Open Letter from a Millennial: Quit Telling Us We’re Not Special

Might as well quit now, kid. Your classmate is already doing Advanced Calculus.

Dear Baby Boomers and Generation X,

Quit telling us we’re not special.

Believe us, we bloody well know.

Earlier this month, Wellesley high school teacher David McCullough, Jr., delivered what was perhaps the world’s first commencement dirge to a crowd of teenagers on the first day of distinction many of them have ever experienced. Graduation from high school, he informed them, is a shiny induction to the hordes of mediocrity. McCullough even took it upon himself to remind the youth of their eventual funerals. (You know it’s a problematic speech when Rush Limbaugh loves it.) What parting words did the teacher have for those who survived his twelve-minute lesson on nihilism? The paradoxical exhortation to go forth and live extraordinary lives! Because, apparently, we can?

Here’s the rub: this speech is misplaced. It doesn’t belong in an address to the generation graduating into an economy that wipes its rear end with their high school diplomas. It doesn’t belong in an address to the generation who began running the rat race at age 4. It doesn’t apply to the generation that knows hard work guarantees nothing, that can’t hope to own a home before we have our own children, that pours coffee for other people’s parents for free in the name of gaining “work experience” through “internship.” David McCullough ought to have given that speech not to the graduates, but to their parents. We have not yet begun to shape the world: we are living in the one you created. And it’s killing us.

We stopped believing in our own specialness about the same time that we figured out who was the real Tooth Fairy. We grew up accruing praise, but not self-esteem. We learned that praise was a parenting strategy, not a sincere reward for merit. We stopped listening when you told us we were smart, brave, beautiful and unique. “You have to say that because you’re our parents,” we told you. You agreed.

So we looked to our teachers to learn where we stood. They couldn’t tell us the truth, either. “Did I get an A because I really wrote an exceptional essay, or because my teacher was afraid to deal with my parents?” We learned to suspect the latter.

When our teachers couldn’t tell us, we looked to our bosses. They despised us: the pampered, electronic generation who doesn’t know the meaning of hard work. When we worked hard, they were surprised. But they cynically assumed we were only working hard to build our resumes. That 16-year-old who went on a humanitarian relief trip to Haiti? Just another yuppie trying to pad her Harvard application. What would it take to convince you that we really care? Even the things we do for fun – playing sports, joining a band, riding a horse, writing a story – you have made into a competition. You’ve taken our creativity and told us that it matters not because it fulfills us, but because we can sell it to a college and reap the returns on our “investment” decades from now. Every little thing we do must be harnessed for profit. And you wonder why we seem to have no spontaneity left.

You have done our work for us, then called us lazy.
You have threatened our teachers, then told us “just an A” isn’t good enough.
You have gotten our jobs for us, and called us underachievers.
You have recorded everything we do, like researchers breeding a better mouse.
You have made us trophy-seekers, then mocked us for our walls of worthless awards.
You have pitted us against each other in a fight for success, which has become survival.
You have given us a world in which even our college degrees are meaningless because there are just too many of us.
You have made us depend on you. When we followed your instructions – went to the best schools, got the best grades, took the most internships and did the most independent study projects, met the right people and got into the right grad schools and chosen the right majors – we’ve ended up stuck in your basement because nobody in your generation is willing to pay us a living wage.
Then you called us the “boomerang” generation that refuses to grow up. When did we have the chance?

Somebody handed me this thing, but I don’t know what for.

We don’t think we’re special. We know that being “special” and a dollar won’t even buy us a cup of coffee anymore.

We learned something else along the way to becoming “special.” We learned that you depended on us. For validation. For certainty that you did everything right. If we did not succeed, it reflected badly on you. When you told us that you loved us and that we were smart, beautiful, creative, independent, and destined for greatness, what you implied was that we must be all of those things or that you would cease to love us. That our lives would cease to be worth anything. That we might as well die if we’re not the best.

We are drowsy with medications that we take to calm the fear that if we are anything less than the best, we will fall through the cracks. We spend our days fighting each other, always fearing our invisible duplicate who has everything we have on her resume, plus one. We don’t even know what’s down there in the zone of failure – we just know that our failure scares you so much, we’d better never dare to fall. So we work twice as many hours as you did for half the pay and come home to your taunts about how we’re twenty-six and still can’t afford an apartment.

And you know what else? We’re not all even this lucky.

A great many of us have no family home to return to. A great many of us are told not only that we’re lazy because we send text messages, but also that we’re lazy because of our race or class. We’re told that if we’ve ever been on welfare we come from inferior stock: lazy parents who breed entitled children. We try to go to school and pull ourselves up, somewhere nearer to equal footing with the children of the elite, and find that we’re up against insurmountable odds. We do our own homework,  and we find ourselves at the bottom of the pile because other people’s parents have already helped them blow away the playing field. We struggle to earn our own money so we won’t be accused of expecting handouts, then watch our grades drop. If we pull our grades back up, we find that we’re up against the spotless records of other kids who were racking up sports trophies while we packed grocery bags and mowed lawns. Do we think we’re special just because we might get into college? A place where we’ll spend four years racking up debt in numbers that we’ve never seen? A place where we’ll sit through another commencement, look out over the sea of hats and realize how small we are yet again?

The truth is, we never thought we were special. You did.
You thought we were special because we were extensions of you.
You trained us to be the children you could brag about. Then, all of a sudden, everybody had one and we were no longer good enough, like outdated toys.
We were supposed to fulfill all your unrealized potential.
We were supposed to live your dreams.
We were supposed to have what you never had, do what you never did and be who you never were.
We can’t.
We know the congratulations are hollow, the awards meaningless, the degrees redundant, the ceremonies overwrought. We aren’t surprised; you are.
If there is anything that defines our generation, it’s knowing exactly how miserably our lives have failed to satisfy you.
We grew up imagining that we could be like you, but we’re not. You have prevented us from being like you.

There is a generation in America that believes in its own specialness. I will agree with that. But you’ve got its identity wrong.

It’s not us, it’s you.

You believe that you got where you are through hard work and self-reliance, not seeing that your parents created a postwar world where you could be free. Your parents suffered, and they showered their pent-up dreams on you: you grew up in love and luxury (well, some of you did). You were promised that you would live through the rainbow after the storm that was the World War. And you did – many of you lived great lives. But you got used to it.

When will you realize that your advice doesn’t work? Even McCullough, in the midst of stabbing our supposedly inflated egos, urged us not to do anything that we didn’t love or feel passionate about. You know what? We don’t have that luxury. That idea is a relic of days gone by. We are not the generation that finds itself in creative abandon. We are not the generation that goes off in search of personal fulfillment and the satisfaction of a job well done, only to come back millionaires. We are the generation that takes whatever work we can get, that knows no matter how hard we try we might not succeed. We know our lot, and it’s not nearly as bright as yours. Woodstock? Ha. Like any of us could afford to take time off to lie around smoking and writing songs. Don’t accuse us of your ennui: we’re too busy trying to find a job.

Now, we have not only to worry about how to find our way through the dried-up maze without vacant jobs or relief from our debts of education. We have our ticket for the train to success, but it’s run off the rails. And we have to start worrying about you.

How are we going to support you?
Social Security won’t prop you up anymore. Your own retirement savings? As reliable as our degrees, which is not at all. Do we have houses to mortgage? Investments to collect on? Assets to sell? For most of us, the answer is a belly laugh and a no.

So quit telling us we’re not special.
We know that. We’ve always known that. You’re the ones who can’t accept the disappointment.

  • http://americannaussie.katyannewilson.com Katy-Anne

    So true! I feel like no matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough and I’m just going to always be trashy and useless. People tell me that if I work hard enough, or weren’t so lazy, I could find a job, as if “finding” a job is easy, as if you can just walk in wherever you want and demand they employ you. I’m raising four children, I’m in college, my husband often works 7 days a week, and yet people insinuate that if we just “worked harder” we’d be “successful”. That’s not how it works.

    • BatCountry

      @Katy-Anne, I agree with you and I often feel exactly the same way you do. The thing is, *I* am old enough to be your mother, at the old end of gen-x, and married to a very young-end baby boomer. Yes. I am 45, my husband is older, and we are in a position a lot like yours. The middle class is shrinking while the rich and the academic elite just line their pockets.

      The economy is everyone’s problem, whether or not “we” created it — and I know I personally did not. I have no kids and was raised rural and pretty damn poor. No corporate machinery here.

      And here’s another difficulty — “us” versus “them.” I am not “them” and you personally are not “us.” Or the other way around. We are both just individuals trying to navigate a difficult world.

    • Josh

      I’m older than you, born in 1967. I don’t envy people your age, because when I was growing up, we had freedom. Vast amounts of time when we could be AWOL, Walks without parents to and from school, Trips with friends to a park, with no adults around. A responsibility to take care of ourselves more or less as we saw fit. An assumption that we’d come home ok. Most of us did.

      There are obvious drawbacks to that kind of parenting, but it disturbs me that most people my age don’t appreciate the freedom they had and the gifts they were given. They tried to correct their own parents mistakes by always being “there” for their children.

      The main mystery of your generation to me is how anyone can tolerate a parent who is always “there.” There must be more than economic dependence at work.

      Now that I have kids of my own, I try to walk the line between the norm of helicopter parenting and its polar opposite – 70s style self-indulgence.

      The parenting pendulum in this country seems to swing back and forth between narcissistic self-obsession and narcissistic child-obsession.. It makes no sense.

  • http://findingsnooze.blogspot.com Lina

    Wow. This rings so terribly, awfully true. Especially the part about outdated toys. Thank you for putting into words a lot of familiar, vague feelings.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    This is my life and it just sucks so hard that I’ve mostly given up because I simply can’t anymore.

    • Anonymous

      Don’t give up. If anything, at least know that we’re all in this together.

  • B

    Damn…

    That was amazing.

    Thanks.

  • http://sarah-whoiamwithoutyou.blogspot.com Sarah

    OMG. This is all SO TRUE. I also found that commencement speech vaguely disturbing. Thank you for validating my struggle!!

  • kisekileia

    YES. THIS IS AMAZING. THANK YOU.

  • Liberated Liberal

    I feel like you described my life. Incredible piece. And so extremely depressing, because it’s true.

  • http://cookingbakingandtraveling.wordpress.com jwall915

    Very well written! I am a young Gen X-er, with Baby Boomer parents. Although I think Millenials got it worse, I was on the receiving end of a fair share of helicopter parenting. It sucked. So please remember that not all of Gen X has the attitude you are ascribing to them. Some of us have a lot more in common with you than you think. I especially like what you wrote when you said that parents do our work for us, then turn around and tell us we’re lazy. That definitely rang true. This post reminded me of something I’m reading. It’s been out a few years, but I’m just now reading Dan Ariely’s “The Upside of Irrationality” and he has a chapter on finding meaning in your work and how important that is to humans and many other animals. Studies have been performed on numerous animal species, and have consistently found that animals *prefer* to work for their food. As in, animals, including rats, mice, birds, monkeys, chimps, will actively choose to work for their food when given a choice between working for it and getting free food. Humans are no different. This is not the direction Ariely takes his book, but it got me thinking, and wondering if denying your child the opportunity to work and achieve for him/herself is one of the worst things you can do. Desiring to earn our own food and find meaning in our achievements is one of the most fundamental aspects of being alive. And basically, these Baby Boomer and older Gen X parents are denying their children that very basic need. My parents were helicopter parents, which was bad enough. But add to that their evangelical patriarchal beliefs that women should not work outside the home and you have a very destructive combination. I have struggled so much with feeling confident, having self-respect, and really even knowing how to work. I’ve had to completely teach myself how to work, and it’s been really tough. I’m taking an entrepreneurial route for a career because I feel like I’m unemployable, especially in this job market. I have three worthless degrees and precious little formal work experience. I feel like this is really what’s left for me. It’s hard to verbalize all this, but it’s true.

    • http://nonprophetmessage.wordpress.com Sierra

      You’re right. In fact, the more I think about Gen X, the more it seems that it’s a bifurcated group – hence the name, I guess? On one end of the spectrum, there are the helicopter parents of our current crop of high school seniors, who just barely missed the “boomer” cutoff, and on the other end are the Gen Xers you describe, who started feeling all the same things a little earlier than the millennials. I wonder if the Gen X category will eventually get replaced because it tries to describe two groups at once?

    • http://zencatdog.wordpress.com zencatdog

      I agree with your comments as well as the reply from Sierra. I’m on the border between Gen x and Millenial, and have baby boomer parents. I struggle deeply with getting my mother to see that I’m not an extension of her that she has to control. I work my tail off for less than half of what it got her at my age only to have her tell me I’m doing it wrong and then get upset because i don’t care to hear her advice while she tries to fix me. I’m SO over the boomers and the world they’ve created.

    • A Marie

      “Desiring to earn our own food and find meaning in our achievements is one of the most fundamental aspects of being alive. And basically, these Baby Boomer and older Gen X parents are denying their children that very basic need.”

      This rings so true with me. My parents forbade me to work during most of my high school career, only caving in my senior year and allowing me to work a seasonal weekend job I desperately wanted in order to gain a little independence and a little bit of extra cash. Even in college they encouraged me to not work in order to better “concentrate on academics”.
      As a result when I graduated college several years ago, I felt not only at a huge disadvantage because of the dismal state of the economy and overwhelming amount of competition, but also largely inexperienced and unprepared to enter the workforce, with nothing but a few unpaid internships in my field of study and brief and inconsistent stints in the food industry. I was stuck in the limbo between the unskilled jobs my bachelor’s degree had now branded me as “overqualified” for and the jobs that required five years of experience, even to be an administrative assistant. When I finally found employment (not in my field) through some personal connections I had to teach myself a lot of basic office skills I could have well learned as an undergrad and work my way up to a full-time position through hard work. I’m not resentful of my parents because I know they acted with only the best-intentioned love and support from the bottom of their hearts, but I do know that if I ever have children I will do it much, much differently.

    • Ash

      A lot of this. I’m on the very youngest end of GenX, though a lot of my friends these days are millenials because I’m in grad school and we’re all kind of in the same boat. But a lot of the people I grew up with STILL haven’t made it–can’t afford houses, haven’t had a long-term career with a decent benefit package, can’t possibly afford to have kids. And at what point do you just say, well, screw it? I already know I’ll never pay back all my student loans in this lifetime.

      My parents are baby boomers, and they’re awesome and supportive, but also just live in a different world. They haven’t had to understand how depressingly hard it is to find a job, let alone one you don’t hate. In their world, playing by the rules and working hard meant you’d eventually have a job and a house and a family and whatever–I was never too worried about material success and never wanted kids anyway, but I also never thought I’d feel so adrift for such a long time. (And I guess this is the part where people speak up and say education is a bad choice and it’s my own fault, etc, and fine, whatever. I guess i figure if you’re screwed either way, you might as well try to do something you like.)

  • Pepe Lopez

    One thing our generation sure is good at: excuses.

    • Alexandra

      101%! well said; I was thinking the same thing when I read this rant.

    • http://www.facebook.com/august.hahn August Hahn

      You managed to completely miss the point. Bravo.

    • Anonymous

      Understanding the relationship between cause and effect=/=”making excuses.”

    • Anonymous

      i find it hard to believe you’re from my generation with an attitude like that.

    • Alex

      Why would we want to “excuse” not paying our bills, and getting harassed by creditors? Why would we want to “excuse” not being able to buy a house, and start a family? An excuse implies we want to keep living the way we are. But I (like many of us) have exhausted every option that doesn’t render myself homeless. We’re not grasping for excuses, we’re grasping for reasons to keep going. And maybe get the MUCH needed reminder that we’re not alone in doing so.

