The Maine Millennial: the failure of a generation to get started
From August 1 until today, I had 11 days off. Not 11 days of vacation. Eleven days in total. I worked all the others. It got to the point where even my bosses slowly started using the “b” word. And I swear when my supervisor first said she was worried I might burn out, my first thought was “I don’t have time to burn out.” Because I don’t. I work six or seven days a week.
If you’re wondering how I manage to work so hard, the answer is that I don’t get enough sleep and drink 50 ounces of black coffee every day. Fortunately, I work in a medical office building and the cardiology department is down the hall.
The “why” is more difficult to answer. I like my job. Helping provide health care to people is an honor and a privilege. But honor doesn’t make you work 60 hours a week. Fear and insecurity – in particular, the financial genre – do it.
I am my family’s financial safety net. If there is a large and unforeseen expense, it might end up in my lap. And when you live on a 19th century farmhouse and drive a used car, a large and unexpected expense is always about to drop. And I’m 29 – I’m about to enter the nesting phase of my life. All I want is to buy my own house. Which costs money. And if I have kids they cost a ton of money too, and of course you can’t work all the time when you have kids because they require a lot of care and supervision. (Also, being absent throughout their childhood will not lead to a happy and successful filial relationship.)
So I am working now, in the hope that I can start a family later. Or at least don’t become homeless.
Financial insecurity is what defines the millennial generation (that, and all the gay stuff). It’s a well-known fact that millennials are the first generation in American history to be worse off financially than their parents (in total there are obviously some very successful millennials, and good for them, with the exception of Mark Zuckerberg). What isn’t mentioned is how pathetic this fact can feel.
When she was my age, my mother owned a married home about a year old from having her first child. I’m literally none of those things, and they feel as far away as Elon Musk’s fantasized Martian base.
Millennials on the oldest end of the ladder came of age during the Great Recession and entered a disappointing job market. I was in high school in 2008, so I didn’t notice the financial crash too much. I was too busy trying to get into a good college, which I was told would be the ticket to a solidly bourgeois and financially prosperous future. (I’ll let you know if that ever happens. I think I’ll have to pay off my $ 69,000 student loan debt first).
The carpet was ripped from me during the Corona Crash of 2020. In April of last year, I had worked for the same company for five years; I was good at my job and had the performance reviews and emails from happy customers to prove it. I was making over $ 18 an hour plus bonuses and profit sharing. And then, suddenly, I was big to cut.
Twenty percent of the company was made redundant, in all departments, at the guillotine. I lost my health insurance at the end of the month, and thank goodness for the socialist program that is Medicaid, because that meant I wouldn’t go bankrupt if I had to seek treatment. Six months later, I applied again for my old job. I was not rehired. My current salary has not yet hit $ 18 an hour. While I can still recover financially, I doubt I will do it psychologically. One of the reasons I take every shift that is offered to me is that I am well aware that at any time I could be laid off or fired without warning and for no specific reason. Making hay while the sun is shining, and all that.
I am so tired all the time. I have 2h30 of daily trips. I am not spending enough time with my dog. And then I come home and try to find a column and when you’ve been doing data entry all day, your brain just becomes a bunch of scrambled eggs. Writing is like pulling teeth.
I think winter might force me to take a few extra days off. Maybe even full weekends. After all, in Maine there are days when an 80 mile round trip in a Hyundai Elantra is just too dangerous to attempt. Of course, winter comes with its own expense. Heating oil. Drink. Snow tires for the aforementioned Hyundai Elantra. I guess we’ll see.
The stereotype of millennials is that we are straight and lazy. I will content myself with the part entitled. But I know I’m not lazy.
Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a millennial from Maine. She can be contacted at:
Maine Observer: A souvenir of kindness that you can’t forget
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