Millennials: Entitled? Or Simply Screwed?

Sometimes, as a Millennial, I get really resentful.  I get tired of the image of our generation being soft and entitled.  I’m tired of being told that we need to just “get on with it”.  This idea that we were simply given too many participation ribbons as children.

The fact is that the world has changed in the past decade… And Millennials are the fodder.

Tutitions began to rise and we came out  of university with record levels of debt.

Jobs, good and steady jobs, became a thing of the past, replaced by contracts that start and stop, and give very little security.

And, housing, dear God, housing.  In the Lower Mainland one can’t win.  Renting is too much.  Owning is too much.  We buy these little places, our small foothold into the market, and then can’t move up.

We put off marriage, babies, as we attempt to get a grip.

Millennials were sold the same picture as previous generations.  University degree, good job, house, marriage, kids.  Two cars in the driveway and retirement.  We are having to adjust our expectations sharply:  fair enough.

I don’t want a house with a two car garage and a yard.  Frankly, I hate yard work.  The  problem is that what I want (and what I hear my friends asking for) doesn’t exist.  We should be able to find high density family friendly homes.  A three bedroom apartment.  A co-housing community.  A townhouse complex with some grounds space and community gardens.  A home built specifically to use space well.  A day care that isn’t going to take up the lion’s share of our monthly income.  There are parts of the world that do this.

In North America it doesn’t exist.  It will.  For the generation coming after us.

We’re the fodder in between.  We are the transition point.

Many of us are only able to get into this housing market by piggybacking on our parents real estate “wealth”.  Their gains in this insane housing market have become our down payments, our ticket in.

What about those whose parents don’t have the ability to help?  It’s a systemic issue that excludes more and more people from “getting in”.  Hard work is no longer enough.

The argument that one should simply move somewhere less expensive makes me crazy too.  We can’t all pack up and leave.  What will happen to our communities?  Should we leave our aging parents all by themselves?  Youth, and families, create vibrancy.

I am 32 years old.  I have student loans from 5 years ago that should be paid off in 3 years.  I own my apartment.  I have a good job, a pension, security.  I am very, very lucky.

And yet I lay awake at night wondering how much longer I can put off having a family.  (That biological clock gets most insistent as the years slip away).  I wonder how I can afford a home that is functional for a family.  I am frustrated because, as an older millennial, I know that I am in a much better position than those born after me.

As much as many seem to point the fingers at the generations who’ve come before us… I don’t think that’s healthy.  I think that our position is unfortunate.  I think that our communities as a whole are suffering.  I wish I saw more action to make life here manageable for families.

I have faith that we are moving in a better direction.  I think that we are going to figure this out.

I think this is a post about housing.  About feeling stuck.  About the woman putting her laundry away at 5 am above my head as I stare at the ceiling, praying for those last two hours of sleep.  About yearning for a family (and a place to put them).  About realizing that I need less than I ever thought I did… But knowing that I’m not quite there.

 

https://thetyee.ca/News/2015/06/23/Millennial-Families-Priced-Out/

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/millennial-housing-1.3444095

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/hsbc-housing-survey-1.4002458

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/23/uk-and-canada-closing-the-door-on-millennial-home-ownership-hsbc-study.html

 

All the Choir Ladies…

1997 wasn’t a good year for me.  I had too-short hair, glasses.  I was all hormones, and looking back now, I realize a good dose of depression and anxiety.  I couldn’t fit inside my skin.  I think most 12 year old’s understand that feeling.  That feeling of being out of place, uncomfortable, awkward.  1997 isn’t a year I look back on fondly.

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Me, at 12.

But one good  thing happened in 1997.  In 1997 I went to a choir.  A little group rehearsing in an old church in White Rock.  And there I met Sarona.

I think we all have those people if we are lucky.  Those few people who come into our lives and leave a mark. Leave us better than they found us.

Sarona was one of those people for me.

Sarona took us from being kids.  From being geeks, or loners, or losers, or invisible.  She took us and she made us into singers.

She taught us to work hard.  To do what we said we were going to do.  She taught us to stand up in a room full of people and sing our hearts out.

From Sarona I learned a work ethic.

From Sarona I learned how to fit into my  skin better – she always seemed to fit so well into hers.  

Several months ago I got an email that Sarona, my choir director,  was moving away and would no longer be directing the choir that I spent so much time in from about 1997-2003.  This woman who had taught me so so much was having a final concert and they were looking for alumni to sing.  I joined immediately.

And I found myself in a room with women I hadn’t seen since we were girls, teenagers.  Women who had been there at a critical moment in my life.  I found myself in a room with the women I had grown up with.  Women who were some of the first I told when I kissed a boy.  When I… more than kissed a boy.