    • Brent

      One thing every generation ever is good at: excuses.

    • David

      Re: Excuses; that is something people in our generation only say if they have gone in to a field for which there always seem to be jobs (i.e. Medical School, etc.) and where you have never had difficulty finding a job because your line of work is always in demand. I can personally guarantee this as I am in Medical School and my wife is in education and struggles daily to find work even though she went to a well respected college and finished with a 3.8 GPA

    • Patty

      I completely agree. Not everyone had parents that pushed them too hard and tried to live their dreams through them. Many people had teachers who actually were hard on them and gave them the grades they deserved and didn’t take crap from parents. I know it’s all about someone’s circumstances and I’m lucky to have had great one’s. However, that doesn’t mean we can blame an entire generation for our own circumstances. I am going into a field that is may be dying with all the new technology, but I don’t care I know somehow I will make it through and I’m strong enough not to listen to what other people say.

  • http://gravatar.com/barbararuth Barbara Saunders

    I love this piece! I am an old Gen-Xer with parents of the Silent Generation. In my immediate family, i.e., all of the descendants of my grandparents, there are no Baby Boomers at all. I graduated into the (minor, in hindsight) recession after the market dropped in 1987. (Remember the “slackers”?)

    I have complete sympathy for your position. It amazes me when I hear people my age compare our situation twenty-five years ago to yours today. (Premature senility?) I worked retail and food service jobs. I also paid $200 rent and had a student loan payment that was only $200. My waitress job provided better health benefits than the “Cadillac plan” at my future full-time jobs in the 21st century. It’s a joke that your generation is seen as “entitled” for wanting anything at all.

  • http://skepticalspiritualist.blogspot.com Sibyl Ockham

    I think that McCullough’s commencement speech raised a number of complex issues. What is often forgotten is its audience: an incredibly wealthy, privileged, mostly white town. The financial struggles that Sierra describes in her post would likely be foreign to most of these kids. I think it’s a mistake to try to apply his speech to all young people–it is clearly a class-bound and likely race-bound speech. When I read it, it seemed to be as much about the white savior complex and white privilege as about class privilege.

    That said, McCullough didn’t say anything to make that context clear. He made a blanket statement about an entire generation, which is unfair, to say the least. And like many people attempting to figure out “what is wrong with America today,” he places the onus entirely on one party–the children–without looking at the systems into which they were born and the parents who raised them. I think Sierra is absolutely on point when she draws attention to the helicopter parents who raised their children on empty accolades and clipped their wings by doing everything for them and then blamed them for their senses of entitlement and incompetence (and often resentment).

    But again, there are two separate issues here: the kids who are actually spoiled, entitled, cynical, and incompetent, and the kids who aren’t–those who are sincerely using the unprecedented resources they have been given as a generation and a class to work hard to make the world a better place. And then there are the kids desperately trying to climb the socioeconomic ladder–and who often have been climbing that ladder since childhood–without guidance, and without respect. For every millennial who sits on his trust fund and smokes pot all day rather than get a job, for every millennial who stays with his parents, jobless, rather than work because he “doesn’t feel like doing grunt work,” for every millennial who blames her parents for everything that’s wrong with her life and refuses to take responsibility for her decisions, there is a millennial who is working a second unpaid internship because her high qualifications can’t get her the seniority she needs to get hired; there is a millennial who will never enjoy upward mobility in her company because all the jobs have been monopolized by older generations; there is a millennial who can’t afford his wedding because he is barely scraping by and his parents are unemployed or underemployed and can’t chip in.

    Not to mention the two-thirds (66%) of millennials saddled with student loans and parents whom Wall Street bankers cheated out of close to 40% of their savings back on 2008, which has yet to be fully recovered: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/business/student-loans-weighing-down-a-generation-with-heavy-debt.html?pagewanted=all

    This is all in an economy where banks refuse to loan as much money as they were given in the government bailout because they want to make Obama fail so a regulation-averse (Republican) president can be elected again. Guess who runs those banks, who operate exactly on the anti-social, entitled, arrogant, “I’m special” mentality McCullough criticized in millennials? Hint: It’s not millennials.

    A recent New York Times article addresses this exact issue in what I think is a productive way. An excerpt:

    ““Our offspring have simply leveraged our braggadocio, good intentions, and overinvestment,” Koslow writes in her new book, “Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest” (Viking). They inhabit “a broad savannah of entitlement that we’ve watered, landscaped, and hired gardeners to maintain.” She recommends letting the grasslands revert to forest: “The best way for a lot of us to show our love would be to learn to un-mother and un-father.”

    Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert#ixzz1yqeypVgo

    Maybe not such a bad idea, for some parents. For others, it would be a good idea to invest more in their children–but in a different way. When your parents truly believe in you, they don’t have to say anything–you just know. They live their belief in you, and you are stronger for it. When they don’t, you won’t believe them, no matter what they say.

    What’s striking is that so many parents of millennials had–and have–so little faith in their children. It’s undoubtedly an effect of the massive anxiety which saturates American culture in every corner. This needs to change. We need to stop voting, parenting–in short living–in fear. Life has been and always will be scary, but somewhere along the way we forgot that the only thing that helps us face danger is courage. When did America lose its courage? And how can we get it back?

    • Another cynical Gen Xer

      As a Gen Xer who’s spent the last 20 years complaining about Baby Boomers (for very good reasons, of course), I’ve been waiting to find a Millennial salvo into the generation war; here it is, thanks to Sierra. (I’m sure there are others; I just haven’t run across them.) Great points, great insights into much of the BS complaints leveled against Millennials. Obviously, I tend to blame the Boomers more than the Xers – I THINK the majority of Millennials have Boomer parents, yes?

      But here’s the deal: too many of my fellow Xers bought into the bullshit that we could foist our hopes and dreams onto the next generation. Inverse scapegoating – but the results are just as bad as old-fashioned scapegoating. We are a divided group – many of us learned not to make the mistakes of the Boomers, but a lot fell int those same traps. And Sierra is right to call us on it, those of us who let ourselves turn into helicopter parents.

      But I especially love Sybil’s response here – balances all the salient issues, and names the socioeconomic elephants in the generational war room. Thank you.

  • http://andiegoddessofpickles.blogspot.com Andie

    Wow. I’m speechless. Nail on head.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    OH MY GOD SIERRA YOU ARE MY HERO FOREVER FOR WRITING THIS!!!!

    I have been quietly seething over that graduation address for weeks now. Lord, I am ever sick of listening to a bunch of sanctimonious baby-boomers tell us that we got hugged too much as kids and now the reality of the word is hitting us in the face and disabusing of us our notions of “specialness.” How about this: The economy that THEY DESTROYED is hitting us in the face, after we were good little boys and girls, cramming for our SATs, taking every honors course available, getting 4 hours of sleep a night with everything we were loading onto our plates just to be good enough–that is if, as you say, we even had access to such resources. Now we’re realizing that we’ve been had. People my age in my life seem to feel a lot of things–angry, betrayed, insecure, demoralized, ashamed for failing to attain the standard of living of our parents that people have predicted for years that we would not be able to have! But “special?” Sorry, but no. You know what? We could USE a hug! And maybe a functioning country too.

    On a related note, it seems like–and I expect that this will resonate with you as well as with me–that the shame gets heaped on extra heavy for those of us who had the audacity to pursue work in the humanities, arts, or human services. I made the mistake of watching the most recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” where I was treated to a lambasting of every college kid that had had the audacity to study something besides STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math, for those not familiar with the acronym.) The implication was, of course, that such people are a bunch of entitled, impractical babies under the impression that the world is their oyster in which they are free to pursue their useless, frivolous interests and be indulged forever.

    Ha. Ha. HA! I went into the human services sector because, chump that I am, I wanted to help kids. How is that useless? I studied humanities subjects because they seemed pertinent to my field and because it seemed to make a lot more sense to study things that I am good at and make the dean’s list than to study things I am bad at (and don’t like), get mediocre grades and then get out-competed by people who actually belong on those subjects to begin with. How is that impractical? And in my working life, I have felt lucky when I am able to get a low-paid, or unpaid internship at some shoe-string operation non-profit that is forced to operate on the labor of volunteers and underpaid interns because the people that it is trying to serve aren’t people that anybody powerful gives enough of a crap about to properly fund our work. I felt lucky when I got such an internship and was able to combine it with shilling coffee for yuppies (or playing gigs since I’m a musician) in the evening to pay my rent. When I landed a job at a non-profit that could JUST BARELY cover all my expenses–imagine, all my expenses with only one job!–I felt positively blessed. And I am far from the only one. Is that entitlement? (Maybe things will get better now that I’m getting more education. That’s what I’ve always been told anyway…)

    When I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to serving underserved populations, I resigned myself to never making much money. I resigned myself to the fact that the work that I care most about is work that is devalued by my society. I had no delusions. That is not entitlement. It’s not my fault that my society has decided that any skills that are not applicable to making shiny electronics for people to buy are worthless (All of us non-STEM people are just lesser people, apparently.) It’s not my fault that my society has decided that the skills and values that I do have are not worth adequately compensating. It’s not my fault that my society has not realized yet that we are seeing the consequences right now of selling all the people who work to keep our society educated, literate, civically engaged, and cared for down the river. It’s not my fault that our society has made it “impractical” to want to do these things. It’s not our fault. Stop telling us that we should have been different people from who we are! Stop telling us that we only didn’t become engineers or IT people because we think we’re so damn special that the world will care for us as we pursue the things we’re actually good at and actually care about. WE KNOW THAT IT WON’T! WE DID IT ANYWAY! YOU’RE WELCOME!

    I don’t expect a damn thing. I don’t expect to be told I’m special. I don’t expect to make much money at doing what I care about. I don’t expect to attain the comfortable middle-class life that I was blessed with as a child. And, thanks to the GOP, I don’t even expect my planet to not be a climatic hellhole by the time the kids I hope I can afford to have are growing up. And I’d say I’m pretty typical of people my age. So, seriously, boomers. Shut the hell up.

    Oy, I could rant a lot longer about this but I think I’d better stop for now. Anyway, thank you for this cathartic post! I might have to share it on facebook. :-)

    • http://www.alexthejester.com alex

      There are lots of people who may devalue human services. But plenty don’t, and I”m one of them. Please don’t get discouraged – your work helping people in need is hugely important. And it may get more gratifying the longer you do it. Plus, I’ve seen plenty of folks in your field, as well as artistic lines of work, who never thought they’d ever have their own place, finally get a humble home. It might take a bit longer, but it’s worth the wait. Let other’s compete for the lower rungs of the corporate ladder.

    • Anonymous

      I’m a music major! I can’t tell you how useless people think music is – unless they love it as much as I do.

    • Liberated Liberal

      I have a degree in Math. Despite applying for up to 10 jobs a day, I haven’t been employed since 2007, when I was a math instructor at a community college. The guy is a dil-hole.

    • Liberated Liberal

      Oh, I have a degree in Fine Arts, too. What does that make me??

    • http://itisanniebelle.wordpress.com Annie Belle

      Wait…Bill Maher isn’t a STEM professional…

    • Ash

      Oh my God, ALL OF THIS, EXACTLY. I cobbled together three part-time jobs and could barely afford both rent AND food (forget luxuries like television or a car) and got so much ‘well, if you’d gone into computer science….’

      Which, since I’m from the greater Seattle area, wouldn’t even have mattered either. Unemployed tech geeks are a dime a dozen too. Now I’m looking at being an academic (gasp!), and consistently watching people say how the entire humanities field is just useless tosh that should be cut to make room for things that are more likely to profit.

      (Younger end of GenX here, but a ‘late bloomer’ because I couldn’t afford college at 18 and had to wait till I was an independent student at 25…you know, so I could get the loans I’ll be paying off now till I die.) Like you, I never expected i’d make loads of money, but I thought I’d at least be able to afford food and shelter at some point in my life.

  • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

    Know what REALLY isn’t special? Blaming everything on your parents, or society, or previous generations. Yawn.

    • Joseph

      Blaming everything on your children, on the other hand, is an entirely laudable and intellectually defensible position. Particularly when said children are in their twenties and have not had the opportunity to define governmental or corporate policy.

      • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

        I don’t think blame rests in any one place; that’s a terribly glib outlook. However, your time/energy is better spent accepting responsibility and utilizing your power to affect change than trying to lay blame elsewhere.

    • Alexandra

      How insensitive, corecorina — calling hysterics what they are (hysterics) instead of joyfully joining in. You are not a true daughter / son of your generation! ;)

      • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

        I wonder what people assume is ‘my generation’ ? :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/august.hahn August Hahn

      Do yourselves a favor; don’t bother replying to Core here. She’s a self-described ‘social media strategist’. That roughly translates to ‘smart ass with a keyboard’. Just stay sane and move on.

      • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

        Funny generalization – I can be a smart ass with a keyboard :) But that has nothing to do with my job.

    • Brent

      Yes. Because this post covers every thing, ever, and blames everything ever on what you said.

      Do you know what my generation is doing? Waiting for old people to die.

      Progress can’t be made until the older generations die.

      Also, I blame most problems on extremists (religious extremists – christian AND muslim AND jewish, money extremists – a.k.a. the 1%, political extremists – a.k.a. Republicans, etc.).

      • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

        My comment was simply pointing out that every generation feels that someone else is responsible for their problems. It’s not a millennial issue; most generations feel short changed by their parents, teachers, elders, etc. — the only extremity I see here is the response to my comment :)

    • Martha

      I thought that the point was that we just wanted the old people to shut up? We aren’t trying to blame them as much as pointingly asking them to stop talking while we DO actually try and get things done.

      • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

        Maybe that is the point of the article? I’m not really sure, to be honest. But it seems like not listening to other people – old or young – and just stay focused on what you as an individual can achieve. As teenagers we all hate being lumped in with ‘teenagers’ but it’s not really worth worrying about; just prove ‘em wrong.

  • http://blog.hodes.com Michael Gordon

    There were some good points here and some not-so-good points. Focusing on past generation (how they’ve wronged us or how they perceive us) won’t get us anywhere. Let’s focus on the positive examples of Millennials being exceptional, like 15-year-old Jack Andraka who developed breakthrough method for detecting pancreatic cancer.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Focusing on the outliers in a group is most definitely NOT a productive way to solve problems, although it’s what the Republicans want us to do–like how they like to focus on the dirt-poor kid from the ghetto who managed to get herself into Harvard, to distract us from the fact that the system is failing myriad other dirt-poor kids from the ghetto and that a kid here or there managing to beat the odds doesn’t help them one whit.

      You are right that focusing on past wrongs ALONE won’t solve any problems but, generally speaking, in order to right wrongs, you have to identify them first. And there have most certainly been a LOT of wrongs committed in this country over the past decade or so (arguably for longer) that have made it extremely hard to “succeed,” even with hard work. And we SHOULD talk about those. And if we also want to complain a little because we’re tired of getting kicked when we already feel down, well I think we’re allowed.

      Don’t get me wrong, In a lot of ways I am one of the lucky ones. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to spit nails when I hear, for example, older people wringing their hands over the fact that Obama made it easier for people under 26 to go back on their parents health insurance because apparently that’s just spoiling them and sheltering further.

      Seriously, people. Do you really think that “find a job that offers me health insurance” was not plan A for those people? Do you think they LIKE having to go back on their parents insurance? I find that most people my age WANT to work and WANT to be able to do everything for themselves. But the means to actually do so have been so crippled that a lot of people simply can’t, and a lot of us struggle to get by. So again, STFU boomers. (And thank you to the boomers who haven’t taken the easy route of blaming everything on Kids These Days.)

    • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

      Please – focus on the positive so that people look back on your generation and think ‘Man, we really had them pegged wrong” — it’s the only way to come out ahead in this type of generalization trap.

  • Sam

    Some people of your generation ARE lazy — BUT you are also being tossed into a confusing time for career building. My generation x are still trying to figure out the market — our parents gave us the best advice they had, but during the change in the economy I found most of that advice ended up useless. The best bet is to really search into what you want to do and then do the unpaid interns and some college to get a foot into that field. Experience right now is more golden then education and people are taking advantage of that — just remember that if you take things slow you CAN have the power over them.

    I haven’t given much thought into your generation, but I did end up being a guardian for someone of your generation in my 20s. (long story) She was by all accounts a trouble kid and sucked at school (not to mention, didn’t care about school) but she had/has skills that can get her bright future… but I think she lacks esteem so bad because everyone else thinks she’d dumb that she just keeps going about life from the starter position — entry level fast food. Your generation is going to look like dumb kids to most people, but you have to be willing to not let their opinions keep you down — think about what you are good at and what you love — go for it and you’ll be proving everyone wrong ;)

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t it seem wrong that you claim to have worked your hardest for nothing? Even if it doesn’t count for a better job or higher status as much as it did 50 years ago, you should at least enjoy learning and working. If you really valued life like the former generation then you would know that it isn’t important to get grades for grades or work for distinction alone, but that it is more about the journey and learning to love learning.
    If you worked as hard as you claim then you should 1) have learned to enjoy learning and 2) have gained skills that will help you in life.
    It’s the quality not quantity of the work that matters; we’re all dealing with the same thing but it’s just cowardly to blame the previous generation for issues (or quantities of issues) that every generation in history has to face.

    • kisekileia

      You are obviously far too privileged to realize that loving learning and enjoying the journey don’t pay the rent or the student loan bills, and that Millennials don’t have the luxury to avoid worrying about rent and student loans.

    • Brent

      Yeah, I was working full time as a computer technician, and because of the economy, I wasn’t even making enough to pay my basic bills (rent, electric/gas, car insurance).

      A computer technician is a professional job. If those level jobs aren’t supporting people, is that my fault? Is that our fault?

      Or is it the fault of the people running our government who are continually bending us over and screwing us?

      Housing crash? Could have regulated it more, they knew about the problem in advance.
      Bank failures? The banks stopped paying the FDIC in the 90′s, the government could have enforced payments and they didn’t.
      Oil prices? Early 2000′s they made changes that allowed speculatives markets to grow out of control.
      Government has no money? Bush dragged us into a massively expensive war and drastically cut taxes on uber-rich people.

  • Klaus

    Very well written Sierra,

    but David McCullough’s speech did not blame anybody. He pointed out pretty much the same problems you are underlining.
    You wrote: “We know that. We’ve always known that. You’re the ones who can’t accept the disappointment.”
    Maybe you know it, but your generation does not, they are even not close to understand what’s going on and what McCullough and you are talking about. Otherwise there would be more protests going on and that’s really the reason why we are disappointed.

    • http://graceasatree.wordpress.com Grace

      When our generation does protest (OWS), we are called entitled and stupid. When we don’t protest, we’re called lazy and apathetic. And by the way, there’s not more protest going on because we’re busy trying to pay the bills.

  • Anonymous

    Whatever happened to GenY?

    • http://www.facebook.com/august.hahn August Hahn

      Most of them are keeping their heads down, living paycheck to paycheck, wondering how next month is even going to work for them…

    • Anonymous

      Millenials are another name for Gen Y, typically. A bunch of names were floated early on before the generation really could be understood or properly named, so it can be confusing.

  • Californicus

    How rich I would be if I had a dollar for every generation that was considered lazy by the preceding generation!

    • Anonymous

      You’d have like 20 dollars? How many generations has there been..?

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  • Anonymous

    Hell, I’m 41 and this applies to my generation as well.

    • Anonymous

      39 here, and I feel the same. Student loans I’ll never be able to pay off, two–sometimes three–jobs and still scraping by paycheck to paycheck, no car, will never be able to afford a house, not attractive enough to get a husband so no family in my future, but yeah, I’ve been called lazy and entitled, too. My dad has had the same job for 40 years. He doesn’t know what it’s like now, that you can just be let go at the drop of a hat because it’ll save the company a few bucks a month, or the owner’s daughter doesn’t like you, or, in some states, they don’t even have to TELL you why, and that it can take months or years to find another job. I look back on how I thought when I was a child what life would be for me as an adult. If I had known it was going to be like this…I don’t know what I would have done.

  • James Koti

    Hell, I’m 41 and this applies to my generation as well.

  • CameronW

    A lot of people wont admit it. Or deny it. Or call it some bit of nihilism or whatnot. But the Grand Experiment is over. America failed. And as this letter so poignantly puts it. It didn’t simply fail an idea. That would be if not exactly positive at least not so terribly harmful. It failed generations.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      It breaks my heart to say it, but I think you are right. This has been maybe the hardest thing to come to terms with ever for me. I was raised as a “dissent is patriotic” liberal patriot and when my patriotism failed me, I had my grandmother, who survived the Holocaust in Europe and for whom America was her first free country, to remind me to hold on to it.

      She is gone now though and I don’t know if she would recognize the country she came to, which was certainly not awesome for non-straight, white, males but which was at least on an upward trajectory at the time. I don’t know what’s left to patriotic to. I don’t know what’s left to love in a country that I feel like hates me. My country does not respect my work, it does not respect my goals, it does not respect my values, and it increasingly does not respect my rights as a woman. I am a progressive feminist “at risk”-youth worker in a country that has abandaned progressivism, feminism, women, youth, or any population that could ever be called “at risk.” I am clearly not welcome here. I’ve said for years that this is my country too but, looking around, it’s pretty damn clear that it’s not.

  • http://herb.com herb

    waaa. typical kid today

    • Brent

      I bet you are old, republican, christian, and white. Probably racist too.

  • http://www.divinelydefined.com Tiffany A.

    Absolutely awesome piece of writing. You hit every nail on the head! As a parent of the next generation my husband & I have made up our minds to tell our kids the truth & shame the devil Lol..excellent writing!

  • Contrarian

    Let’s not forget, too, that our parents’ generation is the one with political power. They’re the ones who are counting on Medicare and Social Security — 50% of all federal transfers, from us to the 13% of Americans over 65 — and at the same time refusing to fund them. They haven’t saved for their retirement (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703959604576152792748707356.html), and demand that we pay for it with the inevitably higher taxes after they die. They’re the most well-organized special interest group in the country, with more power than the oil or pharmaceutical or agricultural industries, and they want to screw us over to pay for their own irresponsible behavior.

  • Matthew C

    I don’t disagree with the sentiment of this piece, but having actually been present at the Wellesley High School speech this spring, I can tell you it was very much directed at the parents. The speaker’s tone absolutely reserved much of the “blame” for the adults in the audience; I never felt he intended to place the burden solely on the shoulders of the graduating students.

  • Gary

    Whoa there, buddy. I guess someone woke up on the wrong side of the futon. All I can say is that I am 30 and I do not remotely relate to this article. I am very happy with my parents and my childhood. If I succeed or fail, it’s on me. If I’m happy or sad, that’s on me, as well. This article was written in a moment of anger, and I’m sure the author will regret it in time.

    • Anonymous

      Since Gary can’t relate, it must be bullsh*t.

  • Allison

    So, your life isn’t easy or perfect and it’s all your parents fault. So they should fix it, presumably? How very Millennial.

    • Anon

      He is not asking anyone to fix anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KiplingKat Jennifer Burnham

    If you want people to stop telling you that you are not special, to top calling you “The Entitled Generation,” you have to stop acting like it and tell your parents to back off.

    I work at a University, and to be honest, many of your generation do act entitled. They do act like they are special. Do you know how many e-mails faculty members at universities get from students and parents saying they (or their child) deserved a higher grade than what they earned? I got a phone call from one parent who said their child was crying because “The faculty member did not test enough on the material covered in class,” her problem being that she had never opened her textbook. The parent did not call us out of the blue, the student sicced them on us. One student caught cheating told the department chair that it was her “duty to game the system that was out to get her” and plagiarizer told him, “Well, that’s how they do it in the workplace” (that she had obviously never been in). That tends to be cheaters attitudes these days, “How dare you penalize me!”

    My two favorite calls, the first from a mother whose son had called her to get directions to his classroom rather than walking into our office to ask directions, and the father who called three days before classes started to create his son’s schedule because his son was “out with his girlfriend right now” and could not be bothered to register for the two and a half months registration had been open.

    The son was the one who chose not to register when his time slot came open, not the father.

    And there are WAY too many students who even as Juniors, don’t know how to create a class schedule because let their parents do it for them. They are not incapable of signing on-line, finding the classes they need, and working out a schedule, they just would rather their parents take care of the headache and tell them what to do.

    And of course, then there the (too many) students who could not be bothered to register when their time slot opened because they were at the beach or wherever, and then the day classes start come to complain to us how DARE we not have a seat for them in this high demand class they need for their major in time to graduate, ZOMG! (the ones who have put off these essential classes until the last semester are especially fun).

    Oh, and then there are the students who want to be let out of exams or a two weeks of classes because they have family vacation or wedding or whathaveyou.

    I mean for gawdssake, members of your generation are letting their parents follow them into the workplace now: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/06/146464665/helicopter-parents-hover-in-the-workplace

    That is unacceptable. At 22 they should have had the “It’s my life, butt out” talk with the folks ages ago.

    After 18, your actions are your responsibility, not theirs. No, they did not prepare you well for the world. Yes, the student loan situation has become a rigged game and the job market really, really sucks. I completely sympathize with those issues. But you can’t blame them for everything you do or don’t do, which includes letting them interfere in your life. College is not just for getting a degree and learning a field, it is supposed to be a half-way stage. Less structured environment than high school but not as unstructured as living on your own, it’s a place where young adults learn how to be proactive and cope with adult responsibilities. Learn to manage time on your own, learn to manage finances on your own, learn to live up to greater academic/work responsibilities on your own, etc. But all lot of you just handed those greater responsibilities back to your parents.

    Not all of you. I see a lot of you busting your behind and taking care of business, a lot of pro-active kids taking responsibility and stepping up their game. To be honest, their grades show it. I can’t say that any of the majors hired out of our program into the field (chemistry) did not earn that job. Colleges do not answer to the “No Child Left Behind” dictum. If some one can’t or won’t do the work, it is going to show. But there is a definite generational trend there of entitlement, and the parents are not entirely to blame when the adult kids take advantage of it.

    BTW- Contratian, Social Security is something your parents paid into their entire lives, and they are just getting their own money back. If you want to be mad at them, be mad at them for deregulating the financial industry and voting in representatives that sent all our manufacturing overseas. Because the middle and lower middle class relied on manufacturing jobs to support them, sending it overseas created the “You have to have a college degree to have a living wage” trap that forced a lot of people into colleges and universities, devaluing the degree they got with loans they have little hope of replaying (at least not within the first five years) in this job market.

    • http://cookingbakingandtraveling.wordpress.com jwall915

      This is quite a misportrayal of the situation. You think it’s so simple that people can just tell their parents to back off, and poof! the problem is solved? I highly doubt that many of these students are “handing problems back to their parents”. I think a lot of them are under strict instructions to call Mommy every time you so much as sneeze. And even if they are, why are the parents not saying no and telling their kids to solve them on their own? Many, many of these parents are incredibly controlling and insecure and are living vicariously through their kids. They actively do not want their kids to grow up and not need them. My parents are like that to a T and so are many others’. My parents all but did my homework for me. They filled out college applications for me and when I protested, they called me names and said I was too stupid to handle it myself. When I got a part-time job during college, they shamed me for not letting them pay for everything. When I was 26, my father offered to buy me a cell phone and when I refused, he wouldn’t speak to me for two months. I could offer a book’s worth of examples from me and my friends. I have a friend who teaches college, and she sees students all the time who weren’t even allowed to choose their major. No wonder they put off taking essential classes until they absolutely have to. I’ve had to work my butt off just to learn how to work, because I was never taught how. I had to learn how to solve my own problems without being rescued because that is what my parents always insisted on doing. I always wanted to take care of myself and earn my own living, but my parents thwarted me at every turn. I had to irreparably damage my relationship with both of them to just have the *opportunity* to take care of myself and be independent. That is a horrible, horrible position to be in, no one should have to make that choice. I agree that some millenials act entitled and lazy, but so do a lot of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. And I have to wonder if a lot of the behavior that comes off as entitled and lazy is really resentment and loss of ownership of their own life.

    • Anonymous

      now THIS is well said. a reasoned, rational response to what has accurately been called ‘hysterics’. hats off, Jennifer.

    • Colleen

      ‘At 22 they should have had the “It’s my life, butt out” talk with the folks ages ago.’

      It’s not always that simple. I’m sure people who graduated or are still in college would love to be completely independent from their parents, but you can’t be free from your parents meddling ways until you are free from their wallets. It’s nearly impossible for students to take out and pay interest on their school loans on their own. Perhaps part-time students can acquire jobs that let them pay back their loans while they are in school, but full-time students are just that; full-time students. I have been a full-time student for 4 years (going on 5 to start my Masters) and have always had a part-time job on weekends and weeknights, yet I still could never afford to live on my own without my parents’ help. I can’t even take out enough money in loans to cover my schooling without my parents co-signing my loans or paying interest or doing whatever they can to help me out. Many of us are under circumstances like this, so how do you tell your parents who are helping pay for your food/shelter/schooling to “butt out”? I know I am working as hard as I can and spending all my free time doing everything in my power to make ends meet, and I’m sure many others in my generation are doing the same. You can’t cut out dear old mom and dad until you can survive in this world without them, and that’s extremely hard to do, due to low wages and scarce job opportunities – especially when you’re a full-time student! My priority will always be school until I graduate, considering I’ve already racked up 30,000 in loans from my undergraduate degree.

      I fully understand how we can seem entitled by needing mommy and daddy to come to our rescue, but not all of us have the time available to work 40 hours a week and take 19 credit hours, student teach, have unpaid internships, or anything else students need to “beef up” their resumes or simply graduate.

      And hey, some people are just lazy, entitled, and make mom and dad do everything they want them to do. There are people like this in all generations. Just because you see a few of them at a University doesn’t mean that’s the entire generation. Just think about how many people from my generation don’t have the support of their parents and can’t afford to go to college. Working at a University, you really are seeing the most privileged children because they somehow, with the help of mom and dad, took out loans or got their parents to pay for their schooling. I went to a private University (on a scholarship, not because my parents paid for me) and saw kids everyday who had their college paid for by their parents (all 52,000 a year) and wanted to slap them silly. But you can’t assume we are all those ungrateful little brats.

      There will always be the privileged kids who get mommy and daddy to do their registration for them or call the school to whine about their grades. The best we can do is just stand up to their parents and fight for what’s right, instead of just wishing it was different. Take a stand against those people. Worried you might lose your job over that? I would be worried to lose a well-paying job that supports me and my family in this economy as well, but don’t complain about it if you aren’t prepared to try to do what’s right and what could help that kid (and his/her parents) learn the way the world SHOULD be and the way they SHOULD act.

      I don’t mean to cause any fuss. I just don’t wouldn’t want to be blamed for my parents meddling if they had every right to meddle if they were the ones paying for my degree. As wonderful as it would be to just have my parents money for aid but handle everything else on my own, that might create even more entitled brats.

    • S.

