The other weekend, I was with one of my good friends in a cab going to a party in Park Slope and we were talking excitedly about her new job. It was at a fancy place with a fancy name and a fancy job title. The good news felt well-deserved for my friend. She had been toiling away at a thankless job for two years and even though we had never discussed salary before (money is a more taboo conversation topic than sex among 20-somethings), something told me that she was getting paid very little.
Disregarding proper social etiquette, I blurted out to her, “Okay, let’s be real. How much were you getting paid?”
My friend recoiled a bit and her face became flushed with embarrassment.
“Is it really that bad? Are they paying you in paninis or what?”
“I made 28k a year.”
“I started at 24k.”
I did the math (JK, I can’t do math) and realized that after taxes, my friend is only making “FUCK YOU” dollars a month.
“That’s terrible. Does everyone get paid that much there?”
Recently, my roommate had a job interview as a junior graphic designer at a well-respected publication. She currently gets paid 40k as a receptionist and when she got around to talking about salary, they told her they couldn’t match what she currently made. This was at a company with millions of dollars and they couldn’t cough up the cash for 40k a year?
Living in New York means money is getting deleted from your pocket every second and it’s no secret that trustafarians have a leg up on the competition. The advantage is simple: if someone is helping you out financially, you can basically take whatever job you want. My roommate had to turn down her “dream job” that day simply because she couldn’t afford to take a pay cut. That being said, people without a safety net also can take punishing, underpaid jobs. They just have to live in a cardbox box and never leave their apartment. But trust me: it is possible.
The thing is that I’ve never related to this popular idea that 20-somethings are lazy. I get that it’s real. I get that some people are sitting on the couch and collecting unemployment and watching Paranormal Witness but that has never really been me and my friends — at least not in the last two years.
The reality that I know and relate more to is depicted in this recent article in The New York Times. Breaking news: 20-somethings are underpaid and overworked! Thank you, The New York Times, for being brave enough to reject the current popular perception of 20-somethings having no work ethic. The people that I know, all of whom come from different financial backgrounds, are breaking their balls at their job and getting paid pennies for it. And thanks to Smartphones, the line between your personal life and professional life is getting murkier and murkier.
Oh, how nice it would be to just, like, pop pills all day and watch reruns of Daria. That’s what everybody thinks us awful Millennials do anyway. Even my parents, despite being confronted with the evidence that I work, are confused as to what I do everyday, and I think their ignorance is telling of the shifting workplace. I entered the job market during a time when health insurance, 401ks, and the traditional 9-5 was disappearing. My parents couldn’t relate to this. They didn’t understand the concept of working from home. They thought it meant eating Bonbons and clocking in 20 minutes of work. “You get paid to do what?”
The thing I love most about my generation — and something that rarely gets recognized — is that we’re fucking hustlers. We make it work. We get that money. We’re innovative and resourceful. The odds may be stacked against us and yet we still find a way to triumph. I’m really getting tired of the coverage of Millennials being so one-sided. Everyone harps on how terrible and screwed up we are without recognizing all of the people who get shit on day in and day out at their so-called dream job and still power through. Bitch please.