I was staring down the chicken in my skillet, thinking about how overseasoned it looked. I'm a baker, I can't cook intuitively. I shredded the breast over high heat with a fork and knife, burning it to assure myself I wouldn't get salmonella.
Just as I barely saved my rice from overcooking, I thought about how only around 7% of Latinas 25 and older have their Master's degree. A natural thought to have over the stovetop, I know. Stay with me. In 2000, it was only 4% of us. To make matters worse, this updated figure includes both women and men. There's a lot less of us than we think. I sat down, ate, and started to think about how to pay for school again. And how to find learning opportunities. I haven't stopped since.
In middle school, our teachers handed us these pamphlets for some college thing, and I nearly mindlessly tossed it. If it weren't for my mom hounding me, I might've not gotten my bachelor's so easily. The program offered a full-ride scholarship to low-income & BIPOC students at any university of our choosing, so as long as we maintained a decent GPA and a high enough ACT score to ditch the state. I graduated with my room and board, tuition, textbooks, and even my CTA card fully covered. 
The idea was always that I'd move to LA, get a California car title, register to vote, and do all that fun shit to get in-state tuition. As time goes on, it becomes more and more complicated: $13k/yr of student debt is a lot better than $30k/yr, but neither is great when rent is at an all-time high, a gallon of gas is easily almost $6 in some places, and a girl's still gotta eat. That, and everyone knows it's the interest that gets you, too.
Anyway—I graduated at the tail end of 2020, completely scathed by the pandemic, plucked out of my pond, and tossed into the ocean without a shred of help. Every internship was remote, and every out-of-state opportunity wanted you to already be there. I spent an extra two years at home, taking everything I could come across: social media, talent management, virtual assistance, and as an editor for a small women's magazine. I spent months applying to everything and anything—even the things had zero experience in, but knew I was capable of doing. Especially if it was paid—I deposited every cent I could into my savings.
NYU rejected me in high school, but they sent me postcards now and then offering $30 for a survey, which I filled out religiously. I collected coins in my car and cashed them out at CVS, once again depositing the cash into my savings. Every $100 of birthday money was tucked away, too.
Now I find myself sitting in my car wondering how to do all of it again. How do I get more experience? How do I find the people who want to teach me? I figured it out once, before. I figure everything out. What do I need to do differently? Why is different not working, either? 
I've been applying to things nonstop, consistently interviewing with companies, being ghosted, and subsequently tallying their names in my notes app like a corporate little black book. I've been trying my best to network, but damn, nobody tells you that a lot of people suggest grabbing coffee merely as a formality. I'm still working on figuring out which offers are legit to follow up on. I'm offering to assist on sets, reminding myself that the weekends, while unpaid, are teaching me so much, and that's what I want.
There's one aspect of navigating all of this that I've been thinking a lot about, too:
The Marketability Of The Gen Z Applicant
Hear me out. My generation is totally plugged into aesthetics, hence the bow logo on my page. Influencer marketing is a money maker and UGC has replaced entire in-house studios for start-ups and the like. We can make a living off of the "Day in My Life" trend—a 30-second microcosm of the most carefully curated and manicured lifestyle that is unattainable to a good 90% of us.
Job applications, aside from cover letters and resumes, provide fields for Instagram and TikTok handles, even outside the realm of social media careers. To work in social media itself, however, presents an even larger issue: your follower count is an asset. 
The likeability of your kitchen, your clothing, your niche, and your presence is a selling point in and of itself, and to opt out of this, well, is to your detriment. Or so it seems. I like social media. I like TikTok. I love Twitter. Instagram, meh. The idea of advertising myself on any of these platforms as anything besides myself is what evokes the feeling of insecurity.
I, despite any work experience or professional accomplishments, must be marketable. Appealing.
To the companies I'm applying to. To their audiences. To the recruiter. To my social media—AKA the hunting grounds to see if someone's cool. Or, in today's case, aligned with the company brand.
Now if it seems like I'm complaining, you are correct. I absolutely am, congrats for hitting that on the nail. Part of it, though, is just pure curiosity on how to do it. I wouldn't be so fucking mad over the complexity of it if there was a guidebook to being cool. I'm wishing there was cool-o-meter to see where I ranked, and possibly a pro-version where I could senselessly pay $10 for a Spark Notes on how to improve.
I'm not entirely opposed to it. I just wish it wasn't an expectation, y'know?
Re: job hunting, I've had recruiters turn their noses up at my non-linear career path (sue me, I was trying to save and learn as much as possible wherever possible), but still expect me to be a multi-hyphenate. They want a Jack of all trades, but you can't say you're a Jack of all trades. It's a corporate conundrum. I'm expected to be an extrovert (check), have a pioneering personality (check), but these must be accompanied by a minimum of 10k followers. AHHH!
Honestly, I'm 2 seconds away from forcibly recording a "Day in My Life" in hopes it gets me somewhere, but I'm struggling so hard with the idea of ornamenting my existence to be appealing. I want to be authentic, I want to be genuine. I want to be able to write and talk about the things I want. Like the old condoms and lighters in my purse as well as commentary on the latest lesbian film, and spotting my queen Rachel Sennott in Silver Lake. I want to tell raunchy humor, describe coming-of-age stories, and give bar reviews just for the hell of it. Seriously.
You might actually see me doing all of the above in a month or something. If I ever get the damn time.
It's just frustrating. It's frustrating that it's seemingly never enough. The curated blog, the resume, the cover letters, the interview outfit, the portfolios, STAR questions, and more, more, more. Just to continue to be the "it was so close between you and one other person!"
I know I'm not alone in feeling this. I want to go back to school. I want to keep learning. I want to figure out what it is I'm passionate about, and I want a mentor(ship) to understand that while I don't have these things figured out, I will always eventually get it figured out. I just need the opportunities.
Maybe it's a total shot in the dark that I get my Master's fully paid for, but boy would it be fucking amazing. One, to contribute to raising that 7%, two, to achieve a long-time personal goal, and three, to carry all the people in my family and generations before me that worked so fucking hard to put me in a position to make it happen.
Morrissey is a total prick but he said it well: "Please, please, please let me, let me, let me, let me get what I want this time."