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March 20, 2019

An Introspection On The 20-Something’s Frenzied Race To The Professional Finish Line

Text by Sarah Sahim. Illustration by Debangshu Moulik

Social media streams appear bloated with career-related humble brags from people who would associate Hanson with classic rock. It’s no wonder then, that other urban creatives on the cusp of Generations Y and Z are stricken with self-doubt when the same type of ‘success’ as their peers seems out of reach. Birmingham-based writer Sarah Sahim – snark intact – introspects on this far too real phenomenon.

As a young girl, I let my dreams guide me. Even with my family’s fear-mongering lingering over my every thought, urging me to pursue a respectable path so I could actually earn money, I vowed that nothing would stand in the way of my selling pop culture opinions for measly sums.

Okay, maybe that wasn’t what I had in mind, but like anyone else brought up in a tenuous world propped up by finance bros with a taste for impetuous lending, and whose sole hobby is micro-dosing hallucinogens, I always knew I liked writing and making people laugh. So, why not combine both?

Well, it didn’t work out.

At least it hasn’t yet — in my 24 years on this C+ planet.

I know what you’re thinking: “She’s so cool (only when I’m wearing sunglasses), I wonder what her hair smells like (bergamot, juniper and mint) and she’s so young — she has her whole life ahead of her!”

And some part of me is aware of that, but the other earnestly believes that it’s too late.

Allow me to release my inner grandma, accessorised with a chic “I want to speak to your manager!” chappal in hand: everything moves too fast these days.

Fridges are outmoded the moment you plug them in, Hopepunk both became and lost its status as a genre instantaneously and a Twitter mutual who graduated university two weeks ago is now a writer’s assistant on an unnamed Bob Ross hologram series, executive produced by Damien Hirst and Greg Berlanti.

I stare at the announcement, humbled by its overuse of exclamation marks, and release a soft, “Huh.” It’s not the job I want, but I totally could have got it, right? I mean, their gain isn’t necessarily an indication of my ineptitude, right? And I’m totally not using syntax with additional syllables to compensate for the inadequacy this announcement consumes me with, right? Peradventure.

I can talk myself out of one freak out, but the “Some personal news:” posts pile up.

Gabby Gormpgomp — Some personal news: I’m hosting the Golden Globes with my ex’s chihuahua.

Sally Sormsomp — Some personal news: I sold a coming-of-age series to HBO about a man and his Oedipal relationship with his mother, who happens to be a trucker, called Mother Trucker.

Debby Dormpdomp — Some personal news: I’m gay.

Good for you, Debby.

And whilst I sit on my bed, hastily throwing together (something that bears no resemblance to) a piece on Pizza Squirrel, a knockoff of 2015 viral sensation, Pizza Rat, for $14 pay, it’s hard not to abhor myself. But hey, now I can turn my rejection-sensitive dysphoria into content for you to read! That’s why you should always recycle, folks.

Not everyone is a wunderkind, and I get that. At least, I tell myself I get that because I never quite understand how their lucky breaks came to be in the first place. I know it’s cliché to ask, but did they sell their souls? And if so, where? Is there a pawn shop for souls? Better yet, is there a paranormal version of Pawn Stars? My parents would sell my soul in a second just so they’d never have to pretend to understand what freelance writing is again.

I’ve had many an esteemed professional tell me, and plenty of others like me, that ‘there’s no rush. It’s fine! No, seriously, it’s fine! Why are you hyperventilating? No, you haven’t come close to polishing your scripts. But everybody has a different path! No, you have no idea what to do with them. It’s okay! Life finds a way. Why are you sweating? Do you need some blotting papers? Are you giving birth? I don’t understand what’s happening.’ Verbatim. Each time. It’s from a self-help book on Amazon called Generic Utterances to Comfort a Creative That Will Never Make It.

There’s a mordancy in the way I’ve heard conflicting predictions of how my life is going to go, from sources authoritative, equal and wunderkinds warping my perception of reality. All I crave is a shred of information; an arrow pointing in the general direction of where I need to be, but all I receive in response is a giant question mark. It’s concerning because I have no way of varying whether this pursuit will be futile, or lead to my foray into whatever people who write funny things end up doing for attention later on in life in lieu of a sex tape. Don’t say bigoted stand up.

So, it all seems hopeless. But for now, us younger millennials’ lonesome struggle, defined by overpriced iced tea and quasi-matted hair that we claim was achieved with texturising spray, doesn’t have to be in vain. Provided climate change, nuclear war, famine, or a whole host of other manmade disasters fail to wipe out humanity, future generations will undoubtedly share our heart-wrenching stories with their offspring.

Evoking harrowing Eastern European tomes that forced its people to confront the grim nature of reality, history will rework our struggles into cautionary tales, warning posterity about unpaid invoices that would barely cover your bar tab for a lacklustre Tinder date when eventually processed six months later.

“Listen to your parents, or you’ll end up like Sarah Sahim — a blue tick on Twitter who has only ever written two essays on ‘One Direction’. She was destined to write 10, but the content gods found her engagement to be lacking.”

Children will burst into fits of hysteria upon hearing my online branding was not up to snuff. “She tweeted about Dean Martin’s Country phase in 2019?!” one will yell. While the more philistine sibling will politely ask, “What the fuck is a Dean Martin?”

Upon reading my aforementioned 250-word piece on Pizza Squirrel, these siblings will seek out my grave; they’ll want to be blessed by my legacy. My epitaph — provided I’m approved to be buried in Soho House’s freelance writer shoo-in members only cemetery — will read: Daughter. Sister. Writer of branded content that sponsors found to be too snarky.

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