And so we sang.  We sang for Sarona because we love her.  Each and every one of us talked about how this woman, this one woman, had taken us and given us a place to belong at an age when so few have that and so many need it.  She had given us a safe place.  Those words, “safe place”, came up again and again as we talked about her.

I sat in a coffee shop with two of these women on the afternoon of the concert.  Between us we had 3 marriages, 2 divorces, 6 children.  Our lives had taken us in directions that we could not have predicted.  And the mark that Sarona left hadn’t faded for any of us.  We all recognized the critical impact she had had on our lives.

So I sang.  I got up on a stage and I sang.  And we sang the old songs, songs I hadn’t sung in over a decade.  The songs came back as if there’d been no time.

It was like I was seventeen again.  Standing in my blue velvet dress, matching scrunchy in my hair, a single strand of pearls around my neck.  It was like I was on an adventure.  Like we’d just rushed out of some tour bus onto stage.  I thought about all of those moments and all of those children.  Young women, young men who had been given a safe place.  Who’d gotten to sing.

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Me, (and the blue dress), at 16.

Singing, music, is a powerful thing.  It bridges our differences.  It connects us.  It’s a beauty that is desperately needed in the world right now.

So I sang.

When the women’s choir said they were accepting new members I knew that that was the place for me.  I’ve been rehearsing with this group for a few months now.  Sarona’s mark is there even though she is gone.  It’s in some of the old songs people pick up.  It’s in the warm ups and the movement.  I’ve sung with other choirs in the past decade but none that have felt so much like home.

I look back and I see that 12 year old girl with the too-short hair and glasses.  The girl who couldn’t fit inside her skin.  A  girl whose hormones were spilling over.  A girl who was anxious, about everything and nothing.  A girl who felt so so alone, all day, everyday, at school.

I look back on that girl and I wonder who she would have become if she hadn’t found her spot.  If she hadn’t found her safe space to be, to exist.  To be seen and to be loved for who she was.  To be told that it was okay to be a little bit different.

That 12 year old girl has been trained away.  She has found a space and a voice and a way to fit in her skin.

But she’s always going to be under there.  And she’s always going to be grateful for Sarona.  Grateful that she came in and changed her life.

Christmas Traditions…

I picked up my sister and brother in law from the airport on Friday night (a couple hours later than planned due to a lost bag incident).  They are in town from Montreal area to celebrate Christmas with us.

I picked them up, as I have done so many times before, well after 10 pm.  We loaded into the car and headed for “home” knowing that there would be a spread on the table of crackers and cheeses and pickles and sausages (from the hole-in-the-wall with the good kielbasa) and cider/beer chilling in a cooler in the garage.  We had our drinks, our snack, and all retired for the evening.

Christmas-eve-morning we sat and drank coffee (with Bailey’s) then headed out for some last minute shopping.  We did a long walk in Fort Langley and hit a brewery we hadn’t yet tried.  We had our traditional seafood feast for Christmas Eve dinner.  Christmas morning was coffee (with Bailey’s), impossible bacon pie, the slow unwrapping of gifts, a snack that matched Friday night (now with the welcome addition of Christmas baking), and a huge turkey dinner.  I skedaddled for a few hours to visit my boyfriend’s family in Richmond where they were doing much of the same things.

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My point is that Christmas is seeped in tradition with my family.  Our Christmas day looks much the same now as it did 25 years ago.  The same foods, the same rhythms.  Christmas is a rhythm for me.  A familiar pattern that repeats itself each year.

And I love it.

At Christmas I do not want the unique.  I want to feel my loved ones all around me.  I want to sit and chat and laugh (and eat).  There is magic in this time of year.  A magic that comes from love, and family, and repeated patterns.  It is in the lights of the tree as the reflect on the wall.  It is in the friends that gather.  It is in the games that we play and the music we sing.

My boyfriend convinced my sister and I to head to midnight mass with him on Christmas Eve.  We three are all agnostic’s but we wanted to hear the Christmas story, take a moment of peace to reflect.  We sang hymns and carols and the mass ended with a candlelit walk out of the church as a hundred people raised their voices, singing Silent Night.  It was a powerful moment.

Christmas will change over the years.  It will grow and shift.  I hope that sometime soon we (my sister, me, one of us, or both) will have little ones running around, making the quiet morning of coffee and chatter infinitely more chaotic.  I don’t expect that every year we will be together – but I hope that, for many, we are.

I am sitting this morning, watching the snow fall, my Christmas jammies still on, the Anne of Green Gables scarf my Dad gave me wound around my neck.  I am reflecting on these past few days of peace, these upcoming days of crazy fun, and I am hoping that all of you have some of the same moments this magical season.

Love you all,

M.

Who Says You Can’t Go Back?

