Category Archives: Culture

Black Lives Matter and The Concept of “Woke”

I always get myself into trouble talking about this subject (because it’s rather controversial no matter what you say about it), but as a privledged white woman living in the US today, both due to my skin-tone and childhood socio-economic status, I often wonder what I can do to help minimize the inequality within our own borders.

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation (ok, maybe more like heated debate) with a few people on Facebook who said that racism (in the US anyway) was purely a “white people problem.” While I disagree (everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes, according to the musical Avenue Q) – I do know that being white and being black (or a person of color, for that matter) is an entirely different life experience in this country no matter how much money you make or where you end up living. Continue reading

The Things #YesAllWomen Know

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about deranged killer Elliot Rodger going on a shooting spree in the quiet, upscale college town of Santa Barbara because, in his own words, he was a virgin and women wouldn’t sleep with him. Even though he clearly had some serious issues, some people are taking to the internet to pity him for his inability to get women. Women, however, are bringing the misogyny behind this statement to light, noting that it’s not ok for men to think they have any “right” to women… and this sentiment is getting worse, not better.

The challenge of being a woman living in 2014 is that feminism seems too past tense, yet it’s clear that women are not treated the same as men in our society. For example, how many men know what it’s like to walk down the street and have a creepy guy in a truck lean out the window and whistle at you or say something to make you extremely uncomfortable? Reading some of these articles and blog posts popping up after this attack, I feel fortunate that I was never the type of girl that got a lot of male attention (despite being upset about it at the time) — it’s terrifying to hear of girls turning down date proposals to prom only to be stabbed over it. Continue reading

Etch-a-Sketch: One Life Creative, One Static

The model’s gaze centered across the room, off at a wall, lips pursed to silence the pain throbbing in her left shoe. Indie music rocked the background as men and women of all ages hunched over clipboards and sketchpads capturing the model in quick gestures of line, with some works created in 20-minute spans much more detailed than others.

This was a typical Thursday night at drink & draw at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. A college friend, I’ll call her Lisa, invited me to meet up to sketch after too many posts regarding my lacking of creativity in my life.

Seeing Lisa was like seeing the very other version of myself I could have become, you know, the person who is the you that you might have been if you just said “fuck it world I just want to do what I want to do, and I’m going to do it.” Lisa started college with me at the same time (I can’t recall how or when we met), apparently dropped out, went to another school for film, dropped out of that, then finally returned to my alma mater to finish her degree.

Despite being Chicago-bred, she is so New York. She is the New York I’ll never be.
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America’s Most Stressed Generation

In today’s latest bit of depressing sociological discovery by The New York Times, reporter Catherine Rampell highlights what personal finance bloggers have been saying for years – college degrees are the high school diploma of years ago, but the cost for the degree isn’t fairly matched with the proper career and salary.

The article features a law firm in Atlanta that has a policy to only hire employees with college degrees, even for the $10 per hour “runner” job that really shouldn’t require a college education to perform. Due to diploma inflation and weak job markets, it’s easy to make the cut off for consideration in any role a degree. The firm agrees the education isn’t really necessary for the positions, but the social life gained in college to joke about school sports teams is. How sad.

In 2005, when I graduated college, the job market was better than it was today. I still had a very hard time finding a job, but refused to settle for an administrative position which took the four years of schooling I had just completed and rendered them useless. Luckily, I had the fortune of changing jobs frequently early in my career and moving up with each transition. These poor college grads working at this law firm are loyal to a fault, and are excited for small raises being promoted from one position that shouldn’t require a college degree to another. These are the same people who need to go back to school to get an MBA or professional masters degree in order to make any sort of reasonable living. The bachelors degree just gets them a very basic job. Continue reading

27

This post is dedicated to the 27 people who lost their lives in the senseless tragedy in Newtown this week. To the children, ages 6-7, and to the brave educators who were accidental heroes that day. To the survivors who will forever be changed. To the parents who have lost their loved ones. To the family where a mental illness ran deep, and clearly no one thought to or was able to reach out to help.

