For all of us millennials starting new careers, what is the best advice you ever received about life? I’d love to hear it as I struggle to balance health issues with a future career as a therapist. I currently have a job that I DESPISE, but it has really cushy medical benefits. Once I graduate with my Master’s degree in Counseling, I’m likely to take both a pay cut and lose the nice medical benefits, making life financially more difficult. However, I LOVE counseling. As I fight with multiple autoimmune diseases, and I’m on several (not-so-cheap) medications, how do I choose between guaranteed medical coverage or career satisfaction?
—An Exasperated Millennial
PS. Did I mention the vast student loan debt?
What up AEMPSDIMTVSLD,
First of all, congratulations on finishing your studies (almost), and that’s a grade-A bummer about the health challenges you’re facing. I have full faith that the generation one below you will fix this country’s garbage-dump health care system once and for all, but I’ll be dead by then and you’ll be old (and broke from all your medications), so what good will that do?
Second of all, all of the life advice I got was from Baby Boomers, so it was totally inapplicable bullshit.
Relatedly: One of the reasons that millennials never ask my generation for advice is that — besides all the other reasons, e.g. X is the smallest generation and so we’re kind of hard to find; you think we’re old and our oldness kind of embarrasses you to be around, etc. — your problems literally did not exist when we were young adults. The “gig” economy had yet to take hold. When someone said they had a “gig,” that meant that Mystik Spiral were playing the Steinberg Bar Mitzvah. (Yes, I did just look up the “correct” spelling of Mystik Spiral, and yes, I still would very much with Trent from “Daria.”)
My generation may have lacked ambition, but if we could scrape some together we could usually find a job, and that job — while largely unfulfilling — would usually be a full-time position that came with health insurance. That was the entire point of “selling out” — so that you could afford shit.
The problem now is that there is literally no way to survive in contemporary America without selling out to some degree. The only people who can afford to do artistic or humanitarian work full-time are people who come from independent wealth, so they sold out before they even started. (All right, there’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But she’s just one person.)
So in ’90s terms, the question you’re asking is the age-old dilemma that afflicted us all: Do you sell out? When it’s a matter of life and death, I think you gotta, for now. The good news is that you are very young and you have your entire life to change jobs like crazy until you find one you like (or don’t DESPISE) — but you can only do this if you’re still alive, and to be still alive you have to have your medicine, and to get your medicine you have to have a job with great health benefits until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fixes everything for us.
As a stopgap measure, I’d recommend a mid-level semi-sellout. If there’s one thing my generation is great at — truly spectacular — it is half-assing things, and so I am exactly the right mentor to have in this situation, and this is precisely what you should do. As you near graduation, apply for any counseling job for which you’re eligible, but as the interview process progresses, make sure you learn about the benefits packages that every potential employer offers. Keep your current job while you’re on the market, but do literally the bare minimum possible not to make any waves or get anyone mad at you.
You may be surprised in the counseling field — if you get hired full-time by a hospital system, for example, your benefits will probably be pretty good. You may have all of your worst fears realized and have to stay in your current job as an assistant associate billing adjuster or whatever for the time being, for your health. You may also want to research options overseas — does your degree have reciprocation in literally any other developed nation? There’s your health quandary solved right there, plus you’ll have dope hours (i.e. low ones) and kickass benefits.
Now go half-ass like the wind, and good luck.