20 June 2017
I must ride the heat wave; and, at times, I must work with my happy ignorance, instead of working against it in the earnest attempt to become an informed citizen, a compassionate mother and a clue-full (as opposed to clueless) observer of What Is Out There. When I first heard about the Snowflakes in our American society, I went with the idea of something, or Someone, unique — every crystal a One-of-A-Kind.
Dear Husband informed me that the Snowflake is a mocking term for a person, usually a college-age-kid, who cannot handle reality. He or she melts like a snowflake when hit with it.
What a gross disappointment to my view of the future!
And, with my view of the future, or of anything, I must be the Abominable Snowman to the Snowflake!
There is so much fear, texting and trembling going on Out There that I feel compelled to say that things are not that bad. Things were far worse in the 1970s when I was living in a rented room overrun by rats and cockroaches (the big black crunchy kind) in Washington, D.C., working three jobs, none of which were good; but the jobs paid the rent and paid for the boxed food from Safeway (which still remains one of the least desirable food lines at the checkout).
Dear Husband tells me that my tales of hardship and ha-ha-ha from the days of my crypt of early adulthood do not provide a sense of fortitude to the Youngins who hear them: they fill them with fear!
I really did not expect that reaction. I told those tales to buck up the backbones of my two adolescent children while they were looking at the Dot-com Bubble burst; the Housing Real Estate Balloon blowout (you’d think it was the Hindenburg bursting into flames — Oh! The Humanity!); and then, inevitably, the Stock Market tumbling to reality.
Those tales were quietly spun out with a bit of the sense of innocence and wonderment that a novelist like me gets whenever I recall those amazing details from my past. My rented room with rats and the bags and bags of moldy bread on the first floor of Fletcher’s House. The millionaire widower-owner of the brick townhouse, who was called Mr. Fletcher, “like the castoria,” he’d told me. I was told to suck up to this childless old man: he’d put me in his will. I shall not repeat what I told that Life Coach (which was known as a Career Adviser back then).
Mr. Fletcher was a character! Liver spots all over the bald pate that was clad in a Ushanka by winter, a straw, brimmed hat by summer; nose like an eagle; blind as a bat, except when he was deftly sliding your rent money into his long, leather billfold; known, at least by me, to take a nip of two of whiskey in his incredibly bare, dusty, but almost neon-white-washed kitchen at the rear of the first floor.
He was called The Birdman of D.C. because he walked faithfully every day with his wire-laundry cart of bread to feed the birds, his pigeons, in the parks throughout Northwest Washington. The entire parlor on the first floor of his 19th-century townhouse was filled with plastic bags of baked breads, mostly Wonder. It was a wonder not to smell the stench! And my allergy to mold must have responded with mucho alarm, but there was no way I was walking away from that scene! I simply scooted up the side-staircase, and around two landings, to the room at the rear of the third floor.
The 40-something secretary for the State Department lived in the room down the hallway from me, so I knew that I was not a failure at twenty-and-one for renting this room on the third floor that looked out onto a courtyard of elm and oak trees. Quite without my realizing it, while I described to my children those years of my life in northwest Washington, D.C., my mind was being mined for scenes for THE GHOST from memories of that room, from scenic scenarios, if not smells, of that brick house and the ivy and tree-laden courtyard with the green-painted door that led to a gardener’s storage shed.
The point here of those mystic memories is that they composed LIFE, a life, of sorts, for me. And I lived it as best I could. I was not ashamed of my station in life, low as it was. I did not deem myself a failure. I am an eager achiever but, at that time, I knew the mess the nation was in, the mess everyone was in, and though I had high expectations of what I wanted my life to become, I had fair-to-middling, even moderate-to-low, expectations of what life was going to bring me during those years.
I, and my abilities, were low-balled by just about everyone, but the puny world they inhabited didn’t mean that I was low or puny or a small fry. I recall one middle-aged man, a corporate suit at the Phone Company, sniffing at me when he learned I was headed for GWU: “So you want to be a big fish in a little pond.”
“No, sir,” I respectfully replied. “I want to be a big fish in a big pond. But I’m starting small with my big dreams.”
And I held my head high, which was an effort amidst the crazes and the crazies and the Legionnaire’s Disease and the plane hijackings and the crazies getting so high that today they are diseased and feel so hijacked by any reality that comes their way that they buy into the latest craze of health, climate, pot, pills, promises, potions. Some things never change.
With everything that was swirling around me, bitter cold snowflakes and all, I did not look upon my choices thus far and say, I MUST DO BETTER: FORTY LASHES IF I DON’T. Today’s Snowflakes would add, “There Must Be An App to Avoid That Fate!”
I knew I had to wait things out. My situation was dire, but it could have been worse: there was Aqualung. This gray-haired man, and the hair was long and matted into a braid at the back, wore a filthy three-piece suit, complete with grayed-white shirt, and striped tie. He slept on his cardboard plank atop the steam grate in front of the State Department building, the one with all of those flags that waved so brightly behind the News Reporter.
