Thursday, October 2, 2014

Millennial blah, blah, blah

If I never moved to Texas, I may have never become a fiction writer. Then again, I may have.

I tell people that the first year of living in Texas was the most depressing year of my life. I didn't know anyone in San Antonio and it was so sprawling that there was very little hope of meeting many people. I could have tried harder, yes, but I didn't.

It was a wonderful opportunity for growth to come out to Texas. I had a great job that enabled me to learn a ton of new skills I would have never learned. But I was the only employee for the grand majority of the time I was there and the grind of working alone and then going home to be alone started to turn me into a very emotional and lonely person. I have always been prone to depression and I think it is a genetic strain that runs through my family but I can say with total honesty that San Antonio was my lowest point. I'm very grateful for the opportunity I was given there. I learned a hell of a lot. I learned that you could be so depressed that your body physically hurts. 

But I also learned how to write beyond amateurish poems. My catalog of poetry published before Texas still exists and is still searchable on the internet much to my horror. In fact, only recently have my stories begun to replace the poetry. I'm a huge fan of poetry but I will be the first to admit that I cannot write it. Sometimes I got lucky and wrote something worth saving. Most times I was not.

It was in times of depression that I started to explore absurdity. My poems were becoming more narrative. They were getting longer. They were turning into very short stories. I ran with it.

Sure, I'd been writing short stories long before I came to Texas. But I was aping other people. I was trying to be a voice that I couldn't write with. Bukowski is great but it became clear that I was not honest when I imitated him. It was only when I was totally alone with my thoughts that I became free to write bizarro/horror/absurd-weirdo stuff. I was no longer worried about appearing as a serious writer. My work ethic proved I was a serious writer but my work probably wouldn't be talked about at a party where people discussed The New Yorker and ate gluten free crackers. 

I'm happy I moved to Texas and spent a year in the thresher. I've always been a writer but Texas helped me sound like myself.

Folks ask me if I'm ever moving back to California. The honest answer right now is, "I don't know." I love California. The Dodgers are my favorite sports team. I miss the beach. I grew from childhood into early-adulthood in California. But Texas has become a home. It could have killed me. I could have run back to the comforts and safety nets (social and financial) in California but I didn't. 

I stayed in Texas, quit my job in San Antonio, and moved to Austin without the promise of employment. I lied on my apartment application saying that I was employed and made $800 a month, they didn't follow up on that information and paired me up with a meth addict to live with. After 7 days of unemployment I got hired at a bookstore and became a proud member of the working poor, paying minimums on my credit card debt just to be able to use them at the grocery store again when my paycheck money ran out. I picked up odd jobs to help make ends meet. 

I made friends, I wrote a lot, I wrote advertorial blog posts for luxury watches I had never even seen in real life for $4 a post and wrote 5-10 a day until I couldn't bang my head against my desk any longer trying to figure out synonyms for luxurious. And still, I was constantly feeling the creditors' noose tighten around my neck.

So I got a part time job on top of my full time gig at the bookstore. And things finally started to fall in place. Now I'm back to one full time job but it's not at the bookstore. 

It's very easy for a person to think they've accomplished nothing and I am prone to thinking that I'm worthless and have nothing to show for, but I've come out the other side. My relative security may slip out from under me at any moment and I know that I will be able to make something work. I already have made things work and it's gotten me to some great places.

I may have grown up in Southern California, but Texas made me figure out who the hell I was. It gave me the reason to pursue whatever I wanted to pursue. I escaped comfort for chaos and I ended up doing okay for myself. 

Bret Easton Ellis wrote a piece on his idea that Millennials are Generation Wuss.  Sometimes I agree with him. Sometimes I look at my social media accounts and want to gouge my eyeballs out in terror about my own generation's whiny and petty over-agonizing over very trivial "outrages." We jump from one outrage to the next and think that verbalizing outrage is enough. Sure. Sometimes I believe we are a vapid generation. But we graduated in a time of economic chaos, we were raised in a culture that told us college was the miracle water that would cure all of our ailments, we were raised in a culture (created by the generations before us) that told us we were the most important and now we're becoming adults and everything has crashed and burned. Much of our adult years were spent in a sharply divided country at constant war. Maybe we do whine too much but every person I know is hard working, juggling multiple commitments at once, and making things work. We don't have the luxury of Generation X negativity that is belied by the knowledge that the only reason to be negative is to be counter to reality. 

As a child, I remember "news" stories and opinion pieces asking "Why is Generation X so lazy?" They turned out fine. Bret Easton Ellis has a nice life. Everything worked out okay, despite their perceived laziness. The same will be for the Millennials.

I look forward, in fact, to someday complaining about Generation Z's insistence on touching cow's assholes. Seriously, why do they do that?!

I'm still not where I want to be. There's a lot more struggling to get there. I may never get there but I am starting to realize that I am happy with things as they are. I will have more goals to replace goals that I've either given up on or attained. There will always be a new struggle. And there are plenty who have struggled far more than I ever have. I'm not saying I'm the boss-struggler here.

Struggling is real. Struggle is what makes life worth living. Struggling is how you find out who you are. There are no rules in life so do not box yourself in because of somebody else's perception of you or how you should be. Just go out and struggle, dammit.

So there it is. A very me-centric defense of Millennials.

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