Dispatches from a Quarter-Life Crisis

Newt Gingritch once spoke of the Republican party’s “contract with America”. This was no real binding agreement of any sort, but more the long-winded, rhetoric-pumped symbolic gesture that the grand old party is so fond of waving around whilst simultaneously accusing democrats of being “all talk.” It had a lot of heady proclamations about preserving the constitution and the sanctity of life, and blah blah blah. The idea was that campaigning Republicans and their allies could continually refer to their commitment to their “contract with America” and impinge their opponents for failing to live up to a fictitious agreement they never even acknowledged in the first place.

As an unemployed 25-year old college graduate, I find myself sitting in a coffee shop working on a novel (which I am way behind on) on a veteran who has fallen on hard times. It’s likely I should be canvassing for jobs and sending out applications, at the moment, but instead, I’m drinking lukewarm tea and blogging. Let’s hear it for clichés. To keep that train rolling, I’ll jump right in to the question that’s been on my mind these past few days.

 

What about America’s contract with us?

 

I, like many other members of whatever label pop culture writers have applied to my generation, was brought up under the promise of the American dream. Do well in school, get into a good college, do well there, get a good job, find a nice girl, settle down, have kids, work until age 65 and then get a gold watch and spend your golden years taking vacations to bed and breakfasts across the country. Even before the great “fuck everybody” crash of 2008, the cracks in this promise were already beginning to show. My brother is smarter and more well-informed than I am in almost every way. He graduated in four years, is nearly fluent in Japanese, holds a degree in Asian studies, and worked professionally in Japan for three years. Upon returning home, he quickly found himself in the world of the unemployed.

Given Alex’s situation, I suppose it was foolish of me to expect anything equal to his fate, much less better. I took five years to graduate college, did not make nearly the marks he did in either high school or college (being obsessed with having fun and people liking me), and moved to Los Angeles in my last semester of film school with the idea of interning and then becoming a screenwriter.

Needless to say, this didn’t happen, however, after three unpaid internships, it seemed like there could be light at the end of the tunnel. My last internship, that I worked many months for, had allowed me to fill in for the creative executive. I thought this could lead to a paid job, but was mistaken. My boss, producer Gail Mutrux, did tell me she would read one feature-length script that I sent her. I then got a (paying!) gig with a British Sales Company at the American Film Market, and shortly afterwards began working for a video-game startup that shall remain unnamed. It was of course, unpaid/poorly paid at the beginning, but I kept my chin up, reminding myself that this was the most I had been paid to do work that I loved with people who were cool the entire time I had been in California.

Fast forward to September of this year, after a bunch of poor decisions, broken promises, overextensions, and outright lies, and I have been dropped from “contract writer” to working on a “per project” basis. The unnamed company just let fifteen people go, including many who were much more qualified and senior than I. They still owe me an unnamed sum for contract work done in the fall, money I am convinced I will never see. Had everything I had been told happened, I would be very happily working from home for a living wage, doing what I love: writing.

The point of this very long and meandering screed? I am now looking for work, and having very little luck finding any, much less in a related field. I’ve landed a gig doing news writing for an Alt Weekly (www.uweeklyaustin.com), which pays, and is full of great people. It’s not enough to live on though, and I am burning through cash reserves at an alarming rate (despite my parents and brother telling me I don’t need to worry so much). According to what I previously referred to as “America’s Contract with Us”, I am a college graduate, 25 years old, with professional experience in Hollywood working in the entertainment industry. I should be incredibly employable, correct?

Wrong. I’m not qualified to stack pants. Writing jobs are nonexistent. I have resigned myself to taking a service job (which I would really enjoy anyways, I love working with people) while I pick an appropriate time to try and go to graduate school, but even these jobs are diamonds in the rough.

I’m not quite sure what grand point I mean for readers (if I have any) to take away from all this. I’ll admit this entry is more of a catharsis for me, a cheaper alternative to therapy, a way to let out anger and resentment built up in me over what I feel is the world wronging me. However, as my very patient girlfriend, my brother, family, and friends have pointed out to me time and again: this is just the way things are. Moping will fix nothing, being angry will fix nothing. As my brother so aptly put it, “college degrees are the new high school diploma”.

True enough. Here’s to keeping busy, and good luck to everyone.