20something profile: Roe
Hi, I’m Roe. I’m an unemployed 24-year-old “adult” who unashamedly lives with my parents. I also take care of my grandmother who has a plethora of chronic ailments, while simultaneously striving to set a good example for my younger brother who’s still in high school. I’m also a songwriter.
I graduated Ramapo College of New Jersey in May of 2013 with a degree in Music, concentrating in Music Industry and Music Production and minoring in Information Systems — you know, for good measure. I also completed a “Business Essentials” certificate program (which basically means I took courses that gave me a brief overview of marketing, management, and accounting). I finished in four years with a 3.9 GPA.
While going to school, I held an on-campus job year-round, even during the summer. I never stopped. By the time I finally graduated, I was so exhausted, between studying and working, that I pretty much took the summer off — no job, no school, no obligations.
Every day I’d wake up with no other intentions than to sit in my backyard to read the books I didn’t get a chance to whilst in the throes of higher education (and high school). I began watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, delved into the many works and teachings of Joseph Campbell, and eventually started my blog, Roe Knows Best.
When July rolled around, I realized I should probably start applying to something, and so began the depressing, time-consuming, gut-wrenching, life-questioning process that is job hunting. I began with cold calls. I figured I should at least research and reach out to companies I liked or genuinely wanted to be a part of before I started sending out applications to BS corporations. The companies I originally reached out to included music management companies, along with booking agencies and music-based PR firms.
No one got back to me.
I followed up.
No one got back to me.
Thankfully, (thanks to favor from a friend) one of them did get back to me (a music management company), months after I originally sent my first email — but they weren’t hiring. They offered an unpaid internship and I took it — not only for the experience but because I really did like the company and hoped something more might come of it.
Some don’t take me seriously when I tell them I majored in Music, some pretend to be interested, others scoff and write me off as a failure. But in all honesty, I originally chose my major because I wanted to be a smarter musician; I had a genuine thirst for learning more about what goes on in the music business and recording realms, questions that could not have been answered otherwise.
There were nights filled with literal tears, as I tried to convey to my parents this is what I really wanted to do. They have been wonderfully understanding and supportive since.
I had some wonderful experiences at Ramapo and met people (and professors) who really changed my life. I didn’t choose my major to get a job; I chose it because it was within the vein of my bliss — playing and writing music.
Now, I suppose that makes me the antithesis for the ambitious 20-something post-grad who’s supposed to have “career interests” and has some innate desire to climb the corporate ladder. But I’ve never had those dreams. Not to sound cynical, but since living the life of the constant job applicant, I’ve become even more so disillusioned with the “professional realm” as a whole. Though as I continue to learn how to live in the world, it is something I try to accept and understand.
I stayed with the music management internship for nine months and commuted to New York twice a week on my own dime (maybe a little bit of my parent’s dime too…), and it really was a great experience; I met people there who I’m still in touch with today.
But ultimately, costs added up, and they weren’t looking to hire; I had to refocus my energies elsewhere — applying to jobs again. Most recently, I’ve gone on a few interviews, but nothing substantial has come from any of them. This current economy does not seem to take kindly to non-business or non-tech graduates.
I’ve been playing guitar for 10 years now and writing songs for 12, been in my fair share of bands, and played more open mics than I can count. I was performing live consistently until about 2012, when I had a semi-existential crisis: I felt every time I was on stage, everyone was talking and emerged into their phones and not listening to me at all. I didn’t like being background noise.
And so, with pent-up frustration and outward anger, I decided to temporarily throw in the towel and focus on home recording. I began two projects: my Song Shop and 24/7. Both served as great creative outlets to get my juices flowing and think of music in a new way, while also allowing me to hone in on my DIY recording techniques. I’ve recently started to play live again, and it’s going better than I could have anticipated.
With that said, I’ve always felt there’s been a divide in my “professional” and “musical” lives. Within the past year I’ve attempted to come to grips with this duality, and I think a certain split exists in everyone. This just happens to be mine — for now.
Of course I’m still applying to jobs and trying to make as many connections as I can in order to succeed and ultimately live a comfortable, independent life, but playing music and connecting with others seems a more viable option now more than ever. It’s something I can’t discount and brush aside, which is why I refuse to jump into a 9-to-5 (or rather, a 10-to-7:30 as many younger companies are doing now). Why sacrifice my time and energy on faking something I know I hate and putting up with office politics when I have other options?
I’ve ruled out going back to school; as I still have loans I’m paying off, I can’t intern for 99% of companies because I’m not involved in a “full-time undergraduate or graduate college program,” and at the end of the day, I find myself severely either under or overqualified for what’s out there.
I believe everything happens for a reason. Things will work out in the end. I stay plenty busy at home anyway between caring for my grandmother, keeping house (while my mom goes back to school for her Spanish Translation Certification), learning to bake and cook, and selling things on eBay. I like to think of it as a functional alternative to the typical 20-something lifestyle. At the end of the day, it’s all I can do to stay mentally positive and treat every day like it’s a gift.
When employment comes, it will come. But for now home life is key — and something I do not intend to take for granted.