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Especially for YOU. I've been mulling this over after talking with my mother about my nieces, who don't seem to have grasped the concept of downward mobility as it applies to them personally, and with my daughter, who with predictable schadenfreude* is noting the presence of some former classmates who appear to have bombed out of the U and are now wandering the campus of Normandale Community College trying to figure out how they fell of the gravy train.

Hopefully most of you on my F-list don't need this advice, born as it is from pretty depressing and unpleasant experience, but now and again I see flashes of wrongheadedness among some of you, and because you are my friends I want to impart this advice before I get hit by a bus or die of some stray bacterium because I didn't properly moisturize or some other damnfool thing.

You too can be poor. It only takes a couple of bad decisions, a couple instances of taking what looked like the easy alternative at the time, and suddenly there you are with an assload of debts and not much prospect of working them off in the near future, defined for our purposes as sometime in the next ten years.

Credentials !=skills. This may seem obvious, but every year thousands of American kids trudge into colleges thinking that all they have to do is get a four-year degree in something and they'll be able to get a comfortable, well-paying job with some company somewhere. Yeah. That'll work. If your last name happens to be Dayton or Kennedy or Rockefeller, maybe. The rest of you are going to wind up asking your classmates who were up until 2 AM every night studying for their business/chemistry/engineering degrees whether they want to super-size their Extra Value Meals. Then you're going to go home at the end of your shift and whine into your LJs about how unfair life is. You dumbasses! Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to major in something that hasn't been a salable skill since the 1960s, when you could in fact step out of college with a liberal arts BA and step into a middle-management job with a Fortune 500 company. Unfortunately for you, a bunch of folks who didn't want to get their asses shot off in Vietnam had the same idea, and in the meantime the Fortune 500 got tired of getting their asses kicked by the Japanese and Germans and figured out how to do without all the middle management and clerical types they thought they needed to run their intercontinental business empires. Odds are any liberal arts majors who got decent jobs after college (i.e. not working as baristas at Starbucks or in call centers) either had some useful business skills or had connections. Or both. Oh yeah - that business about doing what you love "...and the money will follow"? Hippie bullshit. Of the thousands of people I have met in my life, exactly two of them are doing what they love for a living. One of them is a general's son who made the right choices and picked the right patron. The other was born into a baseball family. I think you can figure out what your odds are.

Nobody owes you jack. A lot of you seem to think that you're entitled to a good job with good benefits and generous vacation and retirement plans for no better reason than being Born in the USA. I have very bad news for you, Sunshine. Most of you are going to have to start in entry-level jobs with bad pay, minimal benefits, and not much in the way of vacation or retirement, either. Everyone starts someplace, and most of us start at the bottom unless we can convince our employers we deserve something better. Usually that involves having some kind of useful skill (Excel, AP/AR software, explosives disposal, unclogging toilets) that allows them to justify to their boss the additional expense of making you, say, an Accountant I instead of a Cashier (Part-Time).

Nobody rides for free. Remember those shiny new credit cards with the really attractive introductory rates and the zero-interest balance transfer privileges? The issuing banks are not giving you those cards because they think you're pretty or because the White Privilege Establishment told them to. They expect the money they fronted you with that card to be paid back - and you'll be appalled how fast they can jack up the interest on those cards and how fast your monthly payments can balloon. Why? Because they're in this for the money, and you agreed to let them do it when you took out the card, biotch! Oh, yeah: forget about bankruptcy saving your butt. Uncle Sam made sure your student loans weren't covered by Chapter 7, and unless you're living under a bridge with no job and no food, your chances of getting Chapter 7 instead of Chapter 13 are pretty much zilch. Eat your ramen and pay your bills, sucker.
Generally speaking, credit cards are t3h suck, because they will drain you of money faster than just about anything besides crack or meth.

This is your life on drugs. Maybe you're one of the people who can do recreational chemicals in moderation and lead a productive life. The odds are you aren't, and finding out can be really, really expensive, painful, embarrassing, or all three. Maybe things will change; the odds are they won't.

Violent and mouthy !=living long and prospering You notice most of the rappers who are still alive are either very young or have moved on to other things after making their big hit? You notice most of the really famous ones are dead? Think about that for a while, and let me know if this thug lifestyle is really what you want. Waiting until somebody empties their nine into your ass may be a little too late. Oh yeah, girls? How many middle-aged rap girls are there? For that matter, how many of those big-time rappers have a happy wife holding down the home front? There's a reason a lot of the sisters can't find any decent brothers to make a family with, yahmeen? That goes double for you whiggers and mudsharks, by the way. Enimem ain't no Frank Sinatra, and I'm not even sure he's Chuck D.

