Is There Anything Redeeming About Taylor Cotter's 'I'm Sad I'm Not Poor' HuffPo Essay?
Taylor Cotter, pictured here, is 22. She's got her dream job, a car, and an apartment, but she's sad that she's not poor. She's so dissatisfied with les bons temps, in fact, that she recently penned an essay for HuffPo about her harrowing experience "A Struggle of Not Struggling."
Explains Cotter: "What about that 10-cents-a-word life that I always wanted? What about New York City? What about freelancing, penning newspaper columns and urban adventures? What about the struggles that I see on Girls and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren't these the things that really make you 22?"
Now, as obnoxious as Cotter sounds -- and she does sound obnoxious -- let's look at her essay to see if she's really as bad as she seems -- or whether she maybe just lacks nuance as a writer (and common sense as a human being.)
Let's begin with the beginning, shall we?
Cotter's lede: "Like most female journalists, I assume, I only grew up with two real inspirations in my life: Carrie Bradshaw and Harriet the Spy."
It seems a little too early to call bullshit already, but assuming that all ladies who like to write want to take after someone such as Carrie Bradshaw -- whose M.O. mainly amounts to shoes and dudes -- is just insulting to women.
Anyway, Cotter then complains that she couldn't do the 10-cents-a-word life that her fictional idol (fictionally) lived and decided to take the road more traveled.
"I came down on the 'right' side of every statistic -- I found a job in my field that actually pays well, I'm living on my own, and seem to have everything that these other college graduates are dying to have.
But what about that 10-cents-a-word life that I always wanted? What about New York City? What about freelancing, penning newspaper columns and urban adventures? What about the struggles that I see on Girls and the tales of credit card debt and ramen noodle dinners? Aren't these the things that really make you 22?"
She goes into more detail on this:
"I suppose that I'm grateful that I can make all my car payments and start saving for retirement while most of my friends are living at home and working part-time jobs -- but I often find myself lamenting the fact that I'm not living at home and not working a part-time job. From my perspective, these are just some of the life-changing, character-building experiences that I may never have...My 'dream life' took a backseat to pursuing a solid career at a solid company.
Is the quarter-life crisis just not having a full-time job and living with your parents, or is it realizing that you have to choose some irreversible path for your life? In my case, it was realizing that I had already chosen, quite some time ago."
There's a lot going on in these paragraphs, but this seems to be the big issue here: Cotter is confused.
She seems to think that all hardships help young people develop -- and that she's missing out by not experiencing all of them.
Truth is, some hardships are just hard and not redeeming rites of passage in and of themselves, as Cotter seems to think.
Yes, many of us seek out difficult things such as moving to a big city or shoestring budget backpacking or long-term volunteering.
That's because we think those experiences will enrich our lives somehow, which might make us better and more insightful at whatever we decide to do.
However, the people who chose these paths typically aren't so dumb as to think that great art can only come from poverty, or that eating shitty food would make us more authentic, or that credit card debt is inherently noble. They know they might encounter this stuff on the way, but don't look forward to it -- which is what Cotter seems to do.
Cotter doesn't seem to get that "coming of age," which she feels like she skipped by having a stable life, isn't predicated on penury or suffering.
With risk of sounding sour and grizzled, we're going to say that the grand "coming of age" experience seems more about setting a difficult goal and overcoming obstacles to achieve it.
But that's not what Cotter wants -- and that's why she's so annoying.
She romanticizes parts of the experience that really aren't all that romantic and seems more obsessed with the aesthetic than the pragmatic realities of the process.
She dreams about eating ramen when really, what's dream-worthy is when you can support yourself -- doing what you want, where you want -- not having to eat ramen every day.
We reached out to Cotter via Twitter, cell phone, and e-mail, to see whether she wanted to clarify her comments. She wrote us back with this to say:
Sorry for just getting back to you but I'm not doing any media surrounding my piece.
All the best,
We asked her to reconsider. We'll update if she changes her mind.
(H/T Steven Thrasher)
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.