Aqualung had left the Camera Scene by the time the little megaphone and the hot-combed, overblown Media Type appeared. By then, Aqualung had moved on a few blocks, up to Quigley’s, the soda shop where I worked as a cashier, to buy his pack of cigarettes. You see, I’d left my Journalism Job to get higher pay as a cashier at a greasy-spoon soda shoppe.
Aqualung was the essence of a Gentleman to me. He would wait for me to make change on the antique cash register, and he would then nod to me after I’d placed the dirty pennies into his filthy palm. With the grace of a man of his generation (I took him to be about fifty in the mid-1970s), he would point at me his special index finger, the one with the super long, pointy fingernail that opened the cellophane on the package, to indicate I’d done a good job and a good thing for him.
I was accepted into his culture!
Yes, amongst all of the snobs in Washington, D.C., Aqualung stood out as the only one with true culture, at least in my book. In the winter, he wore a long gray overcoat that was almost identical to the one worn by the creature on the album cover.
So, for the Snowflakes, big and small and every size and shape in between, I have these words of wisdom: There is so much life out there waiting to be lived! You have yet to begin your lives. You have yet to truly face life!
It can drive a person nutz, looking at these aging, but not maturing, adolescents, avoid Life — as if that behemoth force is about to blow them into a snowdrift from which they will not emerge. Life is not Frozen. Life is full of the warmth of human kindness but first you must be kind to yourself, and by the word, kind, I mean: real.
The other night, I did something very atypical of myself: I looked up Millennials on the Laptop (which sounds like a future book or movie about them); and I was stunned to see screen-load after screen-load after screen-load of how to deal with Them at work, how to deal with Them on-the-job, how to deal with Them Wherever.
It’s as if they are the mini-Boomer generation: fodder for jokes, fodder for stereotypes, fodder for fodder. Do not let this life-long curse happen to you! A label will be hard to shed, especially one that does not fit! And it is amazing to me that a group of young adults under thirty years of age has managed to be analyzed to the nth degree, to the point where we now have subsets: Snowflakes and the hardier component, The Hail Stones!
I salute them. Hail Atlantis! Hail the Hail Stones who veer away from the online click-bait that is starting to smell like a bad fish market!
All of you Millennials, however, must realize that life is being avoided while you live in fear of your lives not being lived with automatic success. Try a few failures! They work to teach you lessons! They work to help you work! But first you must submit yourself to the reality of learning — and letting life, and other people, help you!
I, of all individuals, who must pick herself up off the ground without any help, can identify, with the need to feel independent. But a sign of your woeful dependence, on so many things (as a group you have become Click Bait) — is your refusal to ask for help. Vagaries fill the air with your refusal to admit to fear or insecurity or, gah, emotion!
“I had a mishap at my last job” is probably not the way to say that you screwed up. Try some honesty. “I did not like my boss. He was a real jerk.”
The most you’ll get is a laugh. The worst you’ll get is the hostile look from this New Jerk on the other side of the Apple.
I, the Abominable Snow Woman, offer these helpful hints, which, I understand, are indications that you need help. I need help, too, in trying to understand people who do not know how to ask for help! So look upon this long list as a literal cry for help from me.
1. It is not your fault that the job searches are fruitless. The low-hanging fruit got taken a long time ago, and it is going to take some time for new fruit to emerge on any tree. Look for a tree with some promising buds on it and wait for the fruit to grow and then — open up! I mean, you open up — with sincerity.
In all sincerity, I admonish: With the upsurge in new jobs and start-ups, there is so much online activity that I think the job search works against you right now. And you need to understand that the energy it takes to get a good job will take time to gather, store, and use. You are not an Energizer Bunny!
2. Understand that the applications you put into the electronic mix are reviewed by people who do not know you. You’re the dry ingredient dumped into the stand mixer of creamed butter-and-sugar. Most unfortunately, you are a name on a screen load. The person “reviewing” your name, and that screen load, is probably less competent than you at assessing your skills. So in the Event that you are called to the Job Interview, your job is to let the Hiring Person know you! This effort will probably cause angst because it is all too possible that you do not know yourself very well or, more likely, you are afraid of letting another person know you! Hint: No one hires a Nobody.
A sense of self is what gets hired, far more often than job skills. Believe me, it was my unstoppable sense of self that got me hired and then got me walking away from many a job. My dearly departed father might not have been doing 8-year-old me any favors when he somberly advised me: “Do not hesitate to leave any job because they will not hesitate to fire you.” This father perhaps did not realize his quiet child would go from being a little pistol, with the fake-pearl handles, to a Gatling gun or even a repeater rifle — Winchester '73, the gun that won the West!
Gather some gunpowder and kick-back. There is no shame in leaving a little dust on your way out the door. That dust has more drive than the stuff accumulating on my desk at the moment! Walking in the door of that room is a reminder of future work I definitely want to avoid!