About five months ago my building announced that we needed a new roof which resulted in a “special” assessment of a couple thousand dollars.  Two weeks later I took my car in because it was making a funny noise and found out that it needed (more than) a few thousand dollars worth of work.

I patched the car up as best I could and I started saving for the special assessment.  But my budget is pretty tight and, even though I’d known about it for lots of time, I was struggling.  The car was hanging over my head like a guillotine.  A few more things happened that were comparatively minor but still significant… And I realized that I was in over my head.

So I thought through my options and asked Mommy and Daddy if I could come home for a bit.

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Taking on debt wasn’t an option.  And I simply couldn’t come up with the several thousand dollars needed over such a short period of time.

Living in the lower mainland isn’t easy.  My mortgage, taxes, strata and utilities take up about 46% of my net each month.  If you amortize the cost of the new roof over say, a two year period, we are at 50%.  So.  50% of my net over the past two years has gone towards housing.  Then there is car insurance, cell phone, fuel… It’s all rather a lot.

(I’m going to be fully honest here and tell you that I also eat out too often and have far too much clothing hanging in my closet.  These are my vices.  Giving them up would not have made the difference in this scenario.)

Because I get steady salary increases each year I am not concerned by the long term.  I was concerned by this moment, here and now, and how to get through it.

And I was really, really lucky to still have parents who could lend me a room for a few months.

So I’ve rented my non-rental strata unit out to a couple of girls who wanted to try living on the west coast for a few months.  And I’m going through the, rather humiliating, process of convincing my strata that, yes, this is my only option.

I’m sitting in the small upstairs bedroom of my parents house surrounded by too much stuff feeling pretty shitty about myself but also pretty grateful.  And the dinner that Mom made was pretty damn delicious.

Sigh.

Here’s the thing.  I’m going to turn 32 while I’m living with my parents.  I’m not a kid anymore.  I’m a grown-ass-woman and I feel like I’m failing.  I feel like I’m screwing up in a bunch of different parts of my life.  I feel like I am self-sabotaging with the best of them.

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My reboot was going well.  Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.  Too many things converged all at the same moment and I found myself crying on the drive home wondering aloud why I couldn’t do anything right.

The thing is that I can do stuff right.  (I swear!!!)  It was just too much, all at once.  It was the feeling you get when you know that one more thing will break you.

Mom and I were struggling yesterday to pack the large and unwieldy cat tower into her truck.  It wouldn’t fit and I kept having to crawl into the back, (in a work dress, pantyhose and heels, because what else does one wear when moving?), and I kept thinking about how many people in my life had offered to help me.  And how I had stubbornly said “No, I’ve got this”.  And how that meant that my poor Mother and I were now giggling helplessly and slightly hysterically at our failure to lift this heavy damn tower.

I was able to ask my parents for help when I needed it.  But I’m rarely able to ask anyone else.  This is a problem.  Asking for help is so incredibly scary.  It makes one raw, vulnerable.  Saying “No, I don’t have this” is a terrifying thing for me.

I have always hated admitting that I don’t know how to do something.  It is crippling for me to try something for a first time and have to admit that I need help.  Anything from an exercise class to using a compass card.  Stupid things that shouldn’t be embarrassing!  I will research it, I will barrel through.  I will not admit I don’t know.  I will not ask for help. Even when help is willingly, lovingly offered, I often will not accept it.

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It’s not an attractive quality my friends.

I feel like each and every moment of my life I am one shown weakness away from… What?  People not loving me anymore?  My friends know my weaknesses, my failings.  My family does too.  None of them love me less for these things.

It’s something I’m working on.

This “Extraordinary, Ordinary, Life”…

If you have known me for more than roughly 5 minutes the chances are good that I have sat you down to watch the movie About Time.  It is my favourite movie, I think it is genuinely brilliant, and I think that every single person should take a couple of hours to watch it.

**Spoiler Alert**

The movie is pretty simple.  It goes beyond your average love story because… It is about family.  About the rhythms and patterns we create with those we love.  

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Now, the movie was written and directed by Richard Curtis, the same guy who created Love Actually.  We won’t hold that against him.  (To be clear, I have an irrational dislike of Love Actually).  

Our main character is Tim who discovers, on his 21st birthday, that he is able to travel through time to places within his own life.  (As are all the men in his family).

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Tim decides to use his powers to find love.  And, of course, he finds it.

He meets the girl, he loves the girl, he marries the girl.  There’s no hesitation in Tim.  He’s… earnest.  It’s lovely.

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(Tim is played by Domhnall Gleeson who is absolutely yummy.  It’s worth watching the movie for this fact alone).

I question sometimes why it is that I find this movie so captivating.

