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.

My Brand of Crazy…

Yesterday A and I were out and about.  It started with a lazy morning (for me: he went grocery shopping and to the gym before I’d even crawled out of bed…).  I drank too much tea, talked to my sister, read a book.  Stayed in my jammies until noon.  Was made a breakfast of bacon, kale fried in bacon (yay, we had veggies!), and pancakes.

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Early afternoon we headed to White Rock.  We were going to a cafe, for a walk.  A lazy day in the sun.

It devolved into a shopping trip.  I needed sunglasses.  And a new outfit.  Poor A.  He was a total trooper.

(Particularly when I decided to change into my new clothing in the car and I was wearing just a t-shirt and thong in the passenger seat.  He maneuvered through traffic as I struggled to pull up, and do up, a pair of tight new blue jeans without jostling the stick shift.)

(… giggles…)

The plan was to go to the beach for a walk in the beautiful sunshine.

Turns out we had different ideas of what that plan would look like.

See, A thought that we would park at the top of White Rock and walk down.

I thought that that sounded like the worst idea in the history of the world and I was wearing a new outfit and did he think that I wanted to get all sweaty and gross and if he saw how out of shape I was he would definitely stop loving me.  And I would really prefer it if he didn’t stop loving me Thank You Very Much.  

The result was that we went to the beach.  In a car.  On the first really beautiful day of the year.

Oh, did I mention that yesterday was a holiday in BC?

30 minutes later we were still crawling along the waterfront, no parking spots in sight, no way out.  A was feeling grumpy.  I was doing the nervous babbling that I do when men get grumpy.

(I should pause here and mention that A’s version of grumpy is almost unrecognizable unless you know him.  He just gets quiet.  He continues to be his usual patient and kind self.  Just quieter with occasional proclamations about all the things he’d rather be doing than driving at that very moment.)

We finally made it off the strip, parked up by my apartment building and wandered the neighbourhood.  We found a new brewery bar that we got pretty excited about and chatted with the owner.  We wandered around until his grumpiness, and my nervousness, had faded.

I explained how anxious I was about having to walk up a giant hill with him.  About the extent to which it filled me with dread.  Even trying to explain I could feel the tears just under the surface, the humiliation and shame about my body.  The panic that that humiliation and shame leads to.

Yesterday I revealed a few things about myself:

  • If I say I hate my outfit when we leave the house in the morning there’s a good chance that I’ll suggest a quick stop at the sales racks…
  • When I know someone is grumpy I get nervous and giggly and rambly – no matter how much I trust that that person is going to remain kind and good.  I’m working on it.  (Pretty sure he’s known this one for a long time actually.)
  • My issues with my body go far beyond just not liking the way that it looks.  I have a dread of the way that it functions.  It’s an issue that is going to take a long time to work through.

I learned a lot about him through this experience too.  But that’s mine to keep.

We went to dinner at a friends, met some new people.  Had interesting conversation with great food and wine.  Stopped on the way home to buy a bag of candy to go with a final beer.

Yesterday was a good day.  A day of learning and a day of laughter and a day of fun.   The type of day that leaves one smiling and hopeful, whatever the struggles you may have.

I hope your family day was as well spent my friends.

 

Shifting Selves…

The first man who loved me: loved the idea of me.

I was the Wife.  A character in the picture of a perfect life.  (That’s what it felt like anyways.)

I was sixteen when I met this man and he was twenty-three.  I had never really drunk alcohol, or gone to parties.  I had only ever kissed one boy.

Suddenly I was in a grown up relationship.

(I wasn’t a grown up).

I’m never sure how much ownership I should take for this relationship.  Because, yes, it did start this way.  But I was a grown up when I married him.  I was a grown up when I stayed with him.

When I look back at the self I was with this man I see a petulant, anxious, spoiled, scared little brat.  I was frozen in time.  I didn’t grow as a person.  I grew into myself, curled up in a ball.  I don’t like the self I was when I was with him.

He wasn’t good for me, and I certainly wasn’t good for him.  The self that I was when I was with him?  I wasn’t good for anyone.

The end of this relationship felt like relief.

