Self-esteem: Generation gap

First up, thanks to AG for passing along a link that gets more unbelievable the more I read it. Seems that a young person breaking into journalism saw a listing for an internship, saw that she met the basic criteria and decided to start perusing her New York housing options with her buddies, as if she’d just been cast in Friends. To her astonishment, this was NOT the response: “Oh, you have eight clips? Welcome to your new home! Would you like a corner office, or would you prefer the larger office with a personal assistant?”

I heard a recent interview with Monty Python/Rutles music master Neil Innes, who complimented John Cleese as the master of writing sketches that revealed a twisted reality one little bit at a time. This column is along those lines. We learn late in the sob story that she used a “creative” font style when she applied, and she’s aghast that the intern coordinator doesn’t recognize how her choice proved that she is the next great music journalist, a Cameron Crowe waiting to go on the road with Stillwater. Of course, she’s already derided the intern coordinator because he only has a few bylines in the magazine, so surely he has plenty of time to respond to her every word.

(I’ve been there — I often wish the people who think I do nothing other than write a weekly column could follow me through the drudgery of meetings and spreadsheets for a few hours.)

The response at Romanesko (no permalinks, but if you pick up the thread around my buddy Forrest Brown’s comment at 4/22/2005 4:03:53 PM, you’ll have some good reading) is a mix. Some, like Forrest, share their stories of humbling jobs after college. A few others think some career counseling is in order, and others ask what the heck the North Adams Transcript was thinking in publishing a piece that is going to haunt its author for years to come. The “sound of 1,000 bridges burning” is loud and clear.

But our heroine, Krystal Grow, has her defenders of sorts, those who ask us to remember how arrogant and foolish WE were in our youth.

And that brings me to the generational point. I’m now closer to 40 than 29, and I find myself asking if today’s music is really that bad or if I’m just too old to get it. Same type of question applies here, except that I’ve been asking it since I was 26 or so, watching kids come out of school at the beginning of the dot-com boom and throwing fits that they weren’t rich and famous after one year of paying dues. (Seriously — even as things went bust in late 2001, a kid who had been out of school for about a year told me with a straight face that she didn’t want to do something difficult because she had “paid her dues.” Not the sort of thing you tell someone who graduated from an expensive school and was listening to verbal abuse from a high school cross-country coach at age 23.)

So do kids ALWAYS have this bizarre sense of entitlement? Or is it a specific problem in today’s TV-in-every-bedroom, grade-inflation age?

In my day, college did an adequate job of beating our expectations out of us. When I landed a $400-a-week job as a copy editor on the night shift (work every weekend, but every other Friday off!), people looked at me like I’d won the lottery. During the boom, I worked with people who acted as if the local media were beneath them.

Sure, that was during a recession, so perhaps it’s unfair. In later years, kids from my school did in fact jump straight from the student paper to Newsweek and places like that. But I think there’s a case to be made for the overinflation of our precious ones’ self-esteem these days.

Or maybe ours is too low. Consider these test results:

Which Family Guy character are you?

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