In these essays, I challenge myself to write dangerously — focused on the ideas and feelings at the time. I set them aside, for publishing later. So, the events detailed in the essays do not always correlate with the date they are released on my website.
I just participated in an event with my extended family and my parent’s friends. People who have known me my whole life (and about whom I am generally neutral). At least, I actively engage with them in neutral ways.
Maybe we disagree on politics or lead different lifestyles but, I generally don’t interact with these people more than once a year. I like to think we have amicable, neutral relationships — albeit shallow ones.
Someone asked how my work was going. I said, “Good — busy.” Because who really cares to hear about my job?
A second party’s response was, “Are you even making money at it?”
My response? Surprise — followed by confusion, then anger.
The surprise came from a place of general social niceties. I can’t imagine asking anyone who works if they’re actually making money or asking them how much they’re making. We’re all that flavor of nice, white people who think it’s rude to talk about money.
This brought me into two swirling thought patterns of confusion.
The first swirl revolves around the notion that I don’t make any money working. Where did that come from? I’ve always worked and I’ve always made money working. I’ve never had like, fake vanity jobs. We are not that kind of people.
After school, I did work an unpaid internship for 3 months. I rented space in a garage and I lived there. I slept on a pull-out for three months, drained my savings account, kept all my belongings in my hatchback, and earned my way into a position at one of the top 10 agencies in the entire country. My parents never sent me money. I did this all on my own — with no help or connections.
I’ve always been proud of my confident moment applying for the position — and then telling them I would be sitting in their foyer until someone in HR could interview me. It’s a special mixture of cringe and badass that you could do in 2007 and amuse people enough to get their attention.
I paid off all my student loans and my car loan 1.5 years after graduating. Again — this is while living on my own and working full time. I think that alone should earn me some respect. I literally did that thing where I stalked grocery store dumpsters for expired food to cut down on food costs. I used every “minimalist” trick possible to stretch my budget — so that I could have the financial freedom to pursue a creative career.
That position turned into a really hard job — which I kept through the 2009ish recession. Each job turned into another one. Sure, I job-hopped for a variety of reasons — but, wasn’t every millennial? I never stopped working.
I got a free master’s degree working for a university. Again, education that I paid for with my work. I never walked for the ceremony. I don’t talk about it. It’s not in my email signature. Most people probably don’t know I have it. Because it’s in communications and — who really even cares?
I’ve always worked.
Partway into my twenties — my husband and I did move into a family member’s house. This was for about 6 months. It started because we moved to the area for work. I was having a hard time finding housing (weirdly limited renter’s market) and they offered to let me live there and save money — pay off my husband’s student loans.
So I did. I thought it was a nice gesture. Until word got around about it. I found the way it was talked about very insulting. I moved out giving that family member a five-figure check equivalent to the average rent in that area for that amount of time. (I had the money. I always had the money.) I always worked.
They never cashed the check but, the message came through — I knew what was said and they knew I knew.
What most people don’t know is that the same family member actually lived with me for several months while they were unemployed and job hunting. It was a few years later. The job market was depressed, I lived in a growing area, and — we do these things for family. I never charged them rent. And I never used it to put them down. I never spoke of it.
Honestly, that gossip about my brief time spent living with a family member is the only thing you could possibly chalk up to lazy-messy-millennial behavior. Or whatever kind of bashing makes boomers feel superior.
And that was just perception. I thought I accepted a kind offer to get ahead financially. It’s hung over my head for a decade.
I do recall several years ago, saying something about not having student loans. Family members will say it’s because my dad paid for all my school. He didn’t. I don’t know where this story originated.
My tuition was incredibly low because I was a many-times-over scholarship student. I didn’t go to my dream school. I went to the school I could afford. I was a student worker in the IT department.
I did get help. My dad paid a portion. I got a generous gift from a family friend. I got financial aid, and I earned a lot of scholarships. My family still jokes that they didn’t know the Daughters of the American Revolution was a real thing (and not just from Gilmore Girls) until I got money from them. (And the American Legion, and anyone else that will give teens money for writing essays.)
I paid the rest (which was the majority of my tuition). This financial freedom was always part of the DREAM. Pay off school loans. Build a career and learn my craft. Start my own company with flexible work. Have a kid. Live my life.
And I did it.
It took me ten years. Then, I filed for an LLC at the same time I created my baby registry. My nest egg to start the money? The money I earned working.
Not a dime from anyone. Not even a business loan.
Let’s dive into the second swirl.
The head hurricane revolves around my lack of hype. I post about dumb stuff on social media, I admit such as my greeting cards that I make and sell for fun. The silliest projects that I do on the side. I show myself running around with my kid.
I don’t mainline bulletproof coffee and rant about how to be successful. I don’t give Ted talks from my social media. I don’t buy crypto or trade NFTs.
So, maybe that’s why I deserve a dig at my self-employment. It’s not fast-growing. I don’t have one of those mythical multi-six-figure businesses that every Gen Zer seems to have from live-streaming themselves napping.
Is it a sexist thing? I hope not.
But the fact that my business is slow-growing is a testament to how real it is. No Elizabeth-Holmes femmetrenuer vibes here. I’m pursuing contract after contract. I’m finishing project after project. I’m cashing check after check.
I don’t pretend it’s going better than it actually is. In fact, I don’t talk about my goals or gains, or successes in much detail. I pay my taxes quarterly.
After my head stopped swirling, my mischievous side came out. I opted to talk about one of my more uncomfortable clients in the death industry. I went into detail beyond polite conversation because you don’t get to say “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice” without some consequences.
Then, I wrote a blog post about it and put it behind me.
Note to self: Cross them off the Christmas card list. It’s not worth a forever stamp.
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About Danielle Verderame
I am a writer first. I specialize in content-heavy websites, bringing together my 15 years of marketing background with my imaginative aesthetic. Most of the time, I optimize small business websites for search and social media. Through Verderame, LLC. I offer my services to small businesses who need assistance with their websites, content, and search engine optimization.
In 2023, I launched a boutique Lynchburg Marketing agency under Verderame, LLC. And it’s all focused on retail. Our small team specializes in marketing services for makers, eStores, and retailers. We’re ready to maintain, manage, and promote your store on any platform including WordPress, Squarespace, Shopify, Square Online (Weebly), Comment Sold, Pinterest Shops, and Meta (Facebook/Instagram) Shops.
If you’re looking for marketing help, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.