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The second man who loved me was a good, kind man.  He knew me well, I think.

We had fun.  We had passion.  We were connected.

When I look back at the self I was with this man I see a woman growing into herself, learning, changing, opening her mind.  She’s still anxious and scared, all the time.  She’s a bit of a pain in the ass.  She’s trying so hard to be enough.

There is less to say about this relationship because it was good.  It was fun.

He was good for me, he pulled me out of my shell. I don’t think I was as good for him.

The end of this relationship gutted me in a way that I had never been gutted.  It made me stronger.  I got sad, then mad.  Then I let it go.

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I am a pain in the ass, to be honest.  I am anxious.  I fall too hard and too fast.  I am quiet when I should speak up.  I am self conscious.  I will cry after a day of shopping because I feel fat and disgusting.  I text way too often.

I am also warm and kind and sexy and funny.  I am smart.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to mold myself into what men have wanted me to be.  (What I thought they wanted me to be.)

I have been patient when they were uncertain.  When they didn’t call or disappeared for days at a time.  I have stared at the phone and prayed for it to ring.  Wondered how I could be sexier, funnier, smarter.  How I could be enough to make them want to keep me.

(I once had a guy I was seeing tell me he would really want to be with me – if I lost 30 pounds.  And I laughed.  I agreed with him.)

Recently I stopped wanting to do that.  I don’t have the energy anymore.

I didn’t grow much in my twenties.  The worst of me, the self-conscious girl who didn’t like herself, was the part the flourished.  Suddenly, at 29, the world opened up and those voices started to fade.  Almost three years later I can’t recognize who that girl was.  I have dreams sometimes that I wake up and am back there and I can’t breathe.

The self that I am today is nothing like the self that I was with the first, or the second, man who loved me.  I’ve grown, shifted, more than I knew I could.  I’m a better person by far.

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Suddenly I’m in a relationship that feels simple.  A relationship that feels secure.  A relationship where I feel like I’m enough.  There are no guarantees.  There never are.  But it feels good.  I don’t feel like I’m compromising any piece of my self.

The beautiful thing is that I don’t know who I’m going to be in another 5 years.  10.  But I know that I’ll continue to shift, refine.  Grow more into the self that I know I can be.

…”Do You Spend Lots of Time on Your Knees?”

When I was 19 I got a job working at a car dealership as an accounts payable clerk.  It was a couple days per week, while I was going to school full time, oh, and working a second job as an office manager in downtown Vancouver.  I was a busy, busy girl.

I don’t remember much about this job, it was so long ago.  But I do have one very clear memory.  I was filing a pile of invoices, kneeling on the floor, when one of the salesmen, a much older man, came wandering over.  He placed his body directly in front of me so that I was trapped between him, the cabinet, and the wall.  His crotch was at eye level about four inches from touching my face.  He laughed and asked if I spent lots of time on my knees.

I could see past him to several other men who worked there watching and laughing.

I just remember turning bright red, forcing myself to laugh, and responding with some inane remark.  I remember feeling trapped, uncomfortable, and beyond angry.  I remember thinking that I needed to keep my cool so as to avoid making the situation worse.  I left that job quickly.

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A few years later I had a boss who would stand behind my deck, close, breathing down my neck.  Literally.  I remember that whenever I went into his office he would ask me questions aggressively about the file that I was working on and then interrupt the moment that I attempted to explain, as if I was the stupidest girl he’d ever been forced to deal with.  I remember that after almost every single meeting I would go into the bathroom and shake and cry in one of the stalls for several minutes until I could calm down from the way this man spoke to me.  I remember that there was a couple of other women who did the same thing.

I remember my boss Greg.  Greg owned a small accounting firm and I was his only employee.  It was just Greg and I most of the time.  I was in my early twenties and worked for Greg for a number of years as I completed my degree.

Greg was an incredible boss.  

He was a few years older than me.  He mentored me, believed in me.  He paid me a fair wage and gave me a ridiculously generous bonus each Christmas.

