From Aug. 1 right up until today, I have had 11 days off work. Not 11 vacation days. Eleven days total. I’ve worked all the other ones. It’s gotten to the point where even my bosses have gently begun to use the “b” word. And I swear, when my supervisor first said she was worried I was at risk of burning out, my first thought was “I don’t have time to burn out.” Because I don’t. I work six or seven days a week.

If you’re wondering how I manage to work this much, the answer is I don’t get enough sleep and I drink 50 ounces of black coffee every day. Fortunately, I work in a medical office building and the cardiology department is down the hall.

The “why” of it is harder to answer. I do love my job. Getting to assist in providing health care to people is an honor and a privilege. But honor doesn’t make you work 60 hours a week. Fear and insecurity – specifically, the financial sort – do.

I am my family’s financial safety net. If there’s a large and unexpected expense, it’s liable to land in my lap. And when you live in a 19th-century farmhouse and drive a used car, a large, unexpected expense is always about to drop. And I’m 29 – just about entering the nesting stage of my life. All I want is to buy my own house. Which costs money. And if I have kids, they cost a ton of money, too, and of course you can’t work all the time when you have children, because they require a great deal of care and supervision. (Also, being absent during their entire childhood is not going to lead to a happy, thriving filial relationship.)

So I work now, in the hope that I can have a family later. Or at least, not become homeless.

Financial insecurity is what defines the millennial generation (that, and all the gay stuff). It’s a well-known fact that millennials are the first generation in American history to be worse off financially than their parents (in sum total – obviously there are some individual millennials who have been very successful, and good on them, except for Mark Zuckerberg). What goes unmentioned is how pathetic that fact makes a person feel.

When she was my age, my mom was a married homeowner about a year away from having her first child. I am literally none of those things, and they feel about as far away as Elon Musk’s fantasized Mars base.

Millennials on the older end of the scale came of age during the Great Recession, and entered into an underwhelming job market. I was a junior in high school in 2008, so I didn’t really notice too much of the financial crash. I was too busy trying to get into a good college, which, I was told, would be the ticket to a solidly middle-class and financially prosperous future. (I’ll let you know if that ever happens. I think I will have to pay off my $69,000 of student loan debt first).

The rug was pulled out from under me during the Corona Crash of 2020. In April of last year, I had worked for the same company for five years; I was good at my job and had the performance evaluations and emails from happy customers to prove it. I was making over $18 an hour, plus bonuses and profit sharing. And then, suddenly, I was fat to be trimmed.

Twenty percent of the company was laid off, across the board, all departments – guillotine-style. I lost my health insurance at the end of the month, and thank god for the socialist program that is Medicaid, because it meant that I wouldn’t go bankrupt if I had to seek medical treatment. Six months later, I re-applied for my old job. I was not hired back. My current wages have not yet hit $18 an hour. While I may yet recover financially, I doubt I will psychologically. One of the reasons I take every shift that is offered to me is that I am well aware that at any moment, I could be laid off or fired without warning and for no particular reason. Make hay while the sun shines, and all that.

I am so tired, all of the time. I have 2½ hours worth of commuting every day. I don’t spend enough time with my dog. And then I come home and try to come up with a column and when you’ve been doing data entry all day, your brain just becomes a pile of scrambled eggs. Writing is like pulling teeth.

I think winter might force me to take some more days off. Perhaps even full weekends. After all, in Maine, there are some days where an 80-mile round-trip commute in a Hyundai Elantra is simply too dangerous to attempt. Of course, winter brings with it its own expenses. Heating oil. Wood. Snow tires for the aforementioned Hyundai Elantra. I guess we’ll see.

The stereotype of millennials is that we are entitled and lazy. I’ll cop to the entitled part. But I know I’m not lazy.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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