, and not just the lives of the lovelorn or privileged-but-sad. There are a lot of authors who use New Adult to tackle topics "too dark" for Young Adult literature -- mental illness and sexual assault being the big two. But are those issues that only affect that 20-and-over set? I don't think so.

That's not to say that those stories aren't relevant, but they aren't the only stories.

I love the idea of New Adult literature because I want to read about a helicoptered generation trying their hand at independence for the first time. I want to read about boys and girls trying to become men and women in a society that has a really warped idea of what it means to be a man or a woman. I want to read about people with 6-figures of student loan debt trying to make it happen on a $30,000 annual salary, without coming off as woefully tone-deaf about bigger problems.

I love the idea of New Adult because I loved college and if I could redo college, I absolutely would--without changing much at all. I love the idea of New Adult because the question of whether your twenties are a wasted decade or the foundation to your entire adult life is still a question people ask themselves. (See this Ted talk for an answer I think we can all agree upon.)

Despite all my gripes, I think the best of New Adult is yet to come.

* PS, who decided on "Occupier" instead of "Occupant"? Occupant would have been much better.

** For the record, I am no doomsayer decrying our times. I like 2013. I'd rather live in 2013 than any other time, because I love equality, technology, and bras that are shaped like boobs instead of cones. Now is great! I just hope it gets even better, because our collective financial situation is nothing to be happy about, and is something definitely worth trying to fix.

1 comment:

  1. Honestly? I loved Girls, but that's because Lena Dunham is so adorably awkward and clueless.

    The rest of your post is dead on though. I think living in Australia means I'm used to things like accessible health care and student loans that don't have to be paid off until you earn over a certain amount. But while I'm on a decent salary, there are people who get promoted to my level across the board and each year it gets lower and lower. Like the people who were promoted the year before me are on a higher salary, but there is little to no difference in the job requirements.

    Do I want to own my house? Of course! Do I want nice things to put in my house? Who doesn't?

    The difference is, I work out what loans I can afford and which I can't. There is definitely a large portion of our generation who don't do that.