If I was struggling with a class Greg would offer to help.  He would give me time off for exams.  If I did something wrong Greg would teach me.  Greg didn’t mansplain, or bully, or stand too close.  He didn’t stare at my breasts and ass when he thought I wouldn’t notice.  (Or when he knew I would).

There are good men in this world.  Lots and lots of them and I have been blessed to have many in my life.

I have also had some pretty awful men in my life.  Without the good men I don’t know if I would have realized that they were treating me badly.  It’s easy to become used to this behaviour and brush it off as “locker room talk”.

It’s not locker room talk.  Or.  It shouldn’t be.

I am not a political person.  I don’t watch debates or hold strong policy opinions.  When it is time to vote I look around, find out who matches best with my values, drop a ballot into a box and wait until the next time.

But I watched the debate last night.  I watched the debate last night because it was all we could talk about at book club earlier in the week (this was pre-“grabbed her by the p*ssy”) and already all we were talking about was feminism and Trumps attitude towards women.  We were despairing that Hilary might not make it, even though people don’t want Trump because, for some men, it would just be too hard to vote for a woman.

And I know nothing about US politics, okay?!  I don’t want to hear about policy.  Trump is a racist, and a sexist, and I think that that alone should disqualify him.

Hilary is going to win.  I have too much faith in humanity to believe otherwise.

But I think that something even more powerful is going to come out of this.

We are talking about it.  We are talking about our own “grabbed her by the p*ssy” moments.  We are saying: we are done smiling when uncomfortable.

It won’t happen overnight.  Two months ago, on a first date, a man pinched my nipples so hard he left a bruise.  (He did not have permission to touch my nipples).  I left and the next day told him he had made me very uncomfortable.  I left it at that because, what else is there to do?

A quote from Amy Schumer…

“Most women I know that I’m close to have had a sexual experience that they were really uncomfortable [with]. If it wasn’t completely rape, it was something very similar to rape. And so I say it’s not all black and white. There’s a gray area of rape, and I call it ‘grape.’ It’s the guy you went home with in college, and you said, ‘No,’ and then he still did it, or maybe you woke up and it was someone you were dating. …

“There’s just so many different things that can happen, so it’s not always this, ‘Well, you’re going to jail and that’s it.’ There’s other stuff where it’s like, ‘Wow, it would be so much work, and it would be such a life-changer for me to … press charges or take any action against this person.’ But every girl I know has had some experience that is kind of like ‘grape.’ “

(There is a really great article about “grape” here).

Mine wasn’t “grape”, I left and he let me, but it was kind of… Assault-Light?

My point.  What’s my point again?

We are in a culture where every single woman I know has a story about grape, about their “grabbed her by the p*ssy” moment(s), and we don’t talk about it.

And, suddenly, the conversation, uncomfortable as some might find it, has opened up.

So let’s talk about it.  All those good men in our world, you guys need to talk about it too.

Let’s make it clear that it isn’t something we are okay with.

That we aren’t going to stay quiet anymore.

(Even if it just means telling that man from work that, no, you don’t spend a lot of time on your knees).

It Scares Me a Little…

The past few weeks of my “Reset” have gone really well.  I’ve been getting enough sleep, working out, eating well.  I haven’t been perfect but perfect isn’t my aim.  I’ve been looking after myself and I feel good about that.

Problem is… My pain is bad lately.

It’s everywhere.  In my head, neck, face, shoulders, arms, elbows, hands.  And it seems that every second day or so it flares up to unbearable.  It makes me grumpy and frustrated.

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It doesn’t help that a loud person recently bought the apartment above me.  She seems to like coming home inebriated at 12, 1, or 2 am and staying up for hours, wandering from room to room.

 

On nights when I don’t get enough sleep my pain is always high the following day.  And that creates a mild panic when I know I’m being kept up.  Which loops around and keeps me from falling asleep.

My doctor has never really come up with a good explanation for my issues with pain.  (My doctor is also completely useless so coming up with a good explanation is probably way beyond his abilities).  It isn’t just migraines.  It is pain in the tissues of my entire upper body.

It’s been a couple of years since I was having frequent bouts of pain that are centered in the tissues and not in the head.  I’m not sure why it is happening now?  I know that stress sets it off and that has been a major problem during the most stressful times in my life.  But.  I’m in a good place.  So.  Why?