Events like these certainly put everyday problems into perspective. Any day could  be your last, and at that point who cares if you have $5 or $1M in  your bank account. But this week’s events also speaks to an issue I’ve discussed here before – mental health awareness and access to quality mental healthcare.

I’m lucky in that I would never hurt another soul. I don’t have it in me. But there are days when I consider hurting myself. I haven’t yet, and I probably won’t, but sometimes the world becomes so overwhelming that you just want to find some way to feel like you’re in control. It seems for males especially, this control they seek becomes a fantasy of violence and destruction. For women, it’s more often hurting oneself, through cutting, or binging, or even suicide.

People who are healthy will roll their eyes at you, say to pull yourself together. To grow up. But it takes more than growing up. For some, there’s an actual chemical imbalance. For others, their environment shaped them to be the way they are. No matter how they got to the point where all feelings of normal control and stability are lost, it’s important that the person gets help.

I’ve spent a lot of time, like most in this country have, about the 27 innocent victims in the tragedy this week, and about the killer, who maybe was not evil since birth, or who could have been helped. I’ve wondered, like many of you have, what his childhood and life was like, if his mother pushed him too far, if she pulled him out of school and isolated him from others because he was too autistic  to handle being around others, or if a decision to pull him out of school and isolate him led to the tragedy this week. I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone will know. But I want to believe that deep down there was some good in this kid. That there is good in everyone. I’ve learned, however, that evil is real, and some people are born with a penchant for chaos and destruction.

I’m fighting my own battles, my inner demons, alone as I find therapists who take my insurance are not taking new patients. Therapists that don’t take insurance cost $250-$300 a session. I end up seeing a new therapist — splurging on treatment — when I feel myself breaking down. When I seep from a rush to depression, when my Bipolar II takes a turn for the worse, every so many years. But I usually know when it’s “that time,” and I find help. I can’t say any of it has cured me, or been overly effective, but instead of hurting myself, I had someone to talk to, and it got me through to the next week.

But how many people don’t have the ability to access quality mental healthcare? How many are either unable to afford it or have parents who don’t want to put their children into therapy because of the stigma around it? It took a note that referenced suicidal ideation that I sent to one of the school counselors for advice for my parents to bring me to a psychologist. But I was depressed for years before that. They thought I was just being a typical moody teenager.

Today, the 27 innocents are in my thoughts. I can’t imagine the pain that everyone around their town and those closest to the victims are feeling right now. I am worried that the next tragedy is just months, or even weeks away. As more people see how much chaos others can cause, they may be inspired to act out on their own plans. They may want to see how much more destruction they can cause. It becomes a twisted game and I’m terrified of what evil is lurking in the corners. Is it safe to go to the mall? To the movies? To a school? To work? How does one protect themselves and their loved ones from evil?

The Extreme US Young vs. Old Wealth Gap

Here is some new information I will be sharing with my GOP-fire-breathing dad this Thanksgiving. The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to an analysis of census data released Monday.

While people typically accumulate assets as they age, this wealth gap is now more than double what it was in 2005 and nearly five times the 10-to-1 disparity a quarter-century ago, after adjusting for inflation. The 47-to-1 wealth gap between old and young is believed by demographers to be the highest ever, even predating government records (see the full article here).

The good news is, for older folks, the median net worth of households headed by someone 65 or older was $170,494. That is 42 percent more than in 1984, when the Census Bureau first began measuring wealth broken down by age. The median net worth for the younger-age households was $3,662, down by 68 percent from a quarter-century ago, according to the analysis by the Pew Research Center.

But for Millenials, Generation Y’ers, things are not looking so good. Older Americans are staying in jobs longer, while young adults now face the highest unemployment since World War II. As a result, the median income of older-age households since 1967 has grown at four times the rate of those headed by the under-35 age group.

