This blog post is not about bashing millennials, and it’s not about bashing the previous generations. This blog post is really about showing why my generation, commonly referred to as “millennials,” feel a certain way about the world around us. I say “us” and “we” in this article, but many of us feel differently than how we are commonly portrayed, and I personally have many views that conflict with others in my age group; nevertheless, I want to speak about how our experiences caused us to be in conflict with earlier age groups as well as why we are the way that we are.
As I previously stated, as a 22-year-old, I feel differently from others that are designated as millennials. I personally feel a great distance between myself and others; however, I feel the pain of those around me, and I want those who don’t understand “the millennial” to finally understand. So, let’s begin: What even is a millennial?
As discussed in The Atlantic, millennials are generally those in young adulthood or those born anywhere between 1982 and 2004 according to researchers Strauss and Howe. I fit into this group and am surrounded, in college, by many who fit the stereotype of the “snowflake” millennial that is “triggered” by everything that happens and is driven by irrational emotion. Although I definitely get some of these vibes from people my age, I do not think that this means that whatever millennials believe and think should be brushed aside. In fact, this article is to fight on the basis of what they think. Too many people just don’t understand or care to understand why this generation is the way that it is besides to blame bad parenting and education (which, to be fair, is what I’ve blamed as well); however, it goes beyond that.
Millennials as a whole grew up with several promises that were never fulfilled to them as a whole, and this is why they are so salty about all the things that are wrong with this world. I’m not describing this from an empirical standpoint (evidence-based standpoint), but I am describing it from my own personal experience. I think that everyone should be a lot more understanding of millennials although we should not compromise free speech to be understanding. We need more empathy for their situation so that the bridges can be mended between the generations in hope for a better future.
We, millennials, grew up in a time where everything was transitioning. We grew up between the time where our entire economic system was saying that to be successful, one needed a college education. It started with our parents’ generation first. Our parents, many of which missed this key economic transitioning, understood that for us to succeed, we would need a post-secondary school education, so they encouraged us to stay in school and go to college and do something that we’re not passionate about just so that we have something to fall back on in case our plans didn’t work out. This plan was echoed by every adult that we came across including our parents. Our school systems were being tailored to this idea that if we got an education, we would be successful. This is not a completely wrong assumption as we can see that the gap between college grads and high school grads is continuing to grow. According to an article, this gap, in 2012 dollars, is at around at $17,500. That’s a lot more money for college graduates compared to high school graduates than in previous generations (the article above discusses this), so we know how critical a college education is with regards to income level specifically in our time.
Nevertheless, we find that maybe this one-sided message wasn’t the best. It’s one thing to tell everyone to go to college because it’s a good choice. It’s another thing to leave them unprepared for the challenges ahead and to force people down paths that were never suited to their personality and natural talents. I believe that this is the main point to understanding why millennials are angry at the world that they live in. It wasn’t about preparing for college educationally. It was about preparing people for the economic challenges. No one talked about the massive amount of debt. “College is expensive” does not compare to going in detail and showing the benefits and risks so that everyone would know what they were getting into. Many people still talk about how they worked through college when, with rising costs of attendance, it has become impossible for students to work and fully cover their expenses at college. No one talked about how hard college could be from an educational standpoint as well, just trying to make the grades. I literally heard only things about how great a time in life it is, which has been true for me. It has been the best time, but… It has also been the worst time for me as well.
Along with this, We weren’t taught how to live frugally and spend and save our money in a wise way. For many of us, our parents told us to go to college, but they didn’t have the economic knowledge to save for us to go to college. We’re angry because everyone said “go to college and everything will work out” but not everything is working out. We get pushed through a system where there is little chance to make mistakes. I just heard a guy who visited my place of work say that he would have dropped out already if he was not already in $50,000 worth of debt. Now, his only choice is to push forward in a field that he doesn’t like. He doesn’t really have a choice to change his major. It’s done now. He now has to live with the consequences. No one told us how critical it was to know what we liked to do before pursuing a major. Imagine if in school, or at least most of our schools, engineers, doctors, artists, and others came and discussed with students the different aspects of their jobs and why they like doing what they do. There are so many jobs, yet I came in contact with little information about them even though my school was “preparing me for college” where I would eventually have to choose a field of study.
I’ve met several recent college grads that fit the stereotype often depicted within the media. They’re working at a coffee shop and trying to scrape by to make ends meat. Their lives are harder than what anyone told them it would be, and it makes them bitter and angry. Perhaps college wasn’t for them, but they went anyway due to the message that “college is good for everyone” and failed out or graduated but are in deep debt and can’t find a job in their field. Some didn’t go to college because they knew it wasn’t for them; however, their high school didn’t offer another route or a vocational school for them to build skills, and now, they are just trying to figure it out step-by-step. You can call them snowflakes, but you, past generations, made them this way. They are anxious because you promised them a good future, but they’re struggling to pay rent even after graduating from college. Being employed is one thing, being able to afford to live is another. You taught them everything else but what would help them when things got tough. They had to learn everything that they needed to know in life themselves with almost no one telling them and preparing them for the truth. You guys knew how hard it could be, so you gave them your best knowledge. You told them that college will make it easier, but… Life didn’t get easier. Life is now harder than it has ever been for them. You may have told them that, without an education, it would be difficult, but you didn’t equip them with the tools to deal with the difficult situations that surround college or if they just weren’t meant to go to college. I think that is what makes them most angry. It’s not about saying that “without an education, things will be tough” because you said it, but it’s about not preparing them for when things get difficult regardless of circumstances and/or education.
And we see this. We see it everywhere. The entire term “snowflake” is dedicated to the idea of a millennial who can’t deal with what’s happening around them. No one taught them how.
Maybe I’m just complaining. Maybe I’m just a snowflake millennial myself that dreams of having a job that she likes and to be free from debt and make good money, but I feel, millennials as a whole feel, in my opinion, as if the suffering that they’re enduring could have easily been avoided had someone had the foresight to know that this system of pushing kids through school towards college wouldn’t really work. *sigh* I hope that you understand what I’ve been trying to say. I just want people to understand millennial angst and millennials in general. In reality, to sum this up, we just kind of feel like we were duped or cheated in this deal between economics, education, and personal joy. You can think of it as millennial entitlement if you would like. We feel as though we have gotten the short end of the stick generationally speaking, and now, unlike past generations that were ready for a fight, no one prepared us and we’ve got little strength to fight back effectively. Many of us are fighting a good fight, but many of us are just sinking into the quagmire as the days go on.
For older folks:
Please, have more empathy for the struggles of the current youth. Yeah, they may be disrespectful in your opinion and whatever else that you think of them, but they will respect you if you have respect for the positions that they have found themselves in from graduating during or after the recession and/or not being prepared for the challenges that they had to face. Perhaps they could even learn the values that you feel they lack from you if you are more empathetic to what they are feeling. Of course, still, stand for your values, but do it with the respect and understanding that they have grown up in a different time and world compared to where you grew up. The internet changed everything. Technological growth changed the game. Please, have empathy for their struggle.
This blog post is about your struggles, but more importantly, the hope is that older generations will have more empathy for you and that you would realize that being miserable about what you can’t change with ease is useless. You can’t keep being angry over what you didn’t receive. It’s just going to cause you to be bitter and to hurt even more; instead, you can continue to build a future for yourself and push through. I know things are tough, but your life has just begun. There is so much more for you as you iron out your goals and what you want for your future and strive for them. You. Are. Capable. You are much more capable than the world knows. I believe in you, and I wish you the best through your trials!
A random post by your favorite Kelp out of Water.
Picture from: stocksnap.io