I've made a friend.
I know a thousand fibres connect us all, spiritually and scientifically, but I think he and I have about a thousand more. For me, these kinds of connections are rare.
He's in the film industry also. One of the first times we hung out, he showed me a cool rap video. Over Chance The Rapper's weird ad-libs and James Blake's ghostly voice, we talked about the uncertainty of our futures. Always, we bond over uncertainty.
"You're going to be fine," he said.
"We're both going to be fine," I said.
"We'll be fine," he agreed.
"Is that true?" I silently thought. He was thinking that, too, I know it.
I feel the question, "Will we be fine?" hovering around my friends often. There is a certain level of education that is required and expected in society, and now, a large percentage of young people have that. But have we been sold a false bill of goods? Does a degree help? It doesn't guarantee you a job. With the exception of being a doctor, a lawyer or any career where a degree is a necessity, would people be better off getting work experience? Should you focus less on university and more on making connections?
Recently, on Facebook, a friend of mine posted this status:
Earnest, honest question: how do you find work? I've been applying to jobs online, to no avail. Does anyone have any advice on how to find actual, gainful employment? Or good job leads?
This friend is a few years older than me, has two degrees and has been published in almost every major Toronto paper. She is an incredibly talented screenwriter and filmmaker. She is well connected and well liked. I would argue that she knows how to get a job. She just can't.
I notice a steady stream of existential crises amongst my friends. One of us will move through the "What am I doing with my life?" dilemma and, like a heat-seeking missile, I watch it attach to someone else. Unemployed, what do we do with our idle days? Employed, how do we make it permanent? How do we begin our lives? Are we stunted by this dilemma, stuck at the starting line, revving like a broken engine, stalling until we move forward?
Last week, I was talking to a very respected writer, who had a lot of success at a young age. His sentiments echoed what I hear from a lot of older people about my generation: You guys seem fucked.
"I see a lot of young people now who are very smart, with amazing degrees and I feel the loss radiating around them. I feel for you kids."
Am I fucked? Are all of us?
More and more, I get the distinct impression that people's parents finance their lives. A lot of us live at home. Our parents came from a generation where you could move up, where a degree meant a job and where they did better than their parents. That's not the case for us.
My best friend is an amazing writer. She works at as a bank teller at a credit union. She's happy, in a consistent way. I'm not. I have peaks and valleys.
"Why did you choose a stable career over an artistic one?" I asked her.
"I feel like a sellout saying this, but my main motivation was money. I don't care about being rich, but I don't want to struggle either. I'm so thankful to finally be earning more than minimum wage. I want to own property someday and I want to be able to support a family. Maybe I should have persevered with my career as a writer, but I doubt I would be able to achieve these goals without a stable job. I still love writing and I will always do it in my spare time, but I prefer the certainty of a regular paycheque."
"Does this choice make you happy or sad?" I asked.
"I feel a bit sad that I gave up on the bohemian artist's dream of my early twenties. It feels like the end of an era, more than anything. When I moved to Glasgow at 22, I met a whole bunch of writers, musicians and photographers. It was like an artist's paradise: I would go to friends' concerts every weekend. Then we'd go back to someone's flat and drink wine and smoke hand-rolled cigarettes until the sun came up. I miss it a lot but I'm happy to have found stability and direction at home."
I talked to my other best friend. She's whip-smart, beautiful and ambitious, and the most levelheaded person I know. She works in radio.
"What about the job market surprises you?" I asked.
"The most surprising thing is that, even as I've gained more skills and a higher level of education, I don't feel any more confident in my ability to find a job."
I've had a career as an actress since I was eight. I still never know where my next job is coming from. I don't get paid for a lot of the work I do. In fact, most of the work I do is free.
The way I look at it, I have no choice. If I don't do these things, someone else will get these opportunities. I hope I'm building something where I make money one day. I am not certain I am. The difference is, I signed up for this life. Why are my friends with a business degree, now faced with my realities; short-term contract work and an uncertain future?
Amongst the creatives, the main question is how do we monetize our work? With platforms changing in every artistic discipline traditional revenue streams have almost disappeared. Did my web series Long Story, Short help my career? Unequivocally, yes. Did I make a lot of money from it? No. Do I like writing these articles? Yes. Will I ever make money from them? No. I have written two pilot scripts on spec in the past three months. They've changed my career. They may never get made. Though I hope all this leads to a steady income, there's no guarantee.
In the past month, I seek out father-type figures and ask advice. I have an actor friend who is a couple years older than me. He is the wisest person I know.
"The generations that have done the best for humanity and the world are those that have weathered changes. The Boomers had it easy and they fucked a lot up. Their parents, the Greatest Generation, had it hard. Maybe because of that they made the world so much better for their children than it was for them."
Will we be able to do that? Will we be better for this, having weathered changes in an unpredictable society? Is it even still possible to make the world a better place for our children?
Lately I read a lot of self-help websites. I lie in my bed at night; laptop on my stomach with a tired, crooked neck, hoping spiritual wellness will find me. I hear my new friend's voice.
"You'll be fine. We'll both be fine."
Hearing him echo through my skull, the sentiment and the person tied together, I do feel better. I believe in him. He believes in me. We can believe in a successful future, with certainty, for each other.
Is that enough for right now?
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