      I also work at a university – a public one – and I’ve seen a whole lot of students who come in and struggle because they’ve had so much handed to them. You know what? They’ve had no choices in the system they’ve been in. Most of them have worked out how to succeed in the No Child Left Behind system only to encounter something entirely different in college. That’s not their fault. It’s the fault of every stupid person who voted for every stupid politician who passed that piece of trash legislation. It’s the fault of a system that has made high school teachers a target – the result being that all the mandated “improvement” ends up costing students in the long run because they are not given one of the most important lessons of all: how to respond to failure.

      My students struggle, and complain, and despair, but the vast majority of them put their heads down and try their best. It’s not that they don’t want to work hard. It’s that they don’t really know how to make the effort produce results. I’ve seen many students come to me and ask me for study advice. Almost all follow it. Almost all turn their grades around. If anything, I think I see fewer slackers than I did when I was in college.

      Day after day, week after week, semester after semester, I see students come through that reaffirm a basic faith in the next generation. If we don’t manage to destroy the country in the meantime, this generation could be the one to fix it. I just hate that the 2 generations before it have been stupid enough to put them in the situation they’re in.

    • Anonymous

      Well said Jennifer!

    • Marya

      I certainly don’t doubt that you’ve had to deal with a lot of irresponsible, entitled, obnoxious college students (and parents). I just question your assertion that it’s a generational trend. What evidence do you have that this generation is somehow whinier than the previous generation? Hand-wringing about “kids these days” goes back at least to ancient Rome, and probably to prehistoric times. Everyone grows up, becomes more mature, and then is annoyed by younger, less mature people. It’s the circle of life.

    • Peg

      Wow. Amazing. So let’s just do a TL;DR here to sum up your post. “Your generation is filled with helicopter parents and it’s YOUR fault for not making them back off doing what they have been doing your entire life.” Let me guess, when the mother called your office for directions for her son, I bet you gave them to her, didn’t you?

      You just reinforced everything that was said in the original post. The problem IS the babyboom generation, always has been and will be until they die.

  • Anonymous

    Probably the best article that I’ve read in the past year.

  • Isabelle

    How are we going to support you?
    Social Security won’t prop you up anymore. Your own retirement savings? As reliable as our degrees, which is not at all. Do we have houses to mortgage? Investments to collect on? Assets to sell? For most of us, the answer is a belly laugh and a no.

    As someone sort of older than you probably are and who thinks you’re pretty much right…I wanted to add that Social Security (and social safety nets generally) are not impossible dreams. There’s a great deal of lying going on by wealthy boomers and Gen Xers about Social Security, and I’ll tell you why: 1. the stock market – if we switch our retirement stuff over to the stock market (like they did in Chile, for example, and it was a disaster) there’s a ton more money chasing the same amount of stocks, and stock prices go up. If you already own stocks (like older wealthy folks) you clean up, so it sounds like a great idea to force everyone to manage their own retirement; 2. Labor discipline – because we know from actual real-world examples that unless you have defined payout-retirement plans, you suddenly have a lot more poor and desperate older people. What’s it going to look like when the old and tired and the young and inexperienced are competing for jobs at Wal-Mart? It’s going to drive wages down and keep us all desperate. It’s going to suck. But it will be great for richer folks since they can pay us even less to do even more work.

    What scares me? What scares me is the idea of everyone who is young and not from a rich background saying “well, the social contract is shot, I guess I have to accept lousy wages and no benefits and I have to be as ruthless and mean as I can just to survive, and we have to cut all the social programs”. The late 19th century was a lot like now – crazy finances, misery, an elite with so much money they didn’t even have time to spend it all – and we got labor rights, progressive taxes, medicare, social security. We can get those things back – it won’t be much fun (just look at late 19th century history for how hard it was) but we’ll be a lot better off together than fighting each other for a few pathetic scraps.

    • Another cynical Gen Xer

      What do you mean WHEN the old/tired and young/inexperienced are competing for Wal-Mart jobs? Already happening, and it already sucks. But your general analysis is spot on – and I’m scared by the same idea you are (though still slightly hopeful that we can, indeed, get back some of what we lost).

  • Anonymous

    I will not argue the state of your generation. I am sure you know it better than I, as I am a GenXer. However, you have seriously mispegged us. If you honestly believe for even one SECOND that GenXers did not have to do the things you are whining about having to do in paragraph 2, you are living in an illusion. We too had to face reality. There aren’t enough jobs and you can never be guaranteed a job you want because of an education blahblahblah. This is not news. This is not new. Sucks, doesn’t it? Go visit Jamaica. See the people who live in 10×10 boxes with an entire family that is probably the ONLY home they will ever have. Then come back here and see if complaining about not having a house before children even makes sense or doesn’t sound ridiculously selfish and self centered. Remember that there was a time that flipping burgers used to be viewed as an opportunity, not a failure of career.

    Now… I advise you to do that thing you don’t want to hear, that you think is impossible…. find a way to do something you love. Yeah. I know, you think it’s not going to happen. MAKE it happen. Go do it. Now. Stop blaming other people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fen.aisling Fen Aisling

    I will not argue the state of your generation. I am sure you know it better than I, as I am a GenXer. However, you have seriously mispegged us. If you honestly believe for even one SECOND that GenXers did not have to do the things you are whining about having to do in paragraph 2, you are living in an illusion. We too had to face reality. There aren’t enough jobs and you can never be guaranteed a job you want because of an education blahblahblah. This is not news. This is not new. Sucks, doesn’t it? Go visit Jamaica. See the people who live in 10×10 boxes with an entire family that is probably the ONLY home they will ever have. Then come back here and see if complaining about not having a house before children even makes sense or doesn’t sound ridiculously selfish and self centered. Remember that there was a time that flipping burgers used to be viewed as an opportunity, not a failure of career.

    Now… I advise you to do that thing you don’t want to hear, that you think is impossible…. find a way to do something you love. Yeah. I know, you think it’s not going to happen. MAKE it happen. Go do it. Now. Stop blaming other people.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Um, wow, so much unfounded judgment about somebody’s life that you know clearly nothing about.

      I’d advise you to read Sierra’s actual story. Give yourself plenty of time because it will take you a while to eat all that crow.

      And *yawn* at the “Ooga Booga, People in developing countries have it way worse!” silencing technique. I can only speak for myself, but I HAVE been to such countries, I HAVE seen people living in extreme poverty and I KNOW that they have it worse than us. I’m pretty sure everyone else here does too. To my mind (although I can’t speak for her), what Sierra is saying is not that it is bad in itself to not have house at The Right Age (personally, home ownership is low on my list of short-to-medium-term goals), but that it just really sucks to hear people constantly saying that we OUGHT to and that the fact that we don’t have these things is all our fault, completely ignoring the fact that the system is now rigged against young people getting the traditional markers of an American middle-class life. Whether or not all those markers are valuable in themselves is a separate conversation. We just don’t want to get blamed and shamed for the fact that it’s really freaking hard to get them. It’s hard to be middle class in a country that is hellbent on destroying the middle class.

      And some of us HAVE found a way to do what we love. It’s just that that means a lot of financial struggle, unless you’re lucky enough for “what you love” to fall into one of the few job categories left that our society values enough to compensate decently.

      • http://nonprophetmessage.wordpress.com Sierra

        Thank you for explaining that so well. :) This is exactly what I was getting at. I also loved your comments earlier about how the shame redoubles if you don’t go into a STEM field, too.

    • Jeff

      “If you honestly believe for even one SECOND that GenXers did not have to do the things you are whining about having to do in paragraph 2, you are living in an illusion.”

      I’m of Generation X as well, and we faced nothing at all like the economy of the last few years. This has been the worst economy since the Great Depression, and we didn’t experience that. We’re all going through the bad economy, but when it hit we were already in a better position. I might have been laid off, but I still had years of work experience to point to in interviews. The college kid with zero work experience was outright screwed in the awful economy, and GenX cannot relate.

      Incidentally, I never had to deal with any expectation of working for free to “prove” myself. I had a part-time job in college in my area of study, not an internship. Only now do I see expectations that I will seek specialized education and volunteer to work for free in order to prove my worth for a relatively low-paying job, all with zero guarantee of any return on investment whatsoever. You can pretend you faced this in, say, the 90′s, but you didn’t, and you would be lying to yourself.

    • http://anon.com GenX

      Jeff: I have to disagree. I graduated from a very good private college in 1990 during the heart of the Bush recession, where everyone worked at unpaid internships. Everyone. Even after college, fewer than 50% of my classmates found paid work within a year after college. Some worked internships for free and tended bar at night. Some took foot-in-the-door entry level jobs that paid so poorly, they waited tables on weekends. Many, many friends moved back home with parents. And we were the first generation chastised for doing so, if you might recall.

      I think what’s clear is there are varying experiences of any given generation, even if there are some generalizations.

      Thus, the success of the original graduation speech, which was not intended to attack an entire generation, but to address what one teacher saw in one single high school class.

      The fact that legions of people have related to his counsel, however, indicates that issues of entitlement in the upper-middle class is not quite so rare.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fen.aisling Fen Aisling

      Petticoat: Nothing personal, but you missed my point, which was that I do not disagree with what you and Sierra are saying about the situation you find yourselves in with one exception: It is not a new situation at all. It has been here for some time, and it is not the fault of GenX. Sierra’s personal story is irrelevant to that fact, and for that matter, so is mine. It was hard when we were in our early years also. It is ALWAYS hard from the perspective of the next generation coming up. If you guys (as a generation) have a large issue with the situation at hand, work to change it. That is all any of us can ever do. I take offense over blaming GenX for everything. Both you and Sierra know full well the story is much longer and more complex than that. Your generation did not invent the concept of being blamed and shamed for not getting into the job market that the previous generations expected them to land into, I assure you we had to put up with it as well.

      If you don’t want blame and shame aimed at you, my suggestion is to start by ceasing to point the blame and shame finger at others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fen.aisling Fen Aisling

      Also: The assessment that GenX was handed a perfect shiney world and then is responsible for ruining it is a very strange one indeed. The facts are that we were handed a world that was slowly crumbling. We have been given a structure that cannot support it’s own weight, and not that it sounds like you care, but from OUR perspective, are being told we get to fix it by the boomers and that it’s our fault by your generation. Neither is completely true. Do we have a chance to fix it? Hopefully, yes. Is it entirely our fault? No it is not. Are there some GenXers who are culpable? Sure there are! But I think you will find if you look closer that there are people of each generation that are responsible for the mess, and people of each generation working to fix it. It is not the fault of one generation.

      And I still advise for going for what makes you happy. It sounds cliche to say that money can’t buy you happiness, but in my own experience, it is completely true. I went for money and regretted it and now have completely changed careers for one that makes me happy. I know it may mean you don’t get a nice car, or have the house you want… I do NOT fault you or anyone else for that fact. It is just something that everyone must decide about at some point… and.. suppose you are one of the few who manages to make a mint AND do something they love? It happens… in every generation. It will happen in yours as well.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      @ Fen

      You might have told us first that your main object in posting was to clear the name of you and your generation and not to actually listen to what either Sierra–or for that matter, I–am saying. I think Sierra made it pretty clear in her post that the generation she was mostly addressing was the parents of today’s 20-somethings, which are mostly not Gen X. And for what it’s worth, if you read through the comments, Sierra has already addressed the complex situation of Gen X. Personally, I agree that yes, it’s always more complex than a single generation (breaking people up into generations can be problematic anyway, since it’s all a continuum) and yes, for those of you on the younger end of Gen X, the situation in this country WAS already starting to crumble.

      But I’m sorry, nobody can argue that it has gotten much worse in the past 10 years or so. The explosion of student debt, the insane rise in the price of education at both public and private schools coupled with “education inflation”, the godawful economy which is MUCH worse than what it was in the 90s, these things are not just subjective feelings. They are realities which can be backed up by plenty of data and they have real consequences. There are individual counterexamples to every trend, but that doesn’t mean the trends aren’t worth paying attention to. Maybe it’s not exactly correct to say that this is a new situation, but it is a situation that is being made ever more extreme by one terrible policy after another and the result is crisis for young people. And yet often the only response coming from the older generations to this crisis is to wonder if we watched too much Mister Rogers and speculate and hand-wring about the various ways in which facebook has destroyed our characters.

      The reason why I brought up reading Sierra’s story on here is because you made several sweeping, unfair assumptions and implications about her, such as that she has not worked hard enough to find a way to do what she loves and is now wallowing in self-pity. Only Sierra can comment on exactly how much she loves what she is currently doing, but, by anyone’s standards, she has accomplished a whole lot and overcome some pretty outrageous barriers to “make it happen.” That’s all I’m gonna say, because, again, I’m not comfortable speaking for her, but seriously, keep your judgment to yourself until you know what the hell you’re talking about.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      And you can do the same with your assumptions about me. How do you know that I am not doing what I love? How do you know that I am sitting here feeling sorry for myself because I won’t be able to afford a nice car? How do you know that I’m not trying to find a way to fix the way things are? If you’d even glanced through some of my other comments, you would see that that’s exactly what I am trying to do and I can think of few things I care about less than having a nice car or being wealthy.

      I have worked in several urban youth non-profits and my degree is in philosophy of public policy. That’s a whole lot of reading political theory, legal theory, feminist theory, race theory, and a whole lot of other kinds of theory and thinking about how it would be possible to change our current system for the better and how I personally can be a part of that change in a practical way. I have spent most of my adult working life trying to figure out ways to contribute to changing things for the better in my small way, on a local level. And I DO love what I do. I am pessimistic as hell about the future of the country, but I know that I have made a difference in people’s lives through my work. I wish I could do more but I am thankful that I have been able to do what I have done. I love that.

      Here’s what I don’t love: having had to work FOR FREE at times and make money at a second job* because the human services are so devalued (remember this is the country in which political candidates can openly smirk at the idea of being a community organizer), so underfunded, that there’s not enough money to pay skilled, dedicated people to do high-skill work that desperately needs to be done. I don’t love being told by some people that I should quit whining and “work to fix” the system I don’t like and then, when I pick a field of study that is ALL ABOUT working to fix it, being told by other people that that stuff is for self-indulgent, impractical navel-gazers and I need to get over my ideals and face reality and that, until I do, it’s all my fault that I don’t have the standard of living that or the number of “adult” markers that people think I ought to have.I should have just become an engineer, that’s where the jobs are, now quite whining, you hippie.

      “If you don’t like the world as it is, change it! Stop thinking that it will just naturally accommodate you. What, do you think your special or something?”

      “What’s that? You’ve picked a career path to try to change it? Who told YOU that you get to dedicate your life to trying to make a difference with your flaky hippie ideals, when the rest of us have to just accept the world as it is and do our best, even if we don’t love what we’re doing? What, do you think you’re special or something?”

      This is the fate of people who “do what we love” when what we love is not smiled upon by our society. This is what happens to people who do what they want to do when what they want to do is considered worthless–or evil (ZOMG SHE’S TALKING TO TEENAGE GIRLS ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL!!!)–by a lot of people in power. It’s still worth all the BS to me, or I wouldn’t be doing it, but I’ll be damned if I can’t even point out that the BS is unfair.

      I don’t need or want to make a lot of money. I don’t think Sierra was complaining about not being able to make a lot of money. What this is is about is the fact that so many people our age are having a hard time just making a LITTLE money or just ENOUGH money for the basics. If you don’t blame us for that, thank you, but it’s not all about you. I don’t think Sierra wrote this post specifically to dress down Fen Aisling.

      *although I also have the good fortune to be able to make money off my musical ability. I can make a traditional Irish song sound real purdy, and tourists love that stuff in the city I live in and lots of them tip pretty damn well. Yes, what I am saying is that, at times, music has been my MORE reliable source of income. That’s how you know you’re living in bizarro-world.

  • Guy

    Great piece – reminded me of this song
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfj2TvtTsMw

    • ADT

      Blue Scholars totally rule, and they are SO relevant for all this stuff. Good one!

