Monday, December 9, 2013

Observations on Millennial Living


Is it Generation Y or Generation Why?

Millennials are those born between 1982-2004. But you will know if you're truly a Millennial by the inevitables. Customer Service, at one point in a Millennial's life, is an inevitability. So is living in some degree of poverty, and having heavy student loan debt. So is being told that you're not working hard enough. Or being told to be happy with what you got. Inevitables.

I had a retail job this year. At $8.25 an hour. I made the same amount at my first retail job. Twelve years ago. How's that for inflation? Many of my friends work two jobs, at least. Others work full time jobs that require more than the forty hours one would expect. Few get even adequate benefits. This is the standard, an inevitable. No one feels entitled to more because we can't imagine more. Not without feeling a bit silly, as if we were talking about the existence of unicorns.

Is it Generation Y or Generation Why Are We Expected To Do Well In A Terrible Economy With Insurmountable Debt And Rising Costs?

Generation Why/Why Not?

Here's the idea: the idea is that Millennials are the worst generation.

I heard the same thing about Generation X being terrible when I was a kid. Why are they so unmotivated? Why are they so lazy?

The idea is old. The idea is recyclable. It's banal.

It's strange to lump millions under specific behaviors. But, let me try, here goes: Millennials are hard working. Even some of my students, who are just entering college, even they are working. Some? I mean: Almost all.


Let me take lumping behavior a step further: No Millennial I've ever met, not even a single 18 year old student in my class, not even the ones that are failing, feels entitled to anything.

But there are statistics. More than one in three Millennials are living at home. That's 21 million young people. 16.3 percent of Millennials are unemployed, but that's not really the story. The story is that millions more are underemployed, in a low-paying service economy that keeps looking more and more like the new normal. The inevitable normal.

There are articles like this here, that blame helicopter parents and a generation that thinks too highly of themselves. That they have no "frustration tolerance". And this article, written by an actual Millennial, asks: What will it take to nudge Millennials out of the house? Like all those Millennials want to stay home. Like it's psychological. It's not psychological. It's, quite simply, economics.

How do you build a stable future if you make just enough money to survive?

Generation Why Do You Think We Can Save Money When We Have To Pay for College, Transportation (Public or Automobile, and If Automobile, Let's Add Car Insurance Too), Rising Medical Costs, Housing, Utilities, Food (GOD - FOOD!), Clothing...

You don't understand? Then listen. 

Yes, I'm talking to YOU (and the guy next to you).

You, Baby Boomer. You Gen-X'er, our fickle friend.

You who worry about your 401(K) cutbacks when we can't imagine even having one. You who think one can just work hard to pay off school, easily, right away, because that's what you did when you were our age. You who worry about remortgaging your home when the idea of even owning a home, for many of us, is laughable. You who think retail work requires no real skill, when dealing with people is one of the most difficult skills to master. You should know better.

You have helped create a generation of renters, of survivors, of scavengers. Thousands of us will scatter towards the very mention of a reasonably paid job. And hold onto our unreasonably paying job because we're just desperate to be working. It's taken me nearly a whole year to get a teaching job (with my Masters) at a college, and even that, like so much, is temporary. Everything, for a Millennial, is temporary (this too is inevitable).

I understand. Raising the minimum wage? Cutting down student debt? Lowering medical costs? Finding new, cheaper energy sources? No one thing will save us or solve all of our many problems.

But there's no way you can tell us we're not working hard.

Millennials, we can't let them.