Recent J-School Grad Cries to Cary Tennis

Salon's Cary Tennis is a clinically insane advice columnist. Lately he's been hearing from recent graduates whining about the job market (Remember the Harvard grad who couldn't hold a fast-food gig?) Today it's an ice cream-slingling J-school grad.

Here's how "Scared Journalist" described their wretched life:

I spent the last four and a half years studying print journalism in college and watching vacantly as the newspaper/magazine industry crumbled before my eyes...I always figured I had what it takes to get a job even in an extremely competitive market: Before I ever graduated, I had completed four internships at newspapers, magazines and a Web site, published almost a hundred clips (including longer, high-quality pieces), and left a good impression with everyone I worked with. I knew I wanted to be a journalist, and I knew that I wanted to write for a living.

Now, six months after graduating, my parents still pay my cellphone bill and I am working full-time making ice cream. I make a couple hundred bucks here and there freelancing for a magazine I interned at, but otherwise my "freelance" career, as well as my journalism career, is dead in the water. I find myself despondent and unable to send out any more cover letters, and I can't find the time or motivation to research a story idea enough to send it to an editor because I assume he or she will simply reject my half-baked idea. I'm panicking, but I fear failure so much that I can't even get started. Freelancing seems to be my best option career-wise, but I can't summon the willpower and enthusiasm to do it. Plus, I lost my license to a DUI conviction (that got me fired from one of those newspaper internships), which has immobilized me and left me unable to relocate to a new job until October. The DUI also contributes to my job-hunting anxiety.

What I see is that my passion for journalism and writing is waning. Working full-time has taught me that work is work and play is play, and that I need to maximize the efficiency of my hours I spend at work in order to maximize how much I can play outside of work. I am looking into jobs in other fields that pay better. Is it healthier to stick it out working at an ice cream store and desperately try to make it as a writer, or should I pursue a career where financial security is more realistic?

This person's letter launched Tennis into an almost incomprehensible treatise on the virtues of the writing life in which he cited Sartre and Boswell and "Samuel Pepys on London Bridge getting blown by whores." What he should have said is this:

Enough with the whining, Sally! From here on out for the remainder of your existence I want you to stop each time you start to feel sorry for yourself and remember that some poor sap on the other side of the world is going to be beheaded today because he trimmed his freaking beard. Got that?

So your parents are paying your cell phone bill. And? What's the problem? Why aren't they paying more of your bills? Why aren't they paying your damn rent as well? Probably because you're too much of a coward to ask them to pay it! Listen kid, you're never going to get anything in life without asking for it, so never be afraid to ask for anything, no matter how ridiculous it may seem. Milk this whole parental support crap for as long as you can. Hell, lie if you have to—Tell them you have cancer and that you need $5000 for some alternative treatment not covered by their insurance that's only available in Bulgaria. Then go to Bulgaria for a couple of weeks, where you'll be fawned over by some of the world's most beautiful people for simply being an American, and you'll still come back with enough money to pay rent for a couple of months because everything's so ridiculously cheap over there. Then tell your parents that the treatment worked and you're cured! Say it with conviction and they'll believe you, because no parent wants to believe that their child would lie about having cancer for rent money. And consider yourself lucky for simply having parents with the means to help you. I wish mine would have. I had to work from the day I left home at 18 and that sucked!

Finally, and I don't really know how to break this to you gently, but you got screwed kid. You just wasted 4 1/2 years of your life and thousands of dollars that would have been better spent traveling the world doing drugs and having sex with beautiful strangers. Then you could have come back and just started a blog making fun of a certain gay British new media overlord and he would've hired you and—Voila!—A media job! But hey, free ice cream can't be all that bad.

And about that DUI—Move to New York where you don't need a car to get around and you can take cabs home when you're bombed out of your mind. Why else do you think this city is the media capital of the world?

I Studied Print Journalism: Now What?
[Salon]