There are all kinds of ways to fail in America, and I've just picked out the ones I've observed firsthand or seen at close range. There's also no guarantee that anyone will be there to pick you up when you fall, broken families being more the norm today than otherwise and friends not always being willing or able to give a hand either. Life has always been hard, but for a few decades there was this notion going around that everybody could get a house on Easy Street and the hard times were over. Times change. If you're smart, you'll keep that in mind and be ready to move on.

Thus endeth the lesson.

*Yeah, we're pretty fond of that emotion, and we're probably going to hell because of it. At least it won't be the Special Hell, though, and I'm pretty sure I can get early release to Purgatory due to extenuating circumstances and mitigating factors.


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 12th, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)
Of the thousands of people I have met in my life, exactly two of them are doing what they love for a living.


Of course, that's still sucky odds, and your point still stands. *grin*
Jan. 12th, 2006 10:23 pm (UTC)
I'll concede that your main squeeze is #3, but last I heard your main cashflow was coming from General Mills, God bless their golden wheat and their oat-brain head.
Jan. 12th, 2006 10:27 pm (UTC)
I am first and foremost a datahead, my dear. I'd go insane if I was only doing art for a living.
Jan. 12th, 2006 11:03 pm (UTC)
Okay, you're #4. *grumbles*
Jan. 13th, 2006 07:08 am (UTC)

Of course, I own my own businesses, so I'd be an idiot not to be doing something I love, because I chose those businesses.
For the record, I'm a Financial Advisor and a Firearms Instructor. I'll teach you how to get more money, and how to keep it when people try to take it from you. ;-)
Jan. 13th, 2006 01:36 pm (UTC)
Okay, you're #6.

Owning your own business isn't necessarily the same thing as doing something you love. Plenty of family businesses have been killed by the younger generation not really caring about the business and screwing it up in one way or another, but that's obviously not the case with you.
Jan. 12th, 2006 11:23 pm (UTC)
As much as I agree with your points, Scott does seem to love what he's doing.
Jan. 13th, 2006 03:55 am (UTC)
Okay, we're up to five out of how many thousands?
Jan. 13th, 2006 12:09 am (UTC)
I am doing absolutely nothing related to my college degree. But because I'm a fast learner, a hard worker and seem to have a natural aptitude for math, I have a fairly decent job that pays the bills and allows for some extras as well. Since college (1980 grad) the longest I've been without a steady income was eight months. I've worked for everything I have and haven't expected anybody to give me anything. There ain't no free lunch.

As far as doing what I love, since my name isn't J.K. Rowling (and I don't have even 0.001% of her talent), it'll never be enough to live on.

Of course, who knows what will happen if I run into Nobutoshi Canna in Hawaii. . . Yeah, right. When pigs fly. . .
Jan. 13th, 2006 03:56 am (UTC)
I am doing absolutely nothing related to my college degree.

Me neither, really - most of the courses that went into my liberal arts BA were military history, government, and law courses.
Jan. 13th, 2006 05:20 am (UTC)
While my employer itself could be a bit better, I am working in the field I studied in.
Jan. 13th, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)
Yes, which makes you one of the people that section doesn't apply to. OTOH, is graphic design really what you wanted to do for a living? If you won the Powerball tomorrow, would you still show up to work because it's something you enjoy doing?
Jan. 14th, 2006 06:46 pm (UTC)
I decided back in 6th grade that I wanted to do something in the field of art as my career. I wouldn't stay in my current job if I won the powerball. What I would do is pursue other creative interests of my own if I didn't have to worry about money..
Jan. 14th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
That's pretty cool. I'm glad you're not one of these people who draws a hard line between "art" and commercial illustration/graphic design.
Jan. 13th, 2006 06:12 am (UTC)
This is going down in my memories. Who knows, I could be super-sizing value meals myself some day. I don't know where I'm going in life. Just hope it isn't under a bridge.
Jan. 13th, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC)
Just hope it isn't under a bridge.

I think you have enough friends so that's not really a possibility. *hugs*
Jan. 15th, 2006 05:15 pm (UTC)
Jan. 15th, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC)
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )



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