Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Brotherly Love

Last night, I injured my hand.

I was going to (half-jokingly) punch my brother, but I accidentally punched the fridge instead.

Ouch.

I had my hand packed in ice for the next three hours.

I don’t know why I still attempt to take on my brother. He’s three-and-a-half years younger than I am, but bigger and stronger. This wasn’t always the case, and the incident made me think back fondly on some of our fights of yore.

– I was a fat teenager. Around the age of 15, I reached a peak weight of 103 kilograms. (Considering I am exactly 40 kilograms lighter today, people usually find this hard to believe.) Despite the emotional and physical drawbacks of being a fat teenager, it was great for my fighting abilities. Actually, I didn’t really fight: I’d just sit on my brother. Rather like the Muddle-headed Wombat, one of my favourite characters in children’s literature, whose problem-solving skills revolved around sitting on people and things. My brother, a lanky 11-year-old at the time, could only flail helplessly beneath my bulk.

– A variation on the above involved sitting on my brother or sister and farting on them. Just for kicks.

– Fights often broke out over couches and the television remote control. If, when watching television of an evening, one of us went to get a drink or to go to the bathroom without announcing “My seat, my remote, can’t take it!”, the seat and remote control in question were up for grabs. The grabber was then in control of what channel we were watching. If one returned and objected to this turn of events, one was put back in one’s place with the irrefutable logic of the slogan “You move, you lose!” Indeed. The only recourse was, clearly, fighting. I remember one particular episode when we were brawling near our dad’s weights bench and treadmill, and an enormous glass sliding door. Very safe conditions. My brother had me in a headlock, and so I bit his thumb. He shrieked, let me go, and accused me of fighting like a girl before storming off. Harsh words, for sure, but I still won, didn’t I?

– As well as being skinny, my brother was also shorter than me. When he was coming at me in a fit of anger, I could simply put my hand against his forehead and his windmilling arms couldn’t reach me. Result! Of course, my brother eventually grew. Because I went to university in a town several hours from where I grew up, there were often months between the times I saw him, and he grew quickly in these times. I still remember the first time I tried the old hand-on-the-forehead trick, and his hands managed to make contact with my face. He was nearly as shocked as I was. This was, of course, the beginning of the end, and my brother is now a muscle-bound freak while I remain a poor and lanky excuse for a man.

Fortunately, our conflict-resolution skills have evolved, and we very rarely resort to fisticuffs.

Especially not when fridges get in the way.

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Media Message

Fuck the media.

And I don’t mean that in the fuck-the-media-they-never-tell-the-truth way. I mean it in the fuck-the-media-they’re-a-bunch-of-tight-arsed-jerks way.

I’ve got a degree in journalism and politics. I’ve written hundreds of columns, features and reviews.  I’ve worked for some of the world’s largest media organisations in various capacities. But I keep getting interviewed for jobs – with impressive-sounding titles like “deputy editor” – that offer to pay me less than my brother earns working at a liquor store. In fact, my best-paid job to date was at the café where I worked through university.

Often, the interviewer will pretend to empathise with me. “I know it’s not a great salary,” they’ll say. “But you get fantastic experience!”

Look at my resumé and don’t insult me. I don’t need your experience – I need your money.

It’s hard for writers and other creative types to prove their worth. Sales departments can point at increased advertising spending and such to prove they’re valuable to the business. Writers can’t do this in any direct way, but business owners often – or, in my experience, always – forget that nobody would want to put an advertisement in a magazine if the content was shit.

This devaluing of writing talent is most evident in the industry’s use of interns. I had a good experience: after getting a couple of good references from some short-term internships, my first long-term internship turned into a paid contributor’s role. They didn’t pay me much, but it made for some nice pocket money in addition to the money I earned from my full-time job.

However, even I was chewed up by this arrangement. I worked my guts out for three years, hoping a full-time position would eventuate at the magazine. I even took holidays from my full-time job to work at the magazine I contributed to. Eventually, it became too draining, and I quit.

Just in time, too: a couple of weeks later, the editor announced that they were doubling feature length without an increase in contributor pay.

But as I said, I was lucky: I know many people who worked full-time hours for no financial compensation. A lot of my friends work for various newspapers, magazines and websites; every single one of these would collapse without their unpaid interns.

This willingness to work for free then feeds into media employment and freelancing rates: the job is offered to those willing to work for the least. Well, guess what, media? I’m a man with a university degree and five years of experience behind me: I’m not willing to work for what you’re offering. I know so many talented and hard-working writers who struggle to pay the rent.

It’s a joke, and I’m sick of it.

So this is my “Dear John” letter to the media. I’ve had enough. I’ve had some great times with the media, and I’ll always love it, but I’m sick of being treated with such indifference. I’m off to find an industry that will appreciate me for who I am.

And pay me accordingly.

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