I have been away from the blog lately due to a variety of end-of-the-year academic and life-changing business. However, after spending the last couple days moving boxes and furniture out of my old apartment, and then cleaning the place, I have finally moved into my new house in Pasadena, CA!
The months leading up to this move have been even crazier, with a bed bug infestation in my old apartment a couple weeks ago (I couldn’t deal with them quite as easily as the apostle John did in the Acts of John, chapter 60), weekly 4 AM commutes this last academic quarter to Santa Barbara for Religious Studies seminars, and my partner (Camille) finishing her master’s degree in Information Science at UCLA. Cam and I moved here because she just got a job working as an archive specialist for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We both love Pasadena so far, especially since we are both television fans of The Big Bang Theory, which takes place here. In fact, the characters in the show work for the California Institute of Technology, which is affiliated with NASA JPL.
We are just renting the place for a year, but here is a shot of the new house:
And here is an angle where you can see more of the front yard:
This change in life venue has been greatly welcomed, especially since the last several years have been a major transition period. We have both been commuting on a regular basis to no less than 7 universities in the SoCal area. I’ve been taking classes at 4 UC campuses (UCI, UCR, UCSD, and UCSB), and Cam has been getting her degree at UCLA, while also doing an internship at USC, as well as the internship that led to her new job at Cal Tech. As such, we have been spending a ton of time in traffic. But, we have now moved close to where Cam works, and likewise I will be on fellowship this next academic year (no teaching or seminars), meaning that we are going to have a whole year free from long commutes.
More than even that, however, this move has been the turn of a major chapter in my life. Earlier today I read an article on The Daily Dot titled “The real reason young people are the poorest generation in 25 years” about the financial troubles that are facing the Millennial Generation. Cam and I are both millennials, and I thought that I would comment on some of our experiences reaching this point in our life, and how they reflect on some of the issues people our age are facing in the economic landscape.
One of the big myths that The Daily Dot article debunks is the notion that millennials are extremely lazy and simply want to goof off online, rather than work. That, in my experience (as well demonstrably in terms of economic and social data), is completely bunk. I have several friends who have been out of work, but who have still been applying heavily to try to find a job over the last several years. I entered college in 2005, and the years in which my class graduated around 2009-2010 was a time of major economic recession. In fact, I was working as a legislative intern for the Arizona Supreme Court at the time, and I got to see all of the grim financial news first-hand, in addition to seeing a good deal of disfunction in my state government.
Given the levels of unemployment and poverty currently facing millennials, I would say that Cam and are doing OK. However, we both had to work really hard to reach a point where we could be financially stable, employed full-time (well, Cam at least, since I am still in grad school), and living a comfortable lifestyle. Thankfully, we don’t have kids, and we also have a manageable amount of student loan debt, meaning that we can afford to support ourselves living in a two bedroom house.
To reach this point we had to work a lot in college. The days are long gone when you could simply get a four-year degree and expect to get a job afterward (except in highly specialized fields). Fortunately, I entered college as a Political Science major (though I changed my major multiple times afterward), meaning that I realized that my job prospects would be bleak, unless I got work experience.
I say that this is “fortunate” because this realization shook me out of something of a lethargy up until that point in my life. When I was in high school, I fell into the video game trap that was common among teenagers of that period. Online gaming had just become a thing, and I knew many friends that spent hundreds of hours playing World of Warcraft, among other online distractions. A lot of them later expressed regret at the lost time. If I hadn’t realized that I had no chance of getting a job with a Poli Sci degree, unless I started working hard and early, I may never have stopped gaming myself. In fact, I quit video games 10 years ago (the newest gaming systems that I own are a PS2 and Gamecube), and since then I have been primarily focused on my career.
During my undergrad years, I worked 2 unpaid political internships (though I got college credit for both of them), before I was able to get a minimum wage internship at the AZ Supreme Court in the spring of 2009. One was at the Pima County Democratic Party headquarters and the other was at the Pima County adult detention center (i.e. the county jail). I also worked 5 paid positions during that time, first on a political campaign in the summer of 2006 (a primary congressional race, in which my candidate lost), as a resident assistant in the university dorms for 2 years (perhaps my most wild job ever), shelving books at the UofA library, doing IT support for UofA university services (my worst job ever), and working as a night attendant at a local cemetery (that’s right, a graveyard shift inside a graveyard, which was my best job ever until I became a Latin teacher as a grad student in 2011).
