For the first time in U.S. history it’s been predicted that the current crop of young-adults (also known as Generation Y or Millennials) won’t be more successful than their parents. As a middle class millennial gal, this information is especially concerning for myself and my peers. Isn’t doing as well as our parents (if not better) the epitome of the middle class, American dream? Our grandparents worked hard to give their children more than they had, and our parents went on to do the same. Some consider millennials to be a notorious group of entitled jerks (and many of us are), but I can’t help but feel affected by more complicated issues than generational narcissism, like the current demands of the economy, our broken education system, and the consumer-driven values of society at large.
I also feel that the internet has propelled us into a bunch of “chronic comparers.” Though oftentimes unknowingly, we are constantly comparing ourselves to the online facades of others. Just one look at an Instagram feed and you can see images of your peers attending Harvard or vacationing in Hawaii. Online, everyone (including you and me) is putting their best face forward. Though I try not to view my goals and successes through the lens of what others have achieved, I can’t deny that I don’t notice these pictures or status updates and think to myself, “but what have I accomplished?”
When our parents were young they could make mistakes anonymously, but that’s no longer the case. We can’t drop out of college, break-up with our significant others, quit our jobs, lose our jobs, or find ourselves confused about the future without everyone we know also knowing. It feels like we’re expected to transition from adolescence to adulthood without a problem, or we must hide our problems if we don’t want to constantly feel pressure from the outside world.
I understand that it’s a simple talking-point, but I’m tired of being asked what I want to do for the rest of my life by both my peers and my elders. Oftentimes it’s a genuine question, but sometimes it’s just plain condescending. Let me explore and grow without having to explain myself every step of the way. Let my friends grow. Let my family grow. If it’s considered ill-mannered to ask someone what they do for a living, it should be rude to ask a young-adult about their dreams for the future. Even those of us who “know” what we want probably don’t really know.
How about just doing our best and being happy? Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do anyways?