Young Privileged Journalist Romanticizes Debt and Ramen


That lub-dub-sniff-lub-dub you’re hearing is the sound of my heart weeping for not-struggling young journalist Taylor Cotter.

Like most female journalists, I assume, I only grew up with two real inspirations in my life: Carrie Bradshaw and Harriet the Spy. I had notebooks that grew into Microsoft Word documents, lists upon lists of everything I knew about everyone I had met. All I saw in my future was a New York City life where I lived adventure after adventure, without forgetting any of the details for blog posts, articles, and novels to come.

When I started college, I figured out that the 10-cents-a-word life wasn’t really going to pay apartment rent and student loans that were plaguing my future. I saw job prospects decline dramatically over my first year of college and professors discourage students from pursuing careers in journalism. …

Now, two months after graduation, I seem to be one of just a handful of people that’s been able to get themselves on their feet, pay their own bills and actually put together some semblance of an adult life with minimal parental assistance. I bought a car, found an apartment and set up a 401k, just six months after turning 22. I came down on the ‘right’ side of every statistic — I found a job in my field that actually pays well, I’m living on my own, and seem to have everything that these other college graduates are dying to have.

But what about that 10-cents-a-word life that I always wanted? What about New York City? What about freelancing, penning newspaper columns and urban adventures? What about the struggles that I see on Girls and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren’t these the things that really make you 22?

I guess Molly Ivins was kind of like Carrie Bradshaw? They both paid attention to hair. Was I looking for the wrong inspiration?

Seriously, I sympathize and identify with the realization that your hip, romantic dreams don’t match the banality of reality–particularly in writing fields where your own experiences are meant to inspire your creativity. We’re supposed to write what we know, and “today I used my debit card to buy a latte” doesn’t make for an interesting read. I once found myself lamenting that only one of my apartments hadn’t had forced-air heating, because radiators are so pretty. But when you step back, look at your situation with some objectivity, and realize you’re romanticizing poverty,it’s time to find perspective: Thank God you’re able to live independently, realize that a lot of people would sell organs to live the life you have, realize that TV shows are pretend because real life is too boring for anyone to want to watch, and explore your own ways to build character and find inspiration. Write it all into a script and pitch it to Wes Anderson; he’ll love it.

Here’s one writer’s romantic early twenties: Graduating from j-school with no job prospects and moving back in with your parents. Working rotating temp jobs because the job market in your field is dry as a bone, hoping you don’t get sick because your job doesn’t come with benefits. Finally finding a job in the Big City, where the job market is a little richer, and sharing a studio apartment with a friend from college. Racking up credit card debt, because your entry-level salary doesn’t meet Big City living expenses, and watch as your interest rate increases and your ability to make the minimum payment begins to flag. Depression. Getting started on a nice little ulcer, which isn’t as bad as it could be because at least your current job has medical. Buying a new wardrobe because of the weight loss. Eventually listening to your therapist, realizing that your situation is untenable, quitting your job, swallowing your pride, and moving back in with your parents. Eating lots of bland food and hoping the ulcer goes away on its own, because once again you’re without health insurance. Desperately hustling freelance jobs to make the minimum payment on your now astronomical credit card debt. Finally finding another job, this time in a slightly smaller Big City, making just enough to pay rent and eat Easy Mac–no ramen for you, high roller! Using your fancy new salary to make more than the minimum credit card payment, watching your balance creep down fifty whole dollars a month. Depression. Medication. Shit, there’s the ulcer again.

This is why too much TV is damaging to kids.



Feministe / By Caperton

Posted at July 16, 2012, 3:44am

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