Making my Own Opportunities

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

There is some controversy about where this quote comes from. It has been attributed to a Roman philosopher named Seneca, to the football player Darrell Royal, and an American insurance salesman and writer named Elmer Letterman.

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You gotta read this, Daniel. So good!

Before you start imagining me, sitting at my desk, reading classic literature and smoking a pipe, let me tell you where I actually found this quote. I found it in the wonderful novelist Nick Offerman’s book, Gumption.

Not quite as regal sounding as a Roman philosopher or great American writer, huh?

When I read this quote, it really resonated with me. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it or some iteration of it before, especially since it goes hand in hand with things like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “you better work, bitch.” However, I think it stuck with me because it doesn’t attribute success to just hard work. Yes, hard work is essential to accomplishing your goals, but in this day and age you could be the hardest worker and still get nowhere.

As a fellow millennial, Daniel, I’m sure you’ve heard all the terrible things people say about our generation. We’re all selfish and entitled and don’t know the meaning of hard work. As a fellow millennial, you probably also know that this is complete and utter bullshit.

It seems like every person I know who’s close to my age works their ass off. All of my friends work forty or more hours a week, find odd jobs around town to make extra cash, and still need to pinch pennies every single week. You can just glance at the news to see that people our age are having a hard time finding steady work, even with college degrees, and yet for some reason lots of people seem to think it’s our fault.

We’ve been preparing all our lives for our lucky break. Now we just need the opportunity.

After reading this quote, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own goals. Some of them I have been actively working towards, like running a half marathon. However, I realized for some of them I’m just sitting around waiting for the opportunity rather than using my time to prepare for when that opportunity arises.

Maybe the previous generation was right about me. Maybe I am just a lazy, entitled millennial.

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Me after a long run. 

One goal I’ve had since I picked up a pen was to write a novel. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school and I would love, love, love to publish one of my stories for the world to enjoy.

Except, in the last four years, I haven’t been preparing for it at all. I have written three, maybe four short stories in the past four years. That might sound like a lot, but that’s definitely not enough to prepare to be a writer. I’ve been sitting around, waiting for something to strike suddenly and change my life rather than getting up and changing my life myself.

I feel like I also sit around waiting for easy opportunities rather than taking advantage of the tools at my fingertips. Yes, it would be so much easier to get picked up by some big publishing company and have them edit and promote my work, but that won’t happen until I get my name out there. And how can I do that? Well, in this magical age of the internet, I can self publish. No one’s stopping me from writing my stories and posting them somewhere. Maybe even on a WordPress blog. What a concept!

This is where I subtly work in our new blog, Write Makes Right. See how I did that? I’m a marketer.

But there’s more to it than just posting what you’ve created on the internet and hoping people will stumble upon it. If I want to make my writing dreams come true I have to be my own editor, promoter, and manager.

Terrifying? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.

Sorry for this one being a bit rambly, Daniel. Nick Offerman talks so much about creativity and hard work in his novel that, once I finished it, I was eager to get out and just do something. Anything! I just felt the urge to create and write and this blog post is a product of that passion.

This is also an example of how I need to hone my skills if I’m going to be my own editor.

See you next week on Write Makes Right!

–EMS

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Plant a Seed

I remember being in elementary school and thinking that adulthood was- for all intents and purposes- millennia away.  Days lasted forever and summer vacation might as well be its own year in between school years.  Time lasted such a long time back then because my concept of time was “how long do I have to wait to go play with Pat.”

So I remember pretty clearly the first time Mrs. Thielman said to us that we should start thinking about about we want to do when we are all grown up.  It’ll help us pick classes and go to college one day if we figure it out early.

I remember just not caring.  Are you serious?  That’s like a whole different epoch from where I am now.  I’m busy playing Pokemon Blue (Blastoise is best, fuck Charizard) and Micro-Machines.

But she made us write a paper during class.  I don’t remember what I wrote about but I remember she said to think of this like planting a seed.

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We moved in the year 2000.  A long cross-country trip from Wisconsin to Washington. I got registered for middle school a bit late because mom and dad were busy with other stupid stuff like “where will we live?”  Most of the optional classes were full but Drafting still had slots open.

Mom expounded at length, “That would be so perfect for you!  You’re always drawing airplanes and those robots from Cartoon Network (Gundams).  Do you have any of your drawings to show them?”

I did not care one bit.  I was too focused on what I had left behind in Wisconsin (nothing really) to really appreciate what a big moment this was in my life.  Drafting led to 3D/CAD/CAM classes and the rest is for another story.

Doing the 3D modeling made me think back to Mrs. Thielman.  I loved doing 3D stuff, it was so much fun.  If the bell never rang I probably would have sat there for days making stuff.  Maybe this is what I want my seed to grow into.  It might cost money in the future but we’ll teach you more about money when you need it for college.

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Smash cut to high school.  Fucking teachers wouldn’t shut up about college.  College this, college that.  Get some grants, do some scholarships.  God damn it kids, don’t you know how important college is?  Our generation went to college and it was fucking awesome.  We’ll help you do that!

