According to the May 2013 issue of Time Magazine, our generation, dubbed the “millennials” by many, is entitled, selfish and lazy. I’m inclined to disagree.
These days, more often than not, we are told how lucky we are and how easy we have it. Conversations often begin: “When I was your age…” Realizing what a blessing modern technology is, I can appreciate the fact that some people did have to walk five miles both ways in the snow to and from school back then, but I can also appreciate that times have changed. Whether you’re a millennial fresh out of high school or in your mid-20s still seeking employment, it’s not exactly easy out in the real world for those about to enter the job market.
According to a Pew research poll, more than a third of young adults ranging from ages 18-31 live with their parents. To give that statistic some perspective, that equates to about 21.6 million young adults, which is the highest that the figure has been since 1968. The unemployment rate, while slightly improving, is still abysmally high, and even people with years of experience and advanced degrees are struggling to find jobs in their respective fields. Long gone are the days of being able to start a career straight out of high school with ease, or even starting a career for yourself at all.
Between crippling student loan debt, skyrocketing college tuition costs and the current employment situation, it’s no longer a shock for someone to be 30 years old, working an entry-level position and setting up camp in their parents’ basement. The fact that student loan debt in this country exceeds even credit card debt really makes a statement in itself (especially when you think about all the ridiculously expensive, unnecessary items that people feel the need to buy, like multiple magic sets).
The advice to get multiple part-time jobs and save sensibly is just simply outdated these days, and it’s just not enough. The average salary of a male with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 was $49,800 before taxes. Between monthly necessities, such as food, rent, gas, deducting taxes and paying off those never-ending student loan bills, no matter how much you try to save or spend your money wisely, being independent and on your own is undeniably much more difficult today than it was 25 years ago.
I’m not making the claim that all of us are hardworking, responsible young adults just trying to get by. All I’m asking is that those who aren’t part of our generation please try to understand who we are and that we have a lot going against us. We did not create the current economic fiasco, we were born into it. Some understand, some try to help, but there isn’t enough awareness or sympathy to get much done about it.
During President Barack Obama’s recent campus tour, he went around to different colleges, including Binghamton University, and spoke about trying to work with the Senate to figure out some way to help college be less of a financial burden, but really, who knows if that’s ever going to happen? I’m not holding my breath for this one.
The way we see ourselves often diverges from how society sees us. The Time Magazine article even went as far as to say that “not only do millennials lack the kind of empathy that allows them to feel concerned for others, but they even have trouble intellectually understanding others’ point of view.”
Baby boomers may categorize us as social media-obsessed burnouts who have the freedom to take a gap year backpacking through Europe because we think we need to “find ourselves.” Generation X sees its problems as not that different from our own and that with a little hard work, we can be respectable, contributing members of society, just like them. Where do we stand on who we are? Somewhere in the middle. Just give us some time, put yourselves in our shoes, gain some perspective and we’ll be on our way.