Obvious statement the first: I am a millennial.
Obvious statement the second: I am poor as fuck.
Obvious statement the third: Saying no to things is the hardest thing there is. Second only to getting up for work at 4am.
Every time you’re given the opportunity to do so something, you weigh out the risk and reward. Is it worth my time? Is it worth the money? Is it worth whatever sanity I will lose making this happen? If you’re not a millennial, these choices are a bit more cut and dry. You might have a savings accounts (I’m not sure what these are, but I’m assured they exist, if only for white men over the age of 40.) or a high paying job or otherwise comfortable enough in your career and finances that walking away from things doesn’t give you nightmares and rob you of the precious little sleep you’re already getting.
I don’t know a lot of people my age anymore. At times I’m grateful, because mentally I am Old As Fuck. But at others it’s very frustrating to have to explain time and time again that the one thing that’s been made very fucking clear to every millennial living and breathing right now is this: you will have precious few opportunities to succeed in this world and if you squander a single one you will become homeless and die.
No, that’s not an exaggeration. That is the reality of our lives. I know we don’t think it’s polite to talk about money, but until last year I wasn’t making enough to even be above the poverty line. If I owned a car, I wouldn’t have a roof over my head–its that simple. That’s the choice I made when I moved out at 19. I could either go broke paying for a car and hopefully getting a job, or I could live elsewhere for the work I already had.
Despite all of the horrendous tire fires I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with, I feel very blessed to have the friends I do today, to be actively involved in the publishing community and have the emotional support of folks who for the most part understand what I’m going through in trying to balance money and the arts and maybe even sleep somewhere along the line. But in making these connections, in getting these opportunities, I still find myself in over my head. I find myself being given opportunities that I really, really want to say yes to, but in looking at my own plans and obligations, I have to turn away. Even though I sometimes come close to a panic attack when I do.
And here’s the reasons why.
- You. Fucking. Matter.
Being a millennial means being reminded that you are worthless, your college degree is worthless, and your thoughts and ideas no matter how intelligent are also worthless because you’re too young to be smart.
Well I got news for you bucko–you’re pretty goddamn smart and don’t let ageist shit heads tell you otherwise. Age does not equal intelligence, or wisdom. I’ve met a lot of folks twice my age who would take a hit to their intelligence rolls for how low that fucking score must be. You don’t need to say yes to things to prove your worth.
- You deserve respect.
If anyone badgers you about a project that you’ve been weighing carefully in taking on–you know, in that way that makes you want to do a perception check and see how good their intentions are? Walk. What’s going on here is someone trying to get you to do the work for them, because they think in being young and desperate that you’ll do it for “exposure bucks.” Here’s the thing: you don’t ever have to feel guilty in turning something down. If the person asking you is a decent human being, they will respect you for your choices and understand why you simply cannot do this thing.
And if they don’t respect that, then they’re not worthy of your time, regardless of who they are or how many followers they have on social media.
- You deserve to be compensated.
Whether that compensation is a place on professional programming with your room and travel paid for at a convention, a spot on a book tour alongside one of your fave authors, or that elusive thing freelancers make demon deals for called Actual Money, you should always be getting something for your work. No, the joy of doing the thing for them does not count. Write out the project guidelines, hours of work you think it will entail, and then look at the compensation. If it doesn’t even out, pass.
- You don’t need to defend yourself.
In the saying of the Nah Bro, you are under no obligation to explain in detail why you can’t do it. If they press you and you want to offer one up, that’s under your purview. However, you do not have to open with the exact details of your already jam-packed schedule, or the all of the books that you are trying to sit down and fucking write, or the negative impact this will have on your life if you decide to do it. You are under no obligation to explain the reasons why to anyone. You are allowed to just say Nah Bro, and walk.
- The guilt too, will pass.
The moment you’ve said your peace, you will feel guilty pretty much immediately after. But once reality sets in, you will realize all of the intelligent reasons why you said no are actually intelligent reasons and not just self-doubt saying you can’t do the thing. And if you think it was self-doubt, here’s the cool part: you are allowed to change your mind later if you want to.
Saying “Nah bro,” is always an option, even when it feels like it isn’t. At the end of the day, you have to put yourself first; no one else is going to do it for you. But everyone will respect you for it.