Thursday, July 27, 2017

Another Maladjusted Millennial Snowflake

This week our favorite advice columnist, Ask Polly, regales us with the story of a young woman who calls herself a “thin-skinned snowflake millennial.” Said woman is an aspiring writer and dubs herself: A Highly Strung Spurnalist on the Brink. The funny-looking word rhymes with “journalist.” Got it. It's Joycean. One is tempted to tell her to keep her day job, but she is young and that would not be fair.

HSSB wants to be a freelance writer. Yet, she has tried out a series of office jobs and has discovered that she is wildly unsuited to any of them. She cannot afford to work on her own but she cannot work with other people. It’s not an occupational hazard. It’s a generational hazard, inflicting many young people who have suffered the American way of being educated raised. The result: a young woman who wants desperately to have a career as a freelance writer but is suffering from severe anomie and does not know how to get along with other people.

To draw an inference, her letter portrays her as utterly alone in the world. She says nothing about friends or lovers, romantic partners or even family. She would do well to develop some social contacts… just a hint.

Naturally, she has held her coworkers in all of her jobs in magnificent contempt. Having attained to the ripe age of “early twenties” she has tried and dropped out of a multitude of jobs. Perhaps her problem is a lack of grit, an inability to persevere.

She has drunk the politically correct Kool-Aid about the workaday world and spouts the following:

I’ve worked for start-ups, small firms, and huge corporations, and there’s been bad management, bullying, backstabbing, bitching, and bureaucracy at every one. Not forgetting the big board of fossilized white men belittling everyone.

So, she wants to drop out and retire to her study, the better to become a freelance writer. That is why she is writing to Polly, a successful freelance writer.

HSSB writes:

I’ve come up with a two-year plan in which going freelance is the goal (it was five-year, but I don’t think I can bear to wait that long). I hope to buy a treadmill desk at some point. Thing is, I’m petrified of going freelance, too. Petrified like I just saw a basilisk reflected in a puddle. I’m not sure if that big scary snake is me or the thought of trying to survive off writing alone.

I want it so badly I’d write anything to get by: product descriptions, banner ad copy, words to go on toilet-cleaner labels. Anything. I’m willing to get a part-time job to fund it, too. Except I know it would be a stupid idea to even try before I’ve saved up at least three month’s pay. But as I can only afford to save a little each month, I’ll have to wait two years at least before I’ve amassed that amount. And I can’t start while in my current role as we’re not allowed to take other paid work.

Speaking of psycho matters, wanting it so badly means nothing. It's her discipline and good character that will get her through the assignments... not wanting things badly. The psycho world has done young people a disservice by feeding them this idea.

For the record, it is fairly obvious that she is going to write her first magazine article or book about her adventures in the world of real work. Her letter is raw material for a book project. With any luck she will present herself as an engaging befuddled trainwreck... but that would take some considerable writing skill. 

One understands that the world of work is still notably male, so said millennial snowflake, by failing to fit in to a man’s world, is asserting her womanhood.

The letter closes with some incoherent thinking:

I also don’t feel like I’m ready. I want to be edited still. I still feel like I need a lot of molding before I’d even be close to being able to pull off the kind of pieces I want to write.

So I guess my real question is how do I stop hating my job long enough to quit it and go freelance? And how do I know I won’t hate freelancing just as much? Am I just a thin-skinned snowflake millennial who needs to get over it and accept that this is working life?

Of course, freelance writers are edited… unless they work for the New York Times, which just reduced its copy editing staff. And why does she need to stop hating her job in order to quit? Can’t you quit a job you hate? In truth, you can quit a job, regardless of whether you like it or not.

In truth, Polly offers some sound advice here, but not before making an embarrassing attempt at empathy:

But if you subtract age from the defining characteristics of thin-skinned snowflake millennials, I am also a thin-skinned snowflake millennial, and I want to strongly recommend it as a lifestyle choice. Why? Because it keeps you away from offices, which are places where all sense of time and space evaporate and all connection to your own desires and longings, to your own humanity, to the natural rhythms of existence, steadily erode until your life feels like a shadow, haunting a dim facsimile of what a life is supposed to feel like.

