I have been thinking about this for quite some time. I’m just barely Gen X, so close to a millennial in age I can almost pick based on my personality. Many of my friends and my sibling are definitely defined as millennials, though, so I think I have a good handle on what is expected of them and the bullshit they deal with on a daily basis.
I hear it and I see it, and most of it comes from baby boomers and older Gen Xers. So let me explain why you’re going to stop right now.
First, there is not a damn thing wrong with millennials other than they have been saddled with a name I cannot spell correctly without autocorrect. They were born, they were raised, they went to school and worked hard. They were told the same things we were, that if they got a college education, they would be fine.
However, they were the generation handed that information without any assistance. College prices soared, their parents couldn’t afford to help, and they couldn’t work a couple part-time jobs and take minimal loans. Nor could they simply walk into a random place and get hired with no experience. All these stories the older folks like to tell of how they did this without using loans…are adorable because they are not possible anymore. If you have half a clue about inflation and cost of living, sit down and shut up already. You are not helping matters. Your version of reality is a fairy tale now.
I read comments like, “Millennials want everything handed to them,” and it makes my blood boil. No, they want the same opportunities their parents had, and they aren’t getting them. They are inheriting a bloated government stocked with debt from two financed wars, defaulted student loans and home loan bailouts (the very things they would love to have but cannot), and congresscritters telling them they will not ever see a dime from the Social Security money they are paying in to finance the retirements of the very assholes telling them they are a bunch of entitled little shits. Get the irony yet?
These kids have given up on capitalism. They watched the economy tank, their parents lose jobs and houses.
In 2009, politicians claim the recession is over, but your hardship is not. Wages are stagnant or falling. The costs of health care, child care, and tuition continue to rise exponentially. Full-time jobs turn into contract positions while benefits are slashed. Middle-class jobs are replaced with low-paying service work. The expectations of American life your parents had when you were born — that a “long boom” will bring about unparalleled prosperity — crumble away.
Baby boomers tell you there is a way out: a college education has always been the key to a good job. But that doesn’t seem to happen anymore. The college graduates you know are drowning in student debt, working for minimum wage, or toiling in unpaid internships. Prestigious jobs are increasingly clustered in cities where rent has tripled or quadrupled in a decade’s time. You cannot afford to move, and you cannot afford to stay. Outside these cities, newly abandoned malls join long abandoned factories. You inhabit a landscape of ruin. There is nothing left for you.
In 2016, pundits declare your hardship an aberration: unemployment is a low 4.7 percent! At first you think it’s a mistake, until you realize the government counts everyone working part-time or gig jobs or making salaries below the poverty line as “employed.” That is what employment looks like in America. It is not personal fulfillment or a path to a future. It is futility — and it is forever. Survival is the new American Dream.
Is it any wonder over half of 18- to 29-year-olds in America say they do not support capitalism?
These kids are working their asses off. I know quite a few of them, and they live on coupons, generic food, IKEA furniture when they save up and pay cash, and generally are more financially savvy than most people twice their age. I know tons of Gen Xers who could learn something from them. Yet they still struggle. Opponents of the ACA/Obamacare think allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 is ridiculous, but I’m betting none of them have any kids that age or have been in that position.
I graduated college as Arthur Anderson and Enron imploded. Many of my Summa cum Laude friends went to work at McDonalds. That was the very beginning of the end for the great college education. It took me over nine months to find a job, with a 3.5 GPA in accounting and enough credits to take the CPA exam, which I promptly did as soon as I had the required experience. The only reason I got the job was I was willing to take less money than a lot of my friends were making just to get the experience…and I was lucky enough to be in a position to do it.
So next time, before you write off an entire generation, take a moment to think about how much differently the world appeared to them growing up, and what we are asking of them now. And remember all the bullshit we are handing to them…what is happening today will be their problem to clean up.