These characters fall for each other and move ahead.  They have babies because they want them.  They joke about how broke they are and how they can’t afford the house that the babies have forced them to buy.  They have one of the most disastrous weddings of all time.  They fight.  Their hearts are broken in the ways that everyone has their heart broken.  They lean on one another in the ways that one should be able to lean on a partner.

Aside from the ridiculously beautiful family home and the abnormally good looking lead characters… The characters feel normal for me.  The life that they live is something that I want to build for myself one of these days.  It feels real.  It feels ordinary.

We are a hesitant generation.  And, don’t get me wrong, taking time is good and smart.  But do we need to wait 3 years?  4?  5?  10?

I talk to my parents and their generation and everyone seems to echo the same thought… They just did it.  They met, fell in love, married, had kids.  They don’t talk about agonizing in the same way that we do.

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This movie is about the ordinary moments and that captivates me because life is about ordinary moments.  It is about fights and power outages and time spent giggling on the couch.

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Ramblings on… Ick… Love.

I’m so frustrated and disillusioned with men and dating and love in general.  I don’t think that I’m looking for anything that rare or unusual.  I see people with it all the time… And sometimes I want to shake them and ask… What did you do right?!  TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!

Sometimes I get mad about the fact that I spent almost 13 years investing myself in a relationship that crashed and burned so spectacularly that even the most innocent bystanders ended up singed.  I get mad at the girl I used to be, the choices that I made, the mouse that I became.  I get mad that, at 31, I’m trying to figure out dating and love and having all these experiences that I should have had in my twenties.

I get mad that I don’t have any idea what I’m doing.

I get mad that I’m not completely satisfied being on my own.

I get mad that I’m mad.

 

It seems whiny to me that I’m upset by this.  That I’m frustrated by my seeming inability to get it right.  After all: I’ve barely been single.  What do I have to complain about?

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Maybe it’s disillusionment.  I did everything that I was “supposed” to do.  I don’t think that I asked for too much.  And it was a disaster.

I know that there are lessons in all this and I’ve spent the last couple of years trying hard to learn them.  I know that I am a stronger, more independent woman than I was.  I like myself for the first time.

I don’t need a man.  I own my home, I have a career.  I pay my bills and have enough money leftover for dinners out or craft supplies, or whatever my current priority is.  I’m busy to the point that I have to schedule blocks of not-doing-anything time.

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And, if we’re being completely honest, I always have men in my life.  Companionship is never a problem and I enjoy this piece of dating.  Getting to know someone, the excitement of a first kiss, these are all good things.  (And if I want sex?… I can have good sex.)

The thing is, the sad thing is… This isn’t enough for me.  If I was on the other side of my life, if I’d had the (good) marriage and the babies, this would be enough.  It would be great.

But I haven’t had those things.  I haven’t lived the life that I want.  I’ve been gently accused in the past of only wanting the “white picket fence” because that is what society taught me I should want… Well… Fuck that.  I want it.

And maybe I’ll never get it.  That doesn’t mean that I will stop trying.

It seems to me that, for the men I’ve known so far: I`ve easy to want.  Just not enough to want to keep.  Eventually someone will want me… And will want to keep me.

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I should probably mention here that my heart is currently wrapped in so much protection it would take an expert to find it.  Let alone make it beat.  My big, soft, heart-on-my-sleeve has hidden itself away and I don`t know how to find it.

My point here?  I’m single.  I’m not entirely happy with that status.  I’m not entirely sure that I want to change it.  I’m not entirely sure how to change it.  I’m not entirely sure that I should change it.

I have no idea what I’m doing.  Someone get me a map!

Mother Dearest…

I remember once, when I was 12, and too many hormones were filling my body, and I felt friendless and odd and left out, my Mom picked me up at school at the start of lunch and took me to McDonalds.  I remember that this brief reprieve from a world that felt so overwhelming felt like it lasted for hours.  I remember wishing that we could do this every single day.  I remember feeling grown up and loved having my lunch break out with my Mom.  I remember that we talked about how I was feeling at school and what it was like for me.  I remember feeling so hopeful after that lunch.

My Mom, and so many of the other Moms in my life, is such an incredible woman.  These women balance family and friends and careers.  They look after everyone else and often overlook themselves.  They are beautiful and motivating and they inspire me every single day.

As I watch so many of my friends take that plunge into motherhood I watch their grace with amazement.  I watch how they shift into this new role and I am awed by their capacity for love and care.

My Mom has always been in my corner.  Even when she didn’t love my decisions, even when my propensity for a messy home and too few vegetables drove her crazy, she was there.

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If I am ever lucky enough to join her in motherhood I hope that I am as graceful, as loving, as kind and as fun.  I learned so much about how to be a woman, how to be a person, from my Mom.

Thanks aren’t really enough but: Thanks.  Love you.