I see no special reason to agree to this snowflake’s bad attitude toward work. One understands Polly’s intention. It is misplaced.

After that, Polly gets to the meat of her reply and it is certainly to the point. First, she recommends that HSSB try to learn how to work with other people:

My recommendation is that you keep your two-to-five-year plan but, in the meantime, you train some of your energy on learning to eat some shit and play nicely with others.

She adds the important point, namely that freelancing involves a network of relationships that need to be cultivated and fostered. If you don’t know how to develop relationships and to get along with your coworkers you are going to have problems with editors. Since Polly has a great deal of experience as a freelance writer she does not whine on about feeling her feelings.

The picture of the starving artist alone in her garret creating masterpieces is misleading and false.

Polly writes:

Freelancing is impossible without solid relationships with editors, and my whole career didn’t really take off in the ways I wanted it to until I learned to be consistently kind and polite to all editors, even when they pissed me off. I’m not saying I never revert back to the brat I was years ago, but most of the time I recognize that the people I work for are really fucking busy and overworked and they aren’t dismissive of me or out to get me, even when that’s where my brains used to go on a bad day. So this is the hard truth: You won’t be able to freelance until you learn to be consistently kind and grateful to your co-workers, recognizing that, even though they sometimes reflect the deeply wrong nature of any given workplace, they also have a million-and-one personal challenges that you know nothing about. And yes, that includes the fossilized white dudes in the corner offices.

HSSB says that she hates all jobs. Yet, freelancing is a job. It is a difficult job. It is a job in which you need to organize your own time, create your own workspace and work along. And of course freelancers do not receive a regular paycheck. If our maladjusted millennial snowflake thinks that working in an office is hard, wait until she starts to freelance.


trigger warning said...

Although I'm not a betting man, I'd be willing to put good money on the proposition that this particular snowflake is a devotee of

What Color is Your Parachute?.

"....don’t look at yourself through [your employer's] eyes. Look at yourself through your own eyes.”
--- R Bolles

Translation: navel-gaze

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: This week our favorite advice columnist, Ask Polly, regales us with the story of a young woman who calls herself a “thin-skinned snowflake millennial.”

Actually she might be showing interest in "external self-awareness" in asking a question: "Am I just a thin-skinned snowflake millennial who needs to get over it and accept that this is working life?". It is a leading question, but she's giving permission for Polly to give her the worst.

And Poly does attempt some prudent advice with colorful language "My recommendation is that you keep your two-to-five-year plan but, in the meantime, you train some of your energy on learning to eat some shit and play nicely with others."

My own advice agrees (1) Keep working and save money, but speeding that up by (2) Organize your life to be minimalist to save more (live with roommates, share a car, ride a bike), and finally (3) Demonstrate self-discipline in setting goals and practice networking skills. (4) Maybe find a coach like Stuart to help keep herself honest?

What "A Highly Strung Spurnalist on the Brink" doesn't mention is debt, and if she has debt, even low interest student loan debt but worst high interest credit card debt, and a car loan, its no wonder she can't save much money now, and her options decrease (and risks increase) on an unpredictable income of freelancing.

Paul said...

As someone who has worked as a freelance writer at times (and a freelance programmer) as well as in large, medium, and small companies, I would say this to her.

The writing is the easy bit (assuming she has enough talent as a writer). The hard bit is finding work, which can take 30-50% of your time. For her to work on relationships with editors she has to know some editors and get some commissions. I see no evidence that she has a clue how to do that.

When I am in freelance mode, I have a rule for myself (that I don't stick to rigorously) that every lunch when you are not meeting someone is a wasted lunch. It is not a bad rule if you are looking for a full-time job too.

Sam L. said...

She can't find a woman to work for? If she can't get along with, or stand her co-workers, I'm guessing she won't get along with roommates. And, WOW!! Polly gave her good advice!

James said...

Your lunch story rang a bell. My Dad always said "If you're not making as much money as you could, you're losing money".