Yes, I’m an outlier in this country with my six-figure salary at 28, but I recognize that the majority of people my age are not being paid a fair rate to keep up with the pace of inflation. Still — I can’t afford a house where I live on my six-figure salary (again 1br condos go for $500k here). According to Pew, housing has been the main driver of these divergent wealth trends. Rising home equity has been the linchpin of the higher wealth of older households in 2009 compared with their counterparts in 1984. Declining home equity has been one factor in the lower wealth held by young households in 2009 compared with their counterparts in 1984.

These age-based divergences of households widened substantially with the housing market collapse of 2006, the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the ensuing jobless recovery. But they all began appearing decades earlier, suggesting they are as much linked to long-term demographic and social changes as they are to the sour economy of recent years.

Another trend of “non wealth accumulation” I’m part of — for the young, these long-term changes include delayed entry into the labor market and delays in marriage—two markers of adulthood traditionally linked to income growth and wealth accumulation. I didn’t get too much of a delayed start into the job market, and made up for lost time, but with the current state of the economy it’s even harder to get one’s foot in the door. I don’t envy my sister who will be graduating college next year.

I’m turning 28 and craving babies. Yes, I said craving.

Hello biological clock. I hear you loud and clear. Every time a family walks by with a little itty bitty one, you can’t help but smile and get that gooey feeling, like you really ought to be popping one of those out yourself any day now.

Lately, I can much picture myself as a mother much easier than I can envision myself a bride. Apparently, among Millennials, I’m not alone in this notion. We value parenthood more than marriage.

Today’s 18- to 29-year-olds value parenthood far more than marriage, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of attitudinal surveys. A 2010 Pew Research survey found that 52% of Millennials say being a good parent is “one of the most important things” in life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage — meaning there is a 22-percentage-point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage.

What scares me is another report by Pew that finds the average age for U.S. mothers who had their first baby in 20062 was 25, a year older than the average first-time mother in 1990. Among all women who had a baby in 2006, the average age is 27, up from 26 in 1990. The prime child-bearing years remain 20-34 — three-quarters of mothers of newborns are in this age range.

I feel so far behind, even though I wasn’t ready to have kids until now, and really, a lot can be said about how I’m not ready now either. Now doesn’t mean this second anyway — it means in the next few years. Continue reading

The Gluttony of Choice: Why Options Make Us Depressed and Fat

As much as I love that we live in a free society with an extensive selection of options at any given moment regarding what we eat, wear, drive, etc, etc, I’ve forced myself to step outside of materialism for a few moments every now and again, to discover the square root of unhappiness is often the sheer quantity of choices available everyday.

Because we live in a capitalist society, choices available are often what we want, not what we need. I look no further than my experience today at The Cheesecake Factory as a metaphor for all of the “choice gluttony” we face in modern society. The Cheesecake Factory menu is ridiculous. I love the place. It has so many options of meals to eat, including appetizers, entrees, drinks, and of course, cheesecakes and desserts. Continue reading

10 Financial Commandments for Your 20s, Part 2

This is part 2 of a series inspired by Give Me Back My Five Bucks, based on a Kiplinger article of the 10 commandments for finances in your 20s… I’m grading myself on each one of the commandments. Read Part 1 here.

6. Establish credit. In order to qualify for the best interest rates on a credit card, auto loan or mortgage, you need to start building a solid credit history. In fact, a good history can also save you a bundle on your auto insurance or help you land an apartment or a job (see Why Your Credit Score Matters). Building a good credit history in your twenties will ensure it’s ready when you need to use it. If you didn’t have a credit card in college, one way of getting credit now is to apply for a secured card: You make a deposit — usually $300 to $500 — in a savings account as collateral, and you can get the money back after one year of using the card responsibly. You can also start building a credit history through www.prbc.com, an alternative credit bureau that gathers data on regular payments for rent, cable and other recurring expenses. (See Rent Your Way to Good Credit to learn more.)

Score C. I’ve never made a big purchase on a credit card and paid it off slowly, so my credit score is not as great as it could be. That said, I’m totally opposed to how you need to carry a balance in order to build credit. I do have a credit card (ok I have a lot of credit cards) but I don’t have a lot of recurring expenses. Continue reading