I took as many of the CAD/CAM classes I could with Mr. Kernen (Resident Badass Teacher).  I had so much fun doing the work.  I thrived.  It was something I was good at and something I enjoyed doing.  I was nurturing my seed.  The classes breezed by and I was genuinely sad when I ran out.

Towards the end of high school the teachers got more and more on our cases to do some scholarships and apply for grants.  I remember being impressed by how many scholarships there were.  But I didn’t do any of them because paperwork was for jive bitches and the first few didn’t pan out.  I am easily discouraged.

But don’t worry.  The government can help with federal loans and there are places that can give out loans specifically for school.  There are plenty of options.  They’ll teach you more about loans when you apply for them.  Just remember, going to college is an investment in your future.

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College.  This was it.  This was what it was all for.  I did flounder a bit out of high school but after a year I had it all dialed in.  I wanted to go to The Art Institute of Portland for Industrial Design (later Design Visualization) so I could continue to do fun 3D shit!

Dat price tag though.  The average Art Institute (A.I.) degree is approximately $100,000.  But what you get is so very worth it.  Do not worry though, A.I. makes sure that its well spent with teachers with real experience, a comprehensive placement plan when you graduate, and really experienced accountants who can help you get your finances in order.  You shouldn’t worry about that!  You should be focusing on your future because this is the stage in which your life is played out.

I ended up taking out federal and private loans because F.A.F.S.A. told me to #getrekt.  I wasn’t too worried, I was quite assured that when I had my super well paying job the loans would just vanish like so much cocaine on a CEO’s desk.   We’ll teach you more about loans when you have to start paying them.

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My experience with my loans was really frustrating and confusing.  Mom joined in and had just as much luck figuring anything out.  My college assured me that they talk to the bank every time my college funds ran out so I don’t need to worry about that.  They also didn’t want to bore me with the mathematical details.  They told me my bank will teach me what I need to know when I start paying them off.

I did learn though that something that would help me moving forward would be having some real credit history.  What’s that?  No, no, rental history is different even though its the same.  You need a credit card!  It has a really low rate!  Use this card to buy stuff and then pay it off later!  It’ll help your credit score.  What’s a credit score?  An arbitrary number we applied significant meaning to.

Think of it like borrowing money when you need it.  And then when you have your super well paying job it won’t be a problem because you can pay it off as you go.

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I graduated and then everything became struggle for a while.  You’re starting out though, this is the future you’ve been investing in!  Don’t be sad!

I bounced from freelance job to freelance job and kept repeating their mantra in my head, “You’ll get your great job someday!  Just keep working.”

I’ve been working at Nemo Design for almost 2 years now.  This is probably the best job I’ve ever wanted and I love it.  It was a little shaky in the middle when my loans came back online and I didn’t quite have that “great job” they all assured me I would.  I kept asking for their help and they kept saying, “You’ll get it someday!”

I’m paying my bills off but I’m a little confused.  So many things were promised to me with no explanation, and even now when I ask for one I don’t really get one.  At so many points in the past they told me “we’ll explain it all to you when you get there.”

Well now I’m here, and I was never taught this stuff.  I wasn’t taught how to carefully manage a budget, it wasn’t explained to me how paying off loans was going to work, and I certainly don’t know how to navigate a financial situation of almost any level.

And I’m not the only one.  Many of my peers have similar stories.  College wasn’t a wonderland like it was made out to be.  College wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t for everyone.  But those financial commitments we made stand and we have to deal with them.

All of the flowery words to reassure me about my choices were pointless.  My “industry expert” teachers were essentially all moving through a revolving door- they weren’t that important in the end if they were so easily replaced.  I’ve met other 3D designers who never even went to college.  Credit history is important but so far it hasn’t played any role in my life.  My loans that were supposed to be trivial in the face of my awesome super well paying job actually cost me more money than I pay on my apartment.  I wouldn’t have any bills if I hadn’t accrued them myself.  So why was college so important?

Why wasn’t I taught about these things?  Why wasn’t there a precious math class about how a college loan can build up if you aren’t careful?  Why wasn’t I taught how to navigate this stuff?  Why wasn’t I taught about how much being an adult costs?

Our generation gets a lot of shit, too.  People say we are entitled.  We don’t buy as much, we live with our parents forever, we are apparently lazy and media obsessed.  We are told how hard things were for our parents and how hard they have it.  Everything is easy for us.  Things were put in place to help us.  Anyone can get a credit card.  Anyone can get a college loan.  Anyone can get an education if they are willing to pay in this day and age.   Stop acting like we made you promises.

Instead of preparing me to be an adult they prepared me to be a college student.  They built up this idea about how these things are important and then ushered us through a pipeline to get us into these roles.  While the goals set for me certainly have shaped my life to this point, they certainly weren’t important.  And now I’m paying a bunch of money each paycheck back to organizations.  Organizations that told us whatever we wanted to hear as long as we adhered to their ideas about adulthood and education.  They told us to trust them, they told us they would teach us.  After I was through the pipeline though- all of the help melted away and they are already focusing on the next group moving through.  My journey was complete.

Then it occurred to me.

I was never the farmer.

I was the crop.

Corn harvest in Illinois - September

-DTM