3. Understand that the energy it takes to get a good job will take time. No one lucks into luck at the early stages of the Job Search. You haven’t had enough years of work for that kind of luck to happen.
4. No Good Parent expects Adult Child to show up at the Home Front Door with the Shield of Instant Success in this economy. Any good parent believes each of her children is a success in her eyes and in her heart, simply for the effort of enduring university, grabbing hold of that piece of paper, and then getting that First Job, regardless of how the experience turned out. That experience is more than money in the Bank (another site of the extreme Silent Gulp).
5. I saw some job-numbers-pie-charts the other day — and got hungry for pie! But those Hundreds of Thousands of jobs added in various sectors are likely to include people laid off and re-hired, along with new hires. So, Miss and Mr. Snowflake, you have to factor into your Hiring Expectation the people who have been waiting to return to work — for years and years and years now. This rush-to-return-to-work happens after every recession. And a decade-long recession, the Great Recession, is going to take 2-3 years to fully recover.
People act as if the jobs are out there - just go get them!! No. It’s not that way. Many jobs were set aside, along with businesses; the work of business; and money, lots and lots of money; and investment. It’s more of a mothballing that has taken place than a recession, especially one that was lied about, covered up, and wallpapered over by the governments (Federal/State/County/City) who created it. You newbies are working against that tide of Experienced Employees Returning to the Work Force.
6. Everyone is proud of the Millennials who did not crystallize into Snowflakes and who then managed not to melt during the past 8 years of mothball fumes. The ones who melted or are about to melt will be part of the Culture Comedy that has evidently begun to sell enough books, movies and creeping crud material for at least another generation, or until the Next Group comes along to get picked on.
I recall Gen X, Gen Y, and whatever other Gen whose label I did not understand at the time and probably never will. I’d don’t “do” labels well. It’s another occupational hazard for a Novelist. I deal in specifics more than generalities, especially generalities about generations. And whenever a generation gets a label this fast, it’s because those young people have more potential than any of the labelers are able to understand.
I understand. I’ve been mislabeled so much that after a certain point in life I learned to let the labeling work to my advantage. Granted, I was about 14 years of age when I learned that lesson, and since that time this Dumb Blonde has used many BlondeStar moments to gain the momentum.
Take whatever it is that You are and use it to Your Advantage. But first you must know who and what you are, good and bad and everything in between. This sort of knowledge takes time and it does not come from books or from any online anything, least of all from the Selfie. The degree of Self now exists in inverse proportion to the amount of Selfies that any one person takes! And Social Media has become infested with the Anti-Social Personality Types that, in my day, were known as weird, cruel creeps. Actually, an Electronic Eric Bloodaxe comes to mind! Soche-Media will soon become Soche-Security, with the same insecure inept results.
Long ago, Joe Namath was advised about his quarterbacking role: “It’s show business, Joey. It’s show business.” To the Justins and the Jessicas of today, I advise: “It’s advertising. It’s advertising.” To the more savvy Jonathans and Juliettes, I advise: “It’s marketing. It’s marketing.”
I do not know how to advise anyone to gain a sense of self or a sense of confidence. For some, it’s a life-long struggle; for others, like me, it came at birth, if not before-hand! Regardless of the degree of determination needed, it’s a needed tool on that resume: Your Name Here means a self to go with it.
The persistent and the plucky always get better jobs. First, you must feel confident that the right one is the one for you — not just a job — but a Job that adds to your life, not takes time away from it. A paycheck is not the point. The point is to find work that works for you, not works against the person you are in the process of becoming. Frittering away tension is fine for a week or two. As a life style, it’s grim. The Millennials do not need to acquire the Victorian grimness of purpose to their budding resumes.
What is your money worth if you are miserable earning it? Even Mr. Fletcher found a noble way to make use of his bread!
Everyone starts out young and a bit dumb, even if you are not a young Dumb Blonde. If you go from one mediocre job to a mishap job, you are back in the same boat, one that springs another leak. To go from one leaker boat of a job to another is not going to help your sense of self, and that, essentially, is what a job ought to do for an individual. The paycheck is nice, very nice. But, to me, the feeling of using who I was to my advantage, and to the advantage of the employer — that feeling was the best feeling in the work world.
I shall end this essay with strains from one of the Theme Songs of the 1970s, a song that I found maddeningly boring. The music was made complete only by the wearing of The Uniform of the Malaise, The Leisure Suit. I will refrain myself from showing the ever-popular Peasant Blouse of that era, although I do recall the question of several friends: “How many peasants we got in this country?” — and my response, “I don’t know. But there are going to be a lot more of them before Jimmy is through!”
“Jimmeh” promised to never lie to you, the American people; but as I told those friends, “By the time this mess is over, you will all wish Jimmy had lied to you.”
You Millennials (and your subset, Snowflakes) have a lot of public (and private!) lies and fibs to shovel your way out of — but I am confident that you can do it!
And, now, courtesy of Morris Albert!
Whoa, whoa, whoa — Feelings!!
Get in touch with them.
The employer will be getting in touch with you!