I’ve been called a Miranda before. I’ve admitted to disliking Hannah the least. I’ve fantasized about growing up to be Ilana. But the truth is, I am a bona fide Rory.
Given the direction of 2016 Rory’s life in “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life,” this admission isn’t exactly something I’m proud of. In talking with friends about the four new Netflix episodes, I found their opinions (and those of the internet) were almost unanimous — the whiny-but-tolerable qualities Rory possessed in the original series (2000-07) have been comically magnified over the past nine years, and she’s mutated into an insufferable adult.
I don’t disagree. 32-year-old Rory claims to be a journalist, but she’s coasting on praise from one New Yorker byline. She takes a stab at a thinkpiece for GQ, but she backs out after missing the point of the piece entirely and fumbling her way into a one-night stand. She asks for a meeting with the eponymous head of Sandee Says (a clickbait media outlet that’s been pursuing her), expecting it to be an ego boost and a sure thing, but she can’t generate a single pitch for the site. Oh, and she’s also stringing along some guy, Paul, who deserves much better than a woman who keeps forgetting to break up with him and is still involved with her engaged, overseas ex. She’s a spoiled brat.
All this after being raised with supportive friends and family and financial privilege, graduating Valedictorian from Chilton, ascending to Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Daily News and reporting on Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign trail immediately after college. Rory had so much potential. You’d think she would have made something of herself.
You’d think I would have, too.
Growing up, I made friends that I’m still close to and had parents that put my needs before theirs. I was Valedictorian of my middle school class and attended a prestigious college prep high school. I double-majored in Mass Communications and Linguistics and was the Arts and Entertainment Editor of my college paper. My first job out of college was as a TV critic. There was a path, somehow, and I was following it.
And then, I don’t know … I wasn’t. The recession happened, a layoff happened, a tech job emerged, said tech job with a salary and benefits was taken, and five years later I found myself restless. Or, rather, I had been restless the whole time, but I finally admitted it. I decided to leave the Bay Area and move to New York, hoping the restlessness would morph into productivity.
It’s been two years, and it still hasn’t. I’m 29. The only job I’ve been able to get here is the one I currently have — I’m a copy editor. I earn a very modest hourly wage that forces me to drain my savings in order to live comfortably, I work night and weekend shifts that almost completely negate my social life, and I’ve had to rely on Obamacare because I’m considered a seasonal (read: part-time) employee.
I’m not asking for pity here; I know if I did, my membership card to the Ungrateful Club would arrive yesterday in the mail. I’m grateful to be employed, grateful to live in this absurd metropolis and even more grateful to have the aforementioned savings. I’m not asking for help or advice, either; I’ve received plenty of it, mostly in the form of links to job listings and “informational interviews” that generations ahead of me have insisted upon over the years.
Watching Rory biff it in those meetings hit really close to home. I’ve been in that room, with those people, with that fear and insecurity. I, too, thought I could float along on my intelligence, my conversational charm and my handful of “impressive” Huffington Post bylines. But that shiny teenage cockiness dulls exponentially when you spend your twenties letting your resume gather dust. (Then again, I also spent my twenties being in my twenties. That’s not such a bad thing, considering I hardly spent my teens being a teen.)
I’m a Rory because I, too, marched blindly into the abstract “Plan A” of journalism. Except journalism wasn’t my “Plan A.” I didn’t even have a plan, lowercase, let alone an uppercase one with a letter affixed to it. Entering college, I was told I’d be good at journalism. I ended up being decent at it, but mostly I was just better at it than math or biology or clarinet or grilling meats or snowboarding, and it never occurred to me to just try something completely different. I liked the idea of being good at journalism, and I assumed I’d always be good at it because being good at stuff was what I was good at. “Being good at being good at stuff” isn’t a life skill, though; it’s a way to get A’s in high school.
I gravitated towards Arts writing in college because I liked movies and music more than politics, and those were my choices when I applied for the paper. Arts also allowed me to say what I thought without having to listen to what other people thought, i.e. “interview sources,” i.e. “avoid most phone conversations.” I churned out a couple of reviews that I’m still proud of, but I often felt like a fraud for getting free concert tickets while my fellow writers, editors and photographers were pulling all-nighters to cover City Council meetings and student government elections.
Honestly, I didn’t even think beyond the actual word “journalism.” I definitely had no “Plan B,” because I didn’t think I had to. I still don’t have one. I don’t think Rory did — or does — either. We’re both floating, unmotivated, unable to kick our own asses, unable to find creative fulfillment because we’d have to take a risk and be bad at something in order for the good to emerge. We’re also unqualified for a lot of the jobs that we’re trying to apply for now, because in college, we envisioned careers that don’t really exist anymore. As frustrating as Rory was for most “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” viewers to take in, I felt relieved knowing my true kindred spirit — albeit a fragile fictional one — is out there.
Of course, given that she’s fictional, she also comes with her own convenient plot twist and resolution: an unplanned pregnancy (which, ironically, could have been prevented with “Plan B”) and a book. I’m not in the market for a baby, but I have been mulling over the idea of a book. Maybe I can draw some inspiration from my soulless sister. We’ll see. (Don’t ask me about it.)
You might know a Rory. You might know me. You might feel the urge to give us help or advice because you’re nice and you think we have potential.
Thank you, but don’t. We’ve been hearing that word, potential, our whole lives, and we’re sick of the pressure that comes with it. If we ask for help, that means we trust you, and we will ask.
We need to know that we’re mediocre at most things, and we need to just be mediocre. We need to fuck up. No one has let us fuck up before. Fucking up is perfectly fine. Turns out we’re good at fucking up because we’re good at being good at stuff. How’s that for a plot twist?
Oh, and if you’re wondering, Team Jess ‘til I die.