It scares me if I’m honest.  It makes me feel trapped within my body.  There is something about pain that makes one feel panicked… Because you cannot escape it.  It’s something inside of you that you cannot claw out.  You have no option but to go through it.

This pain isn’t the end of the world.  It is so much less than the pain that so many people deal with every single day.  But it is a problem and it does have a significant impact on the things that I am able to do.  I know that I need to get lots of sleep, especially when the pain is flaring.  Sometimes I need to be lazy, like: really really lazy.

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The worst part about this is that it’s so difficult to talk about.  I hesitate to post about it because I think it sounds like I’m looking for sympathy or throwing myself a pity party.  I’m not.  This is what it is and in the big picture my pain isn’t the end of the world.  It is something that I need to get better about, something that I need to deal with.

I think we all have these things that we carry around with us.  We get frustrated with that friend who is always late for drinks, or the person who has stopped returning our calls.  We frown over that colleague who never joins in when we go for after work drinks.  It’s important to stop and wonder why.

Sure, some people are simply flaky and we need to love that about them (or cut them from our life).

But I suspect that more often people drop away because they are dealing with something.  Something that maybe they don’t want to talk about.  Or don’t know how to talk about.

I think we all need to cut one another a little slack.  Stop judging and start wondering.  Offer support where we can.  Lean when we need. Assume that most people really are doing the best that they can with what they have to offer the world.

Bridget Jones’s Baby…

I woke up this morning, a headache pulsing, low and threatening, at the base of my skull.

I had big plans for today involving the beach and a blanket and a bucket of fish and chips.  Instead I ate cold leftover lasagna for breakfast (and then lunch).  I took three baths in my tiny tub.  I had two naps.  Nothing touched the pain.  In fact, it began to build.

I finally got out of bed around 3 pm and decided that I was going to laugh my pain away with a good dose of Bridget Jones.

So I went to the movies.

I have to tell you all:  GO SEE BRIDGET JONES’S BABY!!!

It was so good to catch up with Bridget Jones.  She’s all grown up now and has finally reached her goal weight, but has maintained that quirky gets-nothing-quite-right attitude that made us all fall for her in the first place.

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(Points to anyone who really gets what is going on in this scene…)

There’s a scene at the start of the movie where she dances around her house with a large glass of wine singing all the lyrics to Jump Around that I’m fairly certain any woman living on her own will find very relate-able. (Also I may have caught myself singing along with Lily Allen’s Fuck You when the music abruptly cut off and my voice was, for a brief moment, the only sound in the theater.)  The soundtrack to this movie is absolutely fantastic.

Anyways.  Bridget Jones is having a baby.  She just doesn’t know who the father is.

(Cue lots of jokes about sex and semen and polyamory.)

It was completely charming.  And rather touching.

I liked that we are reunited with the stiff and awkward Mr Darcy who still adores Bridget and still can’t quite acknowledge it.  I fucking love Mr Darcy.  I liked Jack, the new guy on the scene, as the open and loving match who tries to sweep her off her feet.  I’m not going to spoil the ending and tell you who the father is, k?

It’s fun to find out.

I kind of wished that I’d brought my notebook to take down quotes as the movie went on but I’m sure that we’ll see lots of lines from the movie in our Pinterest quote feeds soon.  I did break out my pen and jot this one down though…

Sometimes you love a person for all the reasons they’re not like you.  Sometimes you love a person just because they feel like home.   – Bridget Jones

This seems to be a constant refrain for me here.  Looking for a love that feels like home.  For someone who fits in that way.  For someone who wants to have me (and keep me).

It takes a long time and lots of effort to know whether or not you want a person enough to keep them.  There’s always a risk.

It takes Bridget Jones until 43 to find home.

In conclusion?  I’m in my jammies now and the pain has migrated to the front of my face and filled the tissues of my upper back and shoulders.  Tonight is gonna suck.  But at least I got to see BJ’s Baby?!

This song is dedicated to my head:

(Warning, do not play with children in the room.)