  • http://akhansen.com Andrew Hansen

    This post deeply saddens me and is more reflective of our generation than I’d like to admit…

    I’m nearing my 25th birthday and identify with very little of what you said, and I hardly think I’m an exception if one is truly objective about their life.

    As I read your post I can’t help but feel bad that you’ve gone through some tough times while growing up. I’m sorry that you feel like you were made almost permanently dependent on your parents. That must be an awful feeling. I’m sorry you don’t feel like you have a family home to return to. I’m sorry that anyone would dare call you lazy without hearing your side of the story.

    I don’t say that to patronize you. I’m truly sorry anyone would think it’s okay to make you feel that way.

    That said, I don’t believe for a second that those feelings merit the argument that fulfilling our dreams is next to impossible.

    I recommend listening to McCullough’s speech again. I think you missed the spirit of the message.

    By nature, we’re not special. We all come out of a womb into a broken world that randomly selects who gets to live where. The only thing that separates me from a homeless, starving child in Uganda is that I was born in the United States. I don’t know why I was blessed with this opportunity, but the key point is that we DO have opportunity here.

    By being born here, I have the burden on my shoulders to build. I was given a foundation. America’s founders (both politicians and civilians) fought hard to build a basic framework that, even when times are tough, allows this nation’s people to continue building – both domestically and abroad.

    I honestly believe that whatever circumstances we are handed is irrelevant. At some point we have to push past that and take full ownership of our lives and lead.

    You see, I don’t believe that I’m a slave to my circumstances. I know that what makes a person special is the people around them. The relationships we build matter. To you, I’m a stranger posting a comment on your blog. To my best friends Caleb and Tyler, I’m a brother who challenges them to be better men and they challenge me the same. We collaborate on projects that inspire local artists. I mentor young men on basic business principles so that they may brainstorm potential projects – some non-profit organizations, others, businesses that foster community, and even others, mega corporations that can have social good as a major component of its finances.

    I believe you to be approaching this topic from too wide a perspective. Few people will make it to the level of global recognition – the pinnacle of “special” to some. The rest of us will not be special on that scale. But we can still find a way to accomplish our dreams of inspiring change in our communities, completing projects that matter to us whether they be creative or very basic ways to make a living, and making connections with individuals surrounding us.

    It’s time for my generation to quit being angry about our circumstances. We cannot continue to point blame. We have to take full ownership and move forward. Else, none of the change that you’d like to see can ever take place.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Wow, your privilege is showing…

    • http://akhansen.com Andrew Hansen

      I am who I am, Petticoat Philosopher. While you continue to knock people down and find someone else to blame for your tough situation, I choose to move forward, praise my God for another day of life, and search for an opportunity to build upon, to dream on – to simply live.

      I worked hard to pay my way through college by earning scholarships in high school and working up to three jobs at a time. I didn’t have parents that pressured me to be perfect, nor did they hold my hand through every situation. I’m now working a full time job that I earned on my own merits, volunteering up to 20 hours a week, and making plenty of time to be with friends. It’s not good luck that got me here, it was hard work and a willingness to sacrifice for a future worth living.

      I don’t spend tons of money. I work a job that, while promoting of my personal growth, isn’t necessarily what I want to do with my life. But because I sacrificed here for a couple years, I’ve built a network of people that are currently pushing me, coaching me, and connecting me to opportunities that will provide that sense of fulfillment I dream of in my work. In the meantime, my volunteering fills that need and allows me to pour out the blessings I’ve been given to others. I find all the fulfillment I need in my giving.

      Maybe you’re right though.

      I am privileged…

      But not because I received handouts and blamed everyone else when things weren’t going my way. No, I’m privileged because I choose to be thankful for what I have and build all that I can with it on a daily basis.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Wow, I can practically see your halo showing, Andrew. Thanks, but you know nothing about my life, or how “tough” my situation is. The fact is, I know exactly how lucky I am and I don’t blame others for not being as lucky. That’s the difference between you and me, I guess. I understand exactly what my privilege is. You don’t.

      I say you’re privileged because there’s no way in Hell that anyone who wasn’t extremely privileged could write these words: “I was given a foundation. America’s founders (both politicians and civilians) fought hard to build a basic framework that, even when times are tough, allows this nation’s people to continue building”

      Or these words: “I honestly believe that whatever circumstances we are handed is irrelevant.”

      Good for you that you were part of the founders’ definition of “people” when they built their basic framework. Those of us who are not straight, white guys have historically had to work very hard to be included in that framework and now our government is doing everything in its power to kick us out again. Good for you that, due to your privilege, you have had the fewest barriers possible to building those relationships that are so integral to professional success but lots of people have to work twice as hard just to be able to do that because The Club is not open to people like us. Good for you that you are in business, one of the few professions left that our country respects. For the rest of though, it’s not that easy. We don’t want fame and fortune. We just want to get by.

      It’s true, you are what you are. You can’t help the privilege you have. But you can accept the fact that you have it and that it has made life easier for you. You can not blame others for not having it. Many people like you do so and I love them dearly. I suggest you learn from them.

      *sits back and waits for a bunch of kumbaya crap about how race, class, gender etc. don’t matter anymore and it’s all just excuses.

    • http://akhansen.com Andrew Hansen

      It’s hard to truly take your points seriously because you hide your arguments in the middle of condescending insults toward me. I don’t appreciate you degrading who I am as a person with comments like “Your privilege is showing…” or “I can practically see your halo showing.”

      Trust me, I understand my background a lot better than you do, and, just as you’ve said to me, “you know nothing about my life or just how ‘tough’ my situation is.”

      Race and gender alone don’t propel someone forward in life. An individual has to take the first steps. Like I said before, I’ve worked my tail off to get where I am. I didn’t qualify for any scholarships (since so many were focused on race and gender) beyond academic, and when it came to my current employment, I was the youngest applicant by about 10 years. My qualifications and work ethic showed through – not my age, race and/or gender.

      I understand discrimination still exists in America, maybe even significantly so in certain circles. But based on your words, you seem to be under the impression that a majority of people out there discriminate.

      Again, you seem to assume that my life was a cakewalk, but I promise you, it was far from that. I simply chose to not allow any barriers to control my life’s direction. Yes, that means at times an individual has to move mountains or take detours for a while, but I’d rather put years of hard work into something and see the fruits of my labor than sit back and wait for everyone to be on a level playing field. In an ideal world that would be the case and discrimination as we know it would be no more. The reality is that we’re human and people are naturally flawed. No one is going to feed me from a silver spoon in today’s society unless I come from a rich family – which sadly, I don’t.

      I work at a hospital with physicians from all over the world, representing different races, genders, and sexual orientations. They didn’t all come from lives of privilege. They did, however, come from families that valued a solid work ethic.

      I understand your frustrations that our country seems set up for anyone who isn’t a white male to fail. I only disagree because I’ve seen countless examples that refute those ideas. While, at times, it may be an uphill battle, I do believe that we’re set up as a society to overcome those obstacles, regardless of where we start. Yes, there are people who slip through the cracks and aren’t given a fair chance, but I think we’re dreaming if we think America’s the only place that happens.

      Our role as individuals and a generation in today’s society is to live out the ideals we believe in. No laws, politicians, or protesting are going to generate the change you desire. We simple have to walk it out and get people to join in, one person at a time. But even then, it still requires hard work and a positive attitude – even in the most difficult of times. I’m not an optimist for the sake of it, and many times I get frustrated too, but I do believe that life’s too short to be bitter about anything. I can positively influence more people if I start discussion and interaction in a positive manner.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Discrimination is not something that happens simply as a result of a bunch of individuals being mean, as you seem to think. And I don’t think that every white male will succeed and everybody else will fail–clearly that is not true. I was just pointing out that, frankly, it takes a naive white guy, who’s never dealt with systemic discrimination and probably never will to have your pollyannish attitude towards American society and “success.”

      And telling somebody that they have privilege is not an insult. It’s just a fact. I have privilege in a lot of ways too. The problem only begins when you refuse to recognize that you have it and are insensitive to the fact that others don’t have it. Ah, screw it, I don’t have time for all this 101 right now. Just read this, please. Maybe you’ll take it from another white guy.

      http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

    • Living it. Only comment I you’re living it.

      Thank you for bringing to light the incongruence between our generations higher education and work ethic yet massive debt an inability to get the jobs we want. I went to one of the best graduate schools in the country for a top professional trade, did well, and have too been laughed at for not being able to afford an apartment. From the lucky economic generation, it’s incomprehensible my financial struggles. And they think I’m a liar when I say I eat cottage cheese every meal when they graduated with champagne. It’s not angst, it’s reality. And I’m working my ass off. I’ve never written a post in my life, but I’m writing: Ignore the backlash comments.

  • AMBW

    As a fellow Millennial, I think there’s a lot of truth in this article, but I wouldn’t direct the blame to our parents per se. Society? sure. But isn’t that always the way? There are already so many opinions expressed through our society so of course we’re going to get conflicting messages. I don’t disagree that things have been messed up for us by our predecessors, but I don’t think that that is unique to our generation alone.

    Also, I think that generalizing the motivations and histories of our parents and grandparents is exactly the same thing they are doing to us when they give “you’re not special” speeches and assume we’re all the same. It’s the danger of a “single story” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Ihs241zeg) and I don’t think it’s fair to accuse them of doing that and then turn around and do the same to them.

    I guess my point is that yes, things are all screwed up that effect us but aren’t our fault and we’re reaping the repercussions and yes, we’ve been getting conflicting messages right and left (i.e., you need to be the best but all of your awards are meaningless), but I think that it’s up to us to ignore the negative messages and push through the hardships that will inevitably befall us (which I suspect was the motivation behind the “You’re not special” speech in question).

    So our lives suck – and it’s not all our fault – but it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to do with that. I personally think we need to stop listening to the voices coming from the rest of society and forget about them — and that includes not blaming them — and just go and live our own lives and try to make things better for those who will come after us.

    • Stephen

      I like your comment best. :) Agreed agreed agreed.

  • jblleboy

    As I read these fascinating, passionate and polarized views, I’m struck by how little humility is on display. Rage, justified or not, rarely leads forward. True humility, however, often helps a person see things as they are and harness their resources intelligently to advance their life, often to the betterment of the greater good. A life of hard work, with all of its concomitant dissapointments, can forge an adaptive spirit and untapped potential as well as an appreciation for the simple joys in life. This all comes from within, not necessarily from parents and rarely from governments.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Um, unless you are lucky enough to be self-employed in a lucrative profession–and few are– the rewards “a life of hard work” do not come from within. They come from, you know, WORKING, which implies being employed, which implies that there are employers around, preferably ones that can actually pay you a living wage. And that is part of the problem for a lot of people and responsibility for that problem largely DOES rest with the government.

      For many millenials, the life of hard work and its accompanying humble pleasures that you speak of is the DREAM. Most of us don’t want more than that. But many of us cannot get it, even though many of us have been working hard, in some way or another, all of our lives. What you are describing is now a privilege. If you have had that privilege, congratulations, but get over yourself.

    • AMBW

      I agree. Perhaps the reason things are so screwed up for Millennials right now is because when our parents were our age, they were complaining about how screwed up the world was and not working to change it? Nothing is going to change if we sit around complaining about the way things are and things people say to us. We have to suck it up, deal with our reality, and work to change it. Sure, it sucks but it sucks for everyone and I have a suspicion that being bitter about the way things are is only going to make it that more difficult for your life to get better.

  • http://gravatar.com/emb03 emb03

    I read your article after I read this one: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/07/02/120702crbo_books_kolbert?currentPage=all

    Basically, validating what you are saying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.minch Sarah G Minch

    I don’t like the way you lump my generation – Generation X – in with the Baby Boomers. Generation X never had the life of privilege that the Boomers did. We grew up to face a severe lack of jobs, too, and when we settled into telemarketing, coffee barista, cashiering, or similar low wage jobs despite holding college degrees (sometimes even advanced college degrees), we got called “slackers.” We’re in the same boat you’re in, in the workplace anyway. So are many members of the boomer generation, for that matter, at least, the ones who didn’t make enough money in their younger years to invest and get independently wealthy, because the poorer boomers have to work, too, and those that find themselves reentering the work force after having been told to retire by their old companies (or simply downsized) are finding that employers are as prejudiced against old people as they are against unemployed people.

    Some of your cultural criticisms are based on sound observations, I’ll grant you that much, but anything related to career and work needs to take the hostile employment marketplace into the account. Right now employers don’t like ANYBODY who is looking for a job, or looking to change jobs for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter what generation you come from, employers will find some lame excuse to turn you away.

    There are other ways in which Generation X is no more appropriately classified with the Baby Boomers than it is with the Millenials, but it would take a book to discuss properly, in fact, there have probably been several books written on the subject already.

    • Anonymous

      I agree — this was a perfect rant against the Boomers, but I grew up with a Gen X parent and her experience was more similar to ours (except that she didn’t grow up with all the awards and praise and coddling that were in fashion in the 80s-90s). Gen X got screwed over by the Boomers and are frequently now bitter against Millenials who are far younger but competing for the same jobs. Typical that two groups are stepped on by the same boot and grumble at each other.

  • Anonymous

    I get the impression the author didn’t actually listen to the whole of McCullough’s speech and is just responding to the “you are not special” sound byte. In fact, judging by the speech, I think McCullough and the author would agree about quite a bit.

  • Anonymous

    What do you all propose we do? Minus the straight parent bashing, I understand that the circumstances have changed as to traditional education equals employment concept, and our generation has quite a tough lot at the moment. However, I can’t stand when people identify problems that they have put absolutely no thought into solving. And no, you can’t say that the problems our generation faces are unsolvable. This is not a “woe is me” scenario. We can an do have to rise above the challenges with which we are now faced. It will not be easy. Things will not be as we thought. But I do not believe there is no way out. In fact, if we can overcome this, we might end up being a great generation.

    For starters, let’s start employing each other. There are so many great ideas out there ready to be put in motion if people will just believe in themselves and take a chance, going balls to the wall starting a business. What’s the worst that can happen? The business fails and you continue working the shitty jobs that the author pointed out we all have already. At least you’ll have tried, and that does make you “special,” it’s called “character.” And yes, even if you have student loan debt, venture capitalists will give you money. Better yet, start small and build. Businesses are not always nuclear explosions. They grow like trees. Slow and stable, with roots that allow them to weather a storm. In any event, do not let apparent circumstances delusion you into mediocrity. Sure, we’re not all going to be the next Zuckerberg, but it doesn’t take billions to be an independent, “successful” person. It does take hard-work, patience, and self-confidence, however, and a will to win.

    • DBF

      Friend, the worst that happens is that you go thousands of dollars in debt, have to file for bankruptcy, are unable to get any kind of loan for the rest of your life and are stuck at a dead-end job making minimum wage because all that “working for each other” did was give you one six month stretch on your resume.

      The fact of the matter is that it’s more difficult now to become a small business owner than it ever has because there’s no fallback. If you fail your life is just about over. You’ll never pay off the debt you’ve accumulated and never be able to get back on your feet.

    • Rachel B

      DBF, you’re absolutely wrong. Your comment just shows how little you know about starting a small business. You just need to structure it correctly and you are not personally liable for its bankruptcy or debt. And you’re also wrong about what happens to you after bankruptcy. You can still get loans after that happens. You can still rebuild your credit. Don’t just shoot down an idea because you are scared of it, or think it’s impossible. It’s not.