After working at the AZ Supreme court, I also had a major career shift, when I decided that I wanted to become a professor in Classics (I also hadn’t studied any Latin or Greek prior to this time). Once more, I was entering a field with grim job prospects, but it again motivated me to work hard and to make use of every opportunity that I could. I was fortunate to get good financial aid for both my MA and PhD programs, though I won’t know until I go on the job market 3 years from now whether it will fully pay off.
Cam also worked multiple jobs when she was an undergrad. She took multiple babysitting and elderly care gigs, worked as a cook at a university restaurant, and then worked nights at the UofA library for a number of years (so, she got the graveyard shift experience too).
The last several years we have been doing graduate work, in which I have been teaching college classes, and Cam has been doing paid internships. I got a good funding package at UC Irvine (6 years, $20,000 a year, with fees and tuition paid), and Cam has had well-paying internships. But, these last couple years we have also been driving a ton, frequently paying for convenience (such as ordering in delivery on a regular basis), and pretty much focusing solely on school and work.
Now, with me at age 27, and with Cam at age 23, with two master’s degrees, we can afford to rent a two bedroom house, without any outside assistance. I think we have done pretty well for most millennials, but I want to stress that it has definitely been a working experience. With rising costs of college tuition, a highly competitive job market, rising costs of living, and stagnating salaries, getting out on our own has been a prolonged and often difficult (though rewarding) experience. I know that we are both pretty lucky, since not everyone our age is doing quite as well…
I just hope that, despite its rough beginnings, the Millennial Generation will be able to make a comeback as it gets older. We millennials entered our teenage and early adult years facing the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Iraq War, and a recession. On top of that, we were also riding the tail-end of a lot of bad social problems in this country. I was circumcised as an infant, which I consider to be a less severe form of genital mutilation. There was a ton of homophobia and anti-gay marriage legislation when I was growing up. Women were treated worse in the last decade than they are now (though, there is still a TON of work to be done towards gender equality in this country and globally).
As a blogger and a teacher, I hope to do what I can to represent my generation well, help people my own age, and also train the next generation. I am extremely proud of Cam for working at NASA JPL, since they are literally helping to get the rockets off the ground that will enable us to study our solar system and universe, as well as the possibility of life on other planets. I work on the ancient history end of the spectrum, but I want to educate people about the grim realities of what antiquity was really all about, so that we can stop obsessing over antiquated concerns of the past (such as a dead apocalyptic prophet from the 1st century CE), and instead look towards a humanistic and technologically advanced future. There are many more problems to be faced ahead (see Civitas Humana blog post “Three Problems that the United States Must Address by the Mid-21st Century”), with climate change and renewable energy being at the top of the list. Fortunately, NASA, among other organizations, will be at the forefront of dealing with these problems.
As far as my new life goals now that I am here in Pasadena, I plan to get into better shape as soon as possible. Driving several hours a day over the course of two years can take a real toll on your physical health. At the new place I have a whole gym set up in my garage, with an elliptical, stair climber, bowflex, dumbbell set, and pull up bar to get me in shape. I worked out for 2 hours this morning, and plan to do a lot more in the months ahead.
Now that I am moved into my new place, I will of course be returning to blog here on Κέλσος. I learned a ton working with Dr. Christine Thomas last quarter at UCSB. I will be writing soon on some of what I learned, in addition to many other topics of interest. I also have more to say about my anticipated dissertation topic, as well as where I will be taking my counter-apologetics book project. I’m feeling great and am glad to get back into writing!
Some other good news is that, despite my absence, Κέλσος has still been doing great web traffic-wise. I actually get the majority of hits from Google searches, rather than new posts, probably because (in case you haven’t noticed) I tend to write very long blog articles. Such blog articles show up well in Google searches, so even stuff that I wrote years ago is still getting plenty of traffic and new readers. Time to push further and start posting new content, to make this an even better resource!