I’m Gen Y, and I’m Not a Special Snowflake. I’m Broke.
But there’s nothing for us to suck up, really. As a rule, our parents did end up much more dedicated to their careers than we have. But as a rule, they were laid off less. They didn’t intern or work as independent contractors. They got full medical. They were occasionally permitted to adopt magical unicorn-like money-granting creatures called “pensions.” Or, barring that, they accumulated a huger 401(k) to cash out before the Great Recession, because they saved more. And they saved more because the costs of college, of kid care, of health care, of doing business and staying alive and buying groceries and staying connected, were far less than they are today. They could raise a family on one salary if necessary.
They had room to advance and buy things. Yes, even the creatives. I once listened to a professor, who is in his sixties, read us the first published piece he’d been paid for, in the late 1970s. A thousand words or so. The rate, he says, was something like two bucks a word. That’s four times what the Village Voice pays today, even for an award-winning investigative cover story. It’s geometrically greater than what most writers can earn today writing daily brilliance for nationally renowned publications online. And writing daily brilliance, which many of them do, is hard goddamned work.