  • Noella

    Get over yourself and just live your life. Your generation wants everything and now without working for it. I’m 60 and very tired of your complaining. We had nothing from our parents and we did fine, We moved around the country and found work without worrying about our social outings and what friends we had around us to party with. Your generation thinks that a university education is what you need to succeed ….it isn’t. Live life and stop thinking you are special cause you’re not. Live a simple life and be happy. Your generation needs to wake up.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      You’re right, a university education is NOT what you need to succeed–you need so much more these days. A college degree these days confers roughly the same degree of prestige upon a person as not being a convicted felon did when you were growing up. It’s basically a minimum requirement to show that you are not a screw-up. Which is a shame, considering it’s getting increasingly expensive and increasingly out of young people’s reach. We don’t want everything without working for it. We’ve been “working for it” for years and we just want SOMETHING. Honestly, did you even read what Sierra wrote?

      And, um, I’m sorry but your generation is not known for not partying, whatever bubble you live in. (And btw, I don’t begrudge them the partying. Because quite a few of you also managed to change the country for the better for everyone who wasn’t white, male, and straight–that is, before most of you sold out and gave up your ideals*.)

      And you had nothing from your parents? Nothing? Not the security of being the children of the largest middle-class in American history, thanks to things like the GI Bill and high membership in well-functioning unions? I’d call that something.

      *My parents, bless them, are among those who did NOT sell out so I’m not trying to bash all boomers here…

    • Guy

      “I’m 60 and very tired of your complaining.”
      No, you are tired because it is about three and a half hours past your bed time.
      “We moved around the country and found work without worrying”
      This statement stands so far out-of-touch with current economic realities, the narrator from the Twilight Zone won’t even approach it. Seriously, on a very basic level, you have a civic responsibility to be well-informed.
      “Get over yourself and just live your life.”
      That’s just the high point of existence for your generation, isn’t it? Don’t worry about the financial industry wreaking havoc against the very fabric of our country. Don’t worry about the rapidly deteriorating ozone-layer. Don’t worry about the gradual erosion of our civil liberties. Don’t worry about the explosion of a for-profit prison industry. Don’t worry – “get over yourself and just live your life.” Baby boomers have turned petty self-indulgence into an art-form, and delusion into the highest of philosophical exercises. There is nothing noble about simply “living life.” It is nihilistic egotism masquerading as some sort of ascetic ideal. The sooner the baby boomers start stepping out of positions of power, the sooner we can get to work fixing the mess you’ve left for us. You’ve done enough damage shirking your responsibilities. (Too busy “living life”)
      Your generation needs to go to sleep.

    • DBF

      Just a quick FYI; it’s you. It’s you and your ilk that have murdered the American dream. It’s the ~60 year old politicians that have stripped our financial regulation, sent their poorer generational compatriots’ children to die at war, and allowed those who answer only to the bottom line to rape and pillage our natural splendor. You are everything wrong with America and you should know it before you think about blaming us.

    • Peg

      What a load of bullshit. If you are 60 you had everything. 60 means you were born in 1952. Post WW2, the US was the only country who could manufacture anything because the infrastructure in the rest of the world was destroyed. So, your parents had all the jobs in the entire world. They were most likely union and didn’t need a college degree to be able to afford a house and kids and they had enough money to send THEIR kids to college with no loans. Now if YOUR parents didn’t have jobs that meant they really were lazy or disabled because there were more jobs available when you were a child than there ever had been or ever will be again.
      If you were born in 52, that means you didn’t even go into the draft lotto until 71 and it ended in 72. You were the least likely of your peers to go to war. Your older brothers would have, but not you.
      By the time you would have gotten out of high school, someone else already fought your war and your battles at home. You graduated just in time for LBJ to kick in with a safety net. You came out of high school with the civil rights movement already having been adopted into law.
      Your parents were the wealthiest generation of middle class workers this country has ever seen and they gave you everything. They left you inheritances, houses and they were on the receiving end of benefits that were still new enough to not be breaking the country.

  • Johnny Crash

    The world has always been shitty and unfair. Millenials are no better or worse in aggregate than any other generation. The stereotypes vary, but the truth is you have to make your life as beautiful as you see fit in the face of the challenges that get in your way. Crying foul won’t help. Just get on with living.

    • Guy

      “Crying foul won’t help.”
      Well isn’t that a defeatist attitude. Your whole position reeks of laziness. And not all generations are thrown into the same situation, or given the same advantages. The Jewish population of Europe some seventy-years ago faced a very different set of circumstances than its contemporary descendants. The idea that all generations are “no better or worse in aggregate” is beyond absurd.

  • Sarah

    So, what do we do about it?

    • http://faustineli.wordpress.com faustineli

      Most important question I’ve seen.

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  • Nancy

    Fear, insecurity, uncertainty, having a humble, low-paying job and having to work hard with no guarantee of success are not generational issues. Learning that the expectations your parents built into you about what your life would be like when you grew up isn’t a generational issue, either. Nor is having ineffectual parents. Your woes are no different from those faced by any American generation of the past 100 years. Twenty years from now you’re going to look back on this essay and cringe at the wide-eyed wounded tone you’ve taken in it (”ah, me, how unprepared I am for adult life and it’s not even my fault”) – but being a wide-eyed wounded youngster isn’t a generational issue, either. Everybody’s a twit til they’re about 40. THAT is why you’re not special.

    • Dac

      Amen Sister! :-) Very well said…

  • Peter Walsh

    I think you’re a generation off here, at least with Gen X. We’re just starting to breathe in the sweet, sweet aroma of our early 40s. My kids are 3 and 6. If my generation rules the world, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet. (Could someone please inform the aforementioned 3 and 6 year olds for example?) If we supplied the angst for your late adolescence, uh sorry. I guess we’re sort of like the 16 year old getting the keys to the car for the first time and promptly plowing into the nearest parked car. (I did that, actually.) It was a shiny new culture when we got it and now we’ve gone and dented it up for you. Guess that’s your late adolescent cross to bear. Mine was going to sleep wondering if my world and everything in it I loved was going to be a radioactive cinder before I woke up.

    Here’s one that I heard many times by your age but never listened to or believed either: When you find your bearings as an independent person and stop caring what an older generation has done to you, or for you, or what they think of you: that’s when you’re a for reals a grown up. I’ll drop you a line when I manage it.

    • Dac

      As an early 40-something myself, I agree with some of your views. But overall,I found this “rant” to be exactly what I expect from the “Millenials”. Whiny, self-absorbed, selfish, and entitled, etc… Guess what? I paid my way through college on my own, and have no student loans to speak of, I did it by working several menial jobs, denying myself partying and socializing. Not needing the uber-tech toys that begins with an “i”. I joined the military for both the service to my country AND to further my education. Was it fun? No. Did it often suck? Hell yes! but am I in a better place because I did it? Yes! Guess what? The recession hasn’t hurt me that bad. I own a truck, a motorcycle, a house. All by my own work and not blaming my mommy or daddy or those Nasty Evil 1%-er Republicans! My step-son and step daughter (18 & 21 respectively), feel they are OWED a living. Umm, nope, they aren’t. And you aren’t either. You are NOT special. Life IS a competition and maybe if the pandering Liberals and Democrats and Political Correct Police allowed parents to parent and teachers to teach and allowed rules to be enforced, perhaps the next generations may have some respect for the opportunities available (not GIVEN) then try harder to EARN them! Instead, we have to let the children “express themselves” by coming to school in rags, or pierced or tattooed or with beards. We allow them to talk back and be disrespectful to their teachers, but God (yes you can still stay that, but not in Public schools!) forbid if the teacher tries to put the “poor little darling” back in their place. They will be labeled a bully or a racist or whatever other term that can stick, instead of calling the little brat out on their actions. The Occu-Tards made me sick with their crying, just like I read in this blog, “Boo Hoo! I got my degree and now I can’t get a job that pays me what I THINK I’m worth!”… How about you pay your dues and start at the bottom like everyone else? Or my favorite, “My student loans are too high, the mean old government (that gave me the loans in the first place) actually wants ME to pay for them!! This is SOOOO unfair! It must be the Rich, White Republicans fault!”. Because it surely can’t be YOUR fault that you chose to NOT work during school. That you CHOSE to party, that you couldn’t stand the fact that it might take you ,gasp, more than 4 years to complete your degree. Sheesh, get a grip, a life and a job. And surprise surprise their ARE plenty of jobs out there, but your fragile little egos and pride won’t let you take jobs BENEATH you, because of your Degree… Ok, so please let the Flaming begin, I’m so curious as to what inventive ways you can insult me rather than actually sitting back and reflecting on how right I actually am…

    • Peter Walsh

      @Dac,

      Aside from your misplaced politicization of a generational matter, tea party paranoia and self-congratulatory oration that seemed to miss the OP’s point, I agree with you completely.

      I’m just going to stand over there…

  • http://laura2012520.wordpress.com laura2012520

    amazing ~~~~

  • http://twitter.com/BonnieAWolfe Bonnie A Wolfe (@BonnieAWolfe)

    I am on my 4th startup (the first three were successful). I have been working since I was 16 when I took the GED to get out of high school early when the guidance counselor said “Honey, you are never going to college” and I left with tears welling in my eyes. I had nothing but my pretty smile and an interest in not being poor to guide me. My mother was self-obsessed and financially incompetent (we were often on welfare) and my father absentee. When I moved out at 16, I lived on couches and with boyfriends and did whatever I had to do. I walked into businesses in a second hand suit and asked for an opportunity to do filing for free if I could just get some business experience. I impressed people with my work ethic and parlayed those opportunities into jobs. I spent any money I saved on books and computer parts and taught myself how to use them. I didn’t have the internet to teach me, only books, other people I could recruit and trial and error.

    I live in Los Angeles, my company is on Twitter and Facebook and not one person of any age has asked me if they can come do an internship with me. In the past I have mentored many people, all of whom are now at places like Ebay and Oak Ridge National Labs or on their way to those types of high paying careers. All own their own homes. But all those mentees made me their mentor by asking me to teach them. Just like I did when I was in the acquisition phase of my professional life.

    And yet, you and your generation don’t come knocking on my door, or contact me via Facebook, or look me up on Twitter. What are you waiting for? You want work experience but don’t live in Los Angeles? Contact any relevant conferences in your area and ask if you can volunteer. When you go, dress professionally (and if you don’t know what that means, look at pictures of attendees at the prior year’s event), be useful and meet people and ask them what they do. When you find someone who you think could teach you something, ask them if they would consider letting you trade some time assisting them in exchange for what they can teach you.

    I have more to say, but I will save it for the next person who asks me to mentor them.

  • Mikey

    Maybe some of you should take the example from your grandparents and join a branch of the United States military so you have a better idea of how good we have it in this country. You might be a little more hesitant to complain about how hard you have it if you were only to see what it is like in other parts of the world. People suffer and die and live their entire 30 years of life in poverty while the rich and powerful oppress them in ways that you could not possibly imagine. At least you can rent a house, drive a car, drink a Starbuck’s coffee or write on an internet forum for that matter.. And hell, if you still don’t like it MOVE and make more jobs available for the rest of us. It is that simple… Just sayin.

  • Anonymous

    The problem with the stereotypical Millenial, (from a Gen-X perspective), is that they’re only capable of seeing how things affect them, and no one else. It’s always about the self. And not surprisingly it shines through in this article . . . here’s what society has done to ME, here’s how my parents have wronged ME. It’s all about the self until it’s time to spread some blame . . . then it suddenly becomes about everyone but the self.

    We’ve all had it tough in one way or another. We’ve all had challenges in our generations. But for some reason, your generation seems to come off with the attitude that it’s never your fault and you just work and work and work and never get your due.

    I remember when I quit college after 3 semesters and my dad told me I couldn’t just hang out at home. I had two jobs, both minimum wage, (and no, you couldn’t live on it then, either), and I worked 7 days and 80 hours a week just to get by. I went for a year and a half without a single day off. But I didn’t complain, I didn’t blame society, I didn’t blame my parents. I felt like that’s the bed I made for myself and if I wanted something different, I needed to change things up. It took me a lot of different moves, and a lot of years, but my overall situation is vastly different today than it was then. It didn’t happen overnight, (nor did I expect or deserve it to), but it did happen, because of the choices I made, the hard work I put in, and the support I received from everyone around me.

    Don’t get tired of hearing everyone tell you it takes hard work, patience and luck. Just start doing it and quit the belly-aching about how it’s everyone’s fault but your own.

  • Red

    Dear Millennial and Future Generations,

    Then:
    A. Mature enough to know that the last generation, as with all generations before them, did the best they could with the resources and information they had at the time…
    B. Learn to be grateful for the things you were able to change and teach your children to keep moving the ball forward.
    C. Sit back and laugh at the naiveté of the “all knowing” young adult you were long ago.
    Sincerely,
    Your predecessors and soon to be companions in adulthood.

  • http://jadearia.wordpress.com Keyz

    This is a very biased and narrow opinion; honestly a very pessimistic way of looking at yourself.
    As a society we’ve grown to learn how to blame others for our short comings instead of taking responsibility for our actions. No one has anyone to blame but themselves. If you don’t feel special, that’s your fault, not your parents’, society’s, or God’s.
    The fact that you can sit and write this cry of an article shows in itself that you have time and passion to do so, not to mention creativity; a contradiction of circular logic.
    Every generation has its hurdles to overcome, we aren’t an exception.

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  • Krystan

    I’m a Gen X, and I remember when I graduated from college (1994), there was tons of press about how our generation was a bunch of lazy slackers who were so used to having things done for them that they couldn’t function independently. In reality, the job market was terrible and really.. it’s just hard starting out on your own. I don’t know why, but just about EVERY generation in the last century (and maybe longer) has been negatively labelled in some way (“those young people today”). People forget what it’s like to be young – I imagine their memory glosses over the less than perfect stuff – I don’t think your parents had it as easy as you imply. I wouldn’t wasted time blaming though, but plug away and do your best. Society is changing – I don’t think any generation is doing this on purpose. It’s hard to prepare your kids for a world that will be different from what you grew up in. But honestly I think that’s always the case. You brought up some fair points, but it’s time to stop whining and build your own life as best you can.

  • Jen

    The first 2/3 of that essay, I was thinking, “Oh cry me a river.” The last 1/3 of that essay, I absolutely agreed with you, because this message was aimed at the parents: the Baby Boomers.

    I’m a younger GenXer (mid-30s), with older GenX friends & younger GenY siblings (one is 25). The only difference between GenX and GenY/Millenials is that there are many, many more of you than there are of us, so when these same things were happening in our teens & 20s, nobody cared. We graduated into one, then another recession, and if we managed to have any wealth accrual in between, lost it in the latest crash (or kept our heads down at mediocre jobs with hemorrhaging pay, to cling to whatever was left). No one said a damn thing about the tens of thousands in student loan debt we’ve carried, until the great second majority started graduating at the SAME time as jobs were scarce, and the SAME time Boomer parents ran out of cash to help you out. Just like no one will do a damn thing about social security or health care until enough Boomers are ready to retire.

    And as soon as the economy turns around and the youth majority start working, paying off student loans, and buying houses (hello next housing bubble), most are going to turn into their parents anyway: Boomers partied, protested, and went to war in their teens/20s, struggled in their 20s-30s, but buckled down and made a killing in their 30s-40s. 1966, 1976, 1986, roughly. Match economic data to birth rates to cultural shifts, you’ll see it clearly.

    When you gain ground along with your voices, GenX will once again disappear into a silent minority, struggling to compete while sandwiched between Boomers who won’t retire, and Millennials who can sustain longer hours on the job for less pay. Those who don’t own our own homes by then will be screwed. They called us Slackers, but we were the latchkey kids who took care of our Peter Pan parents who couldn’t take care of themselves, babysat for you every summer day when we were barely 12, and will have to take care of our parents again just as we struggle to find money to raise any kids of our own.

    But you know what? I still think we could be friends. I still think we could raise the best damn generation of kids the next go around, and not at all because any of them will be special. We could take more balanced approach to parenting, neither free-form latchkey neglect, nor over-involved helicopter cheerleading. We should all look to how our grandparents were raised (not how they raised the indulged Boomers), and aim for that model: work hard, don’t expect anything special, but work hard for the sake of a job well-done. Be prepared to fail. Failure breeds self-confidence and independence. Pick yourself up, dust off, and try again. Love Thy Neighbor. Help each other. It isn’t Us vs. Them, we are All in This Together. Independence is better than dependence, but Interdependence is the ultimate goal of adulthood, which means involvement in community, giving back, supporting family, sharing, communicating, building towards the greater good, etc. I think Boomers misinterpreted Independence as Having It All, and got caught up in the worship of Self and self-interest, and spread that gospel to their offspring. But many of us grew too pragmatic and skeptical to listen.

    The whole system is broken. The question is, how are we going to fix it?

    • Rachel B

      Thank you.

  • http://sovergatan.wordpress.com kearen

    This is an interesting article. I think that it speaks to a lot of what is currently happening. But the problem is that it is two extremes of the same argument. Where have we seen this before? Our current political system: extremely partisan. Religion is another example. Taking extreme positions gets nothing done. I am from the Y generation, and what I see in our current political system, religion, and class system is that there are lines drawn and extreme positions taken. And I see the same thing here. The older Generation blames the youth (and that has been happening for years). And now this post blames the older generation for everything. No one is taking personal responsibility. It is just a constant passing of the baton. And that is not helpful. Sure, we are influenced by the people who came before us, and the older generation failed us in many ways. They created a incredibly difficult world for us to exist in. However, at some point, we have to be responsible for our own lives. And at some point, we have to accept responsibility for eating everything that is placed at our table. Sometimes that is going to mean that we have to unlearn what has been taught. But I think the problem with social commentary from this perspective is that most of these critics fail to mention the most important factor: the individual. Criticing society without acknowledging our individual roles in this mess is the ultimate problem with both the older generations and the younger generations. Everyone just wants to blame the other and like our current political system, nothing is getting done. Nevertheless, I think we can take this post as a good starting point for discussion. Because to truly understand humanity, we have to understand that we all are participants in the good things and the bad. And at some point, we have to stop blaming and generalizing each other into abstractions. In my opinion, critic (good or bad) should begin within before it reaches the outside. And it should always be with humility and – to the best of anyone’s ability – honesty. There are problems that the older generation have created – based on the generation before them and some of the choices made during the Gen X and baby boomers time. Likewise, there are problems with my generation and younger – based on the the generation before us and some of the choices that we have made. Nothing is ever one-sided. Absolutely nothing.

  • http://authorhannahkollef.wordpress.com hkollef

    Reblogged this on hannahkollef and commented:
    This is a great article. It basically sums up our generation’s biggest problems. Check it out if you have a moment!

  • Anonymous

    Every generation is told by their parents that they aren’t special. Haven’t you heard that immortal line, “When I was your age.” So, with respect to this article, “Methinks thou doth protest too much”.

  • Maryam

    I was working at a coffee shop when an older gentleman came in, when I was 19 (about 5 years ago). We struck up a conversation and he eventually said “You seem smart. Why do you work here?” I responded that I was a university student and that the money was slightly better-than-average (I’d worked my way up to a management position at that point), to which he replied “Ah, you’re a materialist then.”
    I was flabberghasted that wanting to pay for my crappy, bug-infested studio apartment and textbooks and have enough money left over to buy food was considered ‘materialism’.

    The older generation is comprised of individuals who did their best. Every generation will blame the people who came before and paved the road that we now have to use. Our children will probably blame us for whatver problems they, collectively, have to face. What I would like to see is a solution. Any solution, practical or impractical. If hard work isn’t enough, then maybe we need to take a different route.

  • http://thewrongdrum.wordpress.com planethalia

    Reblogged this on Dancing to the Beat of the Wrong Drum and commented:
    I am lucky, I have a stable well paying job I enjoy in a stable industry. I don’t have any student loans, But I just remember that feeling four years ago , sending out ten custom cover letters and resumes a day, sleeping at friends place on of her good graces because I wasn’t on speaking terms with my father. And every damn interview I was asked, why didn’t you graduate from college? And then I told them financial aid fell through always got a lecture on how easy it was to pay for college and I did not want to say, “That only works if your parents can co-sign, or are willing to give you their tax forms” because it was none of their damn business. I never thought I’d feel lucky I had to drop out of college four years later.

    I echo the author’s resentment of the generalization. She has no safety net since her family cut off support since she left their church, and college was supposed to be the great equalizer for her. The fact that I and a lot of hard-working, determined people are judged as a lazy, entitled loser just because we’re between the ages of 18 and 35 is not right.

  • Lea

    I’m a 16-year old high schooler. For the past several years, I’ve worked so incredibly hard to pull my SAT up, to pull my grades up, to get into the honors program, to get involved with activities, because that’s what I was told I needed to get into college. If I wanted to do something for fun, my parents would ask me how I could fit it on applications. I would always figure out a way.

    And then I realized that being a white kid who lives in an upper-middle class suburban area, I’m going to receive no financial aid. I wasted the three years I’ve been in high school and am probably going to end up attending an in-state school I’m vastly over-qualified for and have no interest in attending, because we cannot afford the $60k tuition at the liberal arts schools I’m looking at. A friend came to me in near-tears the other day, in the exact same boat.

    And the kicker is because we’re going to college, we’re still the lucky ones.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Kiddo, I’m going to give you some advice and I hope you take it the right way.

      Getting enough financial aid is not an impossibility (your parents’ income is what matters, not your neighborhood.) But either way, lose that attitude towards public, in-state schools and do it right now. You are not too good for them. Some state schools are excellent and academia is so competitive right now that there are good professors pretty much everywhere, especially at research universities–those are coveted jobs. There will also be brilliant students wherever you go, just maybe not as many of the kind of brilliant students whose parents have the means to even think about elite private schools and who haven’t been groomed their whole lives for them. State schools have every kind of kid from every kind of background.

      If you go to an in-state school, work hard, find professors that you admire, form relationships with them. Find friends that share your interests, they will be there. Work hard, get good grades, especially if you want to go to grad school. (And you may very well need to, given education inflation.) An excellent student from a state school will have few doors closed to her, believe me.

      No matter what school you go to, you will get out what you put in. And if that school is an in-state school, you will get a lot more out of it if you get over the idea that you some how don’t belong there because you’re “overqualified.” Do your activities because you’re interested in them, work hard in school because work ethic is a good thing to cultivate. Don’t make your whole life about getting into that One Right School. Almost any school can be the right school if you open your mind and determine to milk the opportunity that you, as you know, are very, very privileged to have.

      I started off at an elite liberal arts college and left for many reasons, money among them (the snotty too-good-for-state-school attitude I saw everywhere was a secondary one too.) I started working, established residency in a new state, and went in state there to finish school. And I can tell you that some of the people I respect most in the world are some of the people I learned from and learned with there. Boy am I ever glad I did what I did. I’ve had my hardships, but that’s not one of them.

      Life is not going to be easy, as you can well see on this thread. But you are NOT in the place yet where it gets really difficult. So don’t make up difficulties, for pity’s sake. Get out of the mindset you are in and open up your mind. You will be happier for it, no matter what. Best of luck to you.

  • http://newfromclt.blogspot.com/ Randy

    Wow. I’m 53 and while I liked the original speech and agree with most of what it said, I like your speech (blogpost) too. I think you’re right, my generation messed up a lot of minds, we certainly have made a mess of the economy, created some wars and a lot of other problems. Trouble is, now you’re an adult, what are you going to do about it? There’s an election coming up in November, you can vote some of the schmucks out and vote some new schmucks in. I don’t know if that will help, but I do know it will take a while for it to have any effect. In the mean time, you’ve got to worry about not just gen X, gen Y or gen Z, you’ve got to worry about yourself.

    I know it’s hard to get a job, there’s a lot of people with diplomas and student loans that can’t find jobs to feed them or their families and can’t even begin to pay off those loans. We can blame it on the R’s or the D’s, blame it on the schools, blame it on Wall Street or your parents or maybe on my parents. I’ll be glad to shoulder the blame personally. SPECIAL NOTE TO MY KIDS – If your life is screwed up – it’s my fault!

    But now – what are you going to do about it? I like the fact that the graudation speech motivated you, you’ve taken a stand. I have a sneaky suspicion that was the purpose. And I have a sneaky suspicion (maybe I shouldn’t say this) that in 20-30 years, you’ll be saying something similar. I know my parents did. And I know I thought they had screwed up in a major way (I still think that).

    But, what are you going to do about it?

    • Anonymous

      Mostly? Continue working stupid hours to pay for living.

    • Ms. Personal Responsibility

      Yeah Randy! Action is really the only thing that is going to change the situation. And, Yeah Anonymous! That’s the start…continue working stupid hours to pay for living…you are never going to regret working hard to support yourself.

  • http://www.fromshoppingtosaving.com fromshoppingtosaving

    This is going to be an on-going battle. Each generation has NO CLUE what goes on in other generations. I have to agree with almost half of this post because it is tough right now to do anything right, because “right” doesn’t even exist anymore. Each generation is different because time changes..the hardships previous generations faced are totally and completely unrelated to the hurdles we face now. Does that make us better than them? Does that make them better than us? We should just quit fighting and really focus on the freaking problem here. The problem is that they need to take a look at our generation, and know that we are the future. Who is going to buy all of the baby boomers’ houses? We can’t afford that! Who is going to pay all those taxes? Not us, because we can’t even make enough!

    • http://www.corecorina.com corecorina

      ” Each generation has NO CLUE what goes on in other generations.” — if you believe that, then you understand why as much as this post may ring true to your ears, it’s not a new sentiment and you are not in fact that special (at least in feeling short-changed by other generations) :)

  • http://www.bigasssuperstar.com/ Big Ass Superstar

    I came here expecting to crap all over this post, but read it all it all the way through and see your point and agree with you for the most part.

    I’m not of the generation that raised you — but, sorry for anything my wave did to make it harder.

  • Pingback: We’ve Been Here Before: Generational Angst « Historiopolis

  • emmylu28

    Reblogged this on Fortress of Legos and commented:
    This is really interesting, and I’ll need to reread it a few times to decide where I stand.

  • MDash

    This is a really great article. I was incredibly frustrated by the comments of privileged people pointing fingers and saying that it’s another case of Millennials making excuses. It’s so appalling that people can just live in their happy little bubbles failing to recognize that maybe their hard work helped them get where they are, but it was also circumstances and luck (where they were born, who to, etc.). These people fail to acknowledge the struggle of trying to make a life in the current state of the world, especially for those who weren’t given any particular advantages to begin with.

    Everyone has to work hard. I think the difference is that working hard simply won’t get you the same things it did 20-50 years ago. The whole definition of “success” and the “American dream” have to be completely re-defined. Success for many is becoming purely survival. :(

    I guess I am technically a Millennial, since I am just shy of 30. I see friends of mine who went to college and got their degrees, because we were all told that college was a necessity. Now they are saddled with student load debt and have applied for every job under the sun–waiting tables, cleaning toilets, whatever could possibly help get them enough money to move out of their parents’ homes. Smart people. Hard-working people. Who can’t find a job that will cover the bills and their student loan debt. Smart, hard-working people who cannot settle down and start families. Smart, hard-working people who, in some cases, do not have supportive families who will let them move back home.

    I think a lot of people in my generation are just waiting for the boomers to retire, so that they can find stable work. THEN, maybe, they can start thinking about saving for “retirement” (yea, right) which will not be subsidized by the luxury that is Social Security. Want to talk about entitlement? Let’s discuss the many people who feel entitled to Social Security. The same people who claim that it’s their lifelong hard work that got them everything they have. That’s a falsehood. Those generations are lucky they got Social Security. (Every paycheck, btw, I’m paying for your Social Security that “you earned”–money that will never come back to me in the form of Social Security.)

    This is a different world. It doesn’t work to point fingers and try to compare to “when I was a kid.”

    • Ms. Personal Responsibility

      I guess I’m confused as to how you came to the conclusion that anyone who has a differing opinion is “privileged.” Further, I have never met anyone in a “happy little bubble” that does not recognize that hard work got them where they are. Are all people in “happy little bubbles” trust-funders? I am certainly not a trust-funder, was not born into privilege (not even close) and I like my happy little bubble!

      I also don’t think anyone is failing to acknowledge that the current state of the world is hard. Those of us privileged, happy little bubble people, are trying to make it just like everyone else. My “happy little bubble” is a life that includes a stressful, demanding job and a husband that has been out of work for 1 1/2 years now – with little opportunity in his specialized field. I have personally felt the effects of the current state of the world, but refuse to let it define me; and I’m not going to start throwing blame.

      You are correct that working hard will not get you the same things it did 20-50 years ago – but who wants that anyway? Life is different. The world is different, and yes, the American dream has become different as well. If the dream, as you see it, is purely about survival, then so be it. Whatever your vision of the American dream, you need to remember that it’s about striving for something that is bigger than you. The American dream has never been something automatically handed to people when they came of age…it is a goal, it is a perceived place of happiness.

      I feel really bad for all the Millennial’s coming out of school with all their student load debt. I feel really bad for anyone that carries a heavy debt burden because it has the ability to cripple people emotionally and financially. But debt (education or otherwise) is not accrued blindly (or at least it shouldn’t be). Just like any loan, someone signed on the dotted line promising to repay for the goods and services that they got in return. It’s disheartening that we are seeing so many cases of buyer’s remorse where education is concerned once it is time to start paying for it.

      You are right, it doesn’t work to point fingers. What works is being understanding, respectful and empathetic to the people around you. Oh, and when you have a chance, go chat with someone who lives paycheck to paycheck on their Social Security “Entitlement”. If it happens to be a 65 year old woman who worked her fingers to the bone, had no college education, made minimum wage, raised a family, never collected a dime of government assistance and will live out her golden years in a tiny apartment – don’t forget to tell her how good she has it.

    • Sandy

      Those people who feel “entitled” to social security actually paid into it from every paycheck for 45+ years.

  • Madrigal

    I am a millennial. I worked hard, went to college and achieved my career goal. My friends smoked weed, got high and went to JC’s only to fail out. Who’s fault is that? I 100% agree my generation was spood fed; entitlement a plenty. Throw away your marijuana rec, stop majoring in false academic offerings…ie) music, comm, social studies…get a clue.

  • http://twitter.com/ellegentsia Kathryn Anne Flynn (@ellegentsia)
  • http://theweaponofchoice.wordpress.com Iris Chamberlain

    My parents didn’t teach me life skills, so I went on Google.

    • Martha

      Haha, skimmed through the comments and laughed at this one. I highly approve.

  • http://Facebook BoomerMama

    I am a married, white, female at the younger end of the baby boomers. My husband and I have been fairly successful and attained a good standard of living. Our children were given as much as we could afford because we wanted them to have the best. Money that went to their prep school/private college educations could have been spent on us for bigger houses, flashier cars and increased retirement savings. But we also required that they contribute to what they had. Nobody truly appreciates anything if they didn’t have a hand in paying for it. So they had summer jobs, paid for their own car insurance, textbooks and spending money. They attained their undergraduate degrees with no debt. Both have now completed professional/graduate studies and obtained employment in their chosen fields. Both have significant student loan debt from grad school as we didn’t cover those expenses.

    Every baby-boomer parent was not a helicoptor parent any more than every one was negligent. I saw lots of parents who did/do too much for their kids. All were/are motivated by wanting their kids to have and be the best.

    I know a woman who complains that her mother never loved her – and she is 65+ years old! At some point you have to get over it and take responsibility for your own life. I’m sorry life is not easier for the twenty-somethings. The people who blame you are wrong. Sort of like blaming your parents who likely did the best they could and didn’t have control over most of the problems you cited.

  • http://jpnadia.blogspot.com jpnadia

    Thank you for this. Thank you for speaking about your anger, because I think it is time to be angry (though it’s possible that I’m saying this just because I’m angry, too).

    I’m not comfortable with blaming this mess on anyone in particular (as in ‘it’s not us, it’s you’), but I’m not comfortable pretending that nothing would be wrong if these darn kids would just work harder (because this isn’t true, either). It is a mess, and now we have to admit that some people get lucky, and other people don’t and ask ourselves why.

    I don’t have any good answers, but we won’t find good answers until we start asking the questions.

  • Mir

    I intentionally only skimmed the comments, so this may be a repeat. Apologies, if so.

    1. Many of your points are dead on, and extremely important. Non-contingent praise? Oh, yeah! Mixed messages? Yep, you got those by the boat load! I’ll stop there, for now.

    2. I will not call you whiny or self-absorbed. That is just silly. My generation was whiny and self-absorbed (and absolutely without direction), too. I will, however, call you inaudible to your theoretically intended audience. Why?

    3. You have presented _only_ a problem. Actually, multitudes of them. There is no potential solution here. We know what you don’t want us to do. We aren’t supposed to complain that you think you’re special. (I’ve never done this, for what it’s worth.) Now, please — and this is very important because, whether you believe it or not, *you* are very important — tell us what you *do* want. Sorry, but seeking potential solutions is your only viable option. That’s just how it is and how it will be. World without end. Amen.

    4. Show us that you know you’re not special. A person who truly knows they are “just” part of the human race joins in and finds a way to be of service. I have *never* met anyone who understands that and is chronically unsatisfied with life.

    Taking you seriously,
    a mom of three amazing millenials

  • So

    Apparently, you guys are the first generation of teenagers to listen to your parent.

  • Kim

    If you thought the commencement speech was paradoxical, you clearly weren’t paying attention. He was in short saying not to get a bloated ego and think that things will be handed to you on a silver platter because you’re special. Thus, you must work hard to overcome mediocrity and even if it may cause stress and hardships, strive to live your life that way because greatness will not come otherwise. This is a completely coherent message; hardly paradoxical.

  • Colorful

    If there are so many of us and we’re so skilled and educated, why are we trying to climb the corporate ladder in the current, restrictive system? Couldn’t we, like, start our own businesses and use all of this knowledge we have to actually produce something?
    Of course, we’d need time and capital for that, wouldn’t we? How do we manage to acquire that?

    • http://www.facebook.com/everlastingstorm Aegeus Cadogan

      And even if people of the generation to which the author was referring start their own businesses and begin hiring one another, i.e., their peers, guess what. That’s not going to ‘fix’ things. Everyone’ll want to sign up- it’ll be you (general) and a million other young MBA’s or even just young professionals in search of an ideal that looks promising and lucrative, but reveals that it too, like everything else, has no guarantees. There’ll still be a rat race. And what happens when you begin managing your peers and you find out their work style doesn’t fit another peer’s management style? If this set up works for whoever it does, fine, but don’t expect it to solve everything in the world. It’d just be one among many businesses, most likely. I’m not trying to be snarky, but rather I’m attempting to bring a more savvy perspective to light.

  • trsedwards

    Alaw, the very fact that you thought any of your angst unique to your generation, speaks volumes of the generation you seek to represent. Passive Aggressive Emo, are words that come to mind. The fact that you name three generations including your own, that you believe somehow have this unique dynamic talks of a lack of education that goes far beyond the normal degradation of the american education system that everybody is well aware of…..think back as far as Classic Greek civilization when such topics made for great philosophic round table discussions on the streets of Ancient Athens…..So nobody bothered to blow concentrated sunshine up your arse. boohoo, that actually gives you a head start none of us had, we had to rise through the rainbow flavored sunshine bullshit to realize that no body was special (alas. if Everybody is Special, being special is means nothing) You weren’t raised on the socially propagated fantasy of The American Dream, you probably wont be strung along by Bubble Based Economics. You Do have, however, Two problems, and One responsibility that Gen13 (so called “X”‘ers) never Dreamed of Having and you are presenting the face of a generation that is not up to the challenge. YOUR generation is going to have to REESTABLISH Science as Valid (particularily Ecology and Evolution) AND YOUR generation is going to decide on whether or not Females own their individual bodies, or Society owns the right to decide for Individual Females what to do with their bodies and moralities. This is crap still dribbling out of the Boomer influence that Us 13′ers Never Ever dreams would be challeneged in national politics. YOUR generation is going to decide whether the Next hundred years of American History (you get to decide if there is going to BE another hundred years of American History, or not) will be written as a Progressive Age of Technological, Scientific, and Social Advancement as a Secular Nation, or a Darkages of superstitions american religious rule over a new Third World. That will not be decided by the Boomers now in power, nor the 13′ers Coming into power right now. Our job is to keep a world where Your choice is still possible. I hope for your sake that there Is still such a world here in america where you, by the constitutionally valid age of 35 (the age at which you are legally allowed to occupy Any seat of influence in the country), still have any kind of america resembling a secular capitalist democracy. Instead of whining about the fact that nobody bothered blowing sunshine up your ask, start working out your plan, you still have decades to decide how Your generation is going to fuck up the world for your children.

    • Sandy

      this post makes no sense. First you deride the author of the “open letter” and her (and my) generation that we are passive agressive emo, self-centered and think we’re more special than other generations and have it worse than other generations — THEN, in the same breath you tell us to basically get over ourselves because we WEREN’T told we were special and we WEREN’T “blow[n]concentrated sunshine up [our] your arse.”

      what?!?!?!

      “Instead of whining about the fact that nobody bothered blowing sunshine up your ask, start working out your plan, you still have decades to decide how Your generation is going to fuck up the world for your children.”

      Actually, this generation IS complaining that we had smoke blown up our asses. And thanks for the encouragement – however, I hope you will be sorely disappointed by the world OUR children inherit.

      With an attitude like yours, it’s no wonder this country is in the mess it’s in.

  • Zona

    Boo hoo. Nut up and start kicking ass and taking names.

  • Greg

    I feel bad for the person who wrote this; but I def can’t relate to most of it. I never felt that my parents wouldn’t love me. When I finished college and my job offer was delayed, they let me stay at home like I was on vacation. I was pushed to do my best, and it instilled a solid work ethic; but my parents loved me either way.

    I really don’t know what else to say other than I’m sorry you had a bad childhood.

  • jeff

    While this was good and had lots of fair points it doesnt apply to the majority of the generation. Only those with a higher level of thought. The speech i think wasnt addressing the kind of people who would write this post. It was speaking to a broader audience which i feel needed to hear it.

  • Willmark

    I think (as people have noted) that this should be retitled as a open letter about the Baby Boomers, not the Gen Xers. As a midway Gen Xer myself the fault can clearly be laid at the feet of the Boomers: the Boomers had everything and partied/smoked it/sexed it all away and then stand around like deer in the headlights saying it’s not their fault. The WW II generation created an incredible middle class and society in terms of financial prosperity, but like they normally do, NOTHING is ever the fault of the Boomers or so they will claim.

    The Gen Xers by their low numbers are indeed sandwiched between the Boomers who cant’/won’t get out of the way (especially in jobs) and their numerous offspring Gen Y/Millenials. Everything the Ys are going through now happened to us prior.

    For good reading try this book: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/OBJECTS/III/reviews/13thgen.html If anyone thinks the Xers had it easy try again. This came out in 1992/93 and it its still spot on for the Xers coming into their early 20s. We grew up as a huge swath of society was crumbling, divorce skyrocketed, the education system tanked, etc. What we learned as a generation was to rely solely on ourselves. We learned this because the Boomers consumed everything before us like a pack of locusts leaving nothing in their wake.

    For my own part I made it through college, paid my own way, worked 35 hours a week and volunteered my time. It wasn’t always easy, like the times where the decisions came down to barely eat for a week or put that money in the gas tank (Ramen Noodles for the win!) In the end it’s about choices.

    Don’t look to the Boomers, they are so self absorbed they don’t/can’t/won’t see their generation as anything other then the paragon of American society (Odd that many of their kids, the Y’s have this same attitude, funny that…) The Boomers are so self reigthous/self absorbed its literally impossible for them to see any imperfections.

    Don’t look to us Gen- Xers. We are not a large enough group to tip the scales away from the Boomer Locusts. In most cases we had to learn the hard way, “slackers” anyone? As far as problems? We’re the anti-boomers, we have a laundry list of our screwups (as any Boomer will tel you).

    In the end the Millenials are an interesting case, for the most part your parents are the Boomers, and it’s a surprise that they screwed it up raising you? News Flash: that’s all they have ever done.

    The real interesting thing will be the kids behind you: Generation Z (the kids of the Gen Xers). For the most part our parents were the Silent Generation; like us they were a small generation (born during the Depression and during WWII) and sandwiched between the large World War II generation and the Boomers. For the most part the Silent emulated the WWII until it got to parenting. For them divorce became a reality and the Gen Xers were the result. The Xers (not all but many) had to find out how to parent on their own as their homes were the ones that disintegrated in the 70s/early 80s.

    In closing I can see some of the points in this open letter, the problem make sure to aim your ire at the right people. Why is American screwed up? It isn’t the Xers, we don’t have enough numbers, it’s the Boomers and to a lesser extent segments of the Silent.

  • http://twitter.com/lunanun lunanun (@lunanun)

    Huh. I’m one of those cusp kids, sometimes assigned to the Baby Boom, sometimes assigned to Gen X, depending on the scholar’s choice of cut-off date. Something I think you should consider in your wide condemnation of the Baby Boom is that the experiences that those of us at the tail end have very little in common with the first wave. The experiences of someone born in the 60-64 era (the cusp years at the end of the generation) are VERY different from those born in 42-45 (the cusp at the beginning of the generation). However, because I came from great poverty and had to delay college in order to do a stint in the military (to *afford* college), I came out of college with Gen X. I promise you, all the things being said about the millennial generation were said about Gen X at that time, and there were plenty of privileged Yuppie and DINK butt heads calling people slackers because they were not willing to work 80 hours a week at Wendy’s in order to afford the latest gizmo. I had to move back in with my parents (they were Silent Generation, FWIW). When I graduated with a Masters, I spent a year working as a nurses’ aide; my lack of experience in my field made getting that first professional job hard. My first professional job paid me less than my job as a nurses aide, and so I worked both for a very long time. I have to say I liked being a nurse’s aide better, too; my first professional job was what I could get, not what I wanted to do, and I spent the next 15 years working professional positions I hated in order to finally get enough experience to get the one I liked. In this, I was worse off than those in my college cohort who took the unpaid internships–they were able to get into something they liked much faster.

    I do have a daughter who is a millennial, and I raised her without the helicopter crap, with the expectation that she would go to work, with the demand that she be a productive member of the household through chores and other responsibilities, and let me tell you, she hated it, and I took all kinds of crap from my cohort about what a bad mother I was. But my job was to raise a person who was going to be a competent adult at 18, and I could not fail her in this, no matter how hard it was to make it happen while going through it. Parents who did not do this for their children harmed them rather than helped them, as you have rightly observed, albeit not in those terms.

    I’ve shared these things with you because I wanted to make several points. First, the experience the Millennials are currently having is not unique. Generations before you and before me experienced the same thing. Persist. I swear to you that you will get through. That doesn’t lessen the impact of what you are experiencing now, but it is important to remember.

    It’s also important to remember not to hold up society’s mirror and own what it reflects back to you. There is nothing wrong with an apartment instead of a house. Plenty of Boomers don’t own one. There is nothing wrong with living frugally, not being married, not having kids, or whatever it is that is being used as the adult measuring stick that you feel like you are being beaten with.

    Next point; I am an atypical Boomer who raised an atypical Millennial. Not all people born in a particular generation are of the same character. We can all do ourselves a favor and recognize that you don’t have to be like the labels slapped on you simply by virtue of your date of birth. Not every Boomer is responsible for this mess, and not every Millennial is an entitled asshat filled with rage because they aren’t being handed a 100k job, like, yesterday. Don’t own the labels other people want to slap on you. Frak ‘em.

    For what it’s worth, when I think of young people today, I am so encouraged. The ones I know are far more tolerant, they are more open, they are far more flexible than many of the older people I know. I see things like OWS and I am filled with hope and joy for us all, because these young people are setting the stage now for the moment when they will have to make a stand, and the changes will be good to see. I think about how freeing it must be to not have to grow up with the bullshit prejudices I was exposed to, and about how that frees you to take on and destroy a bunch of bullshit prejudices that still exist. Don’t let the scaremongering of the media and the tea party define you. Lots of us out here have looked at your works and judged them good, in a real sense of the word.

    That ain’t false praise. Every butt on the line at an Uncut demonstration or in an Occupy camp or whatever earned it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lbothell L.J. Bothell

    Hallo. I am not a millennial. I am in the first couple of years of GenX. And I am so sorry for you.

    I never married or had children, and my generation has, as well as yours, been experiencing all of this, In our case, we have actually seen/experienced the decline happening, as it happens. Many of us have struggled to understand how the good standards, education, behavior, and work ethic has gone from being the expected, the rewarded, to being worthless and mocked. Many of us have gone from training and working for skills, experience, and ideals to becoming obsolete in our late 30′s and later, and to becoming permanent temps.

    And it IS worse for you. Many of the cool and useful and rewarding and necessary stuff we still got to learn, until I was maybe in my junior year of high school, is not even available to you any longer. You’ve had a lot of books replaced with Google and Wikipedia, core information of political science and the realities of society replaced by political bloggers and John Stewart (I love him. . .), and personal ideals for fun, growth, learning, and purpose replaced by ever possible version of reality show and celeb-seeking behavior. Now you have learned, as I did when I came out of Comm. College in 2003 and again in 2008, that your hard work, learning, loans, and efforts are treated as worthless.

    I wish I know what to say, and how to help. But I don’t. I am one of the many in the previous generation who are also drowning, and at the same time being told we are too old, to over and under-experienced, too sickly, too idealistic, too obsolete, we cost too much, expect too much, and in many ways, a big part of the problem that has landed on you. Our resumes and cover letters and networking and job experience have no value. So many of us are also having to be on anxiety and depression meds to deal with the now constant and permanent anxiety of whether we can even earn a living in the next few years, much less have any hope of the retirement finds we put away or Social Security. So many of us have done the right things and lost houses, jobs, health, and livelihoods. So many of my generation’s military personnel have been screwed over. We are, as is your generation, suffering from the monetizing of as much as inhumanly possible so that someone else can reap the benefits while we get blamed for even existing and being a mark on the “liability” side of every balance sheet. Feels like the pitting of all of us against each other in a preview of The Hunger Games. Like there is something wrong with us (my generation and yours) because we are people, not sheep.

    All I can share is that so many of us DO understand, more than you might think. That it is going to take a few things to make all the difference, however small, in our lives and efforts.

    1) People come first.
    2) Everyone matters.
    3) We are all in this together.
    4) Moments, efforts, dreams, and giving each other a hand up matter more than any elitist and monetary ideal.
    5) No one who ever tells you that you are not “anything” enough ever has YOUR best interests in mind. It is about them, not you, and who needs that??

    Here is where and when we are. Like it or not, this is it. It is up to each of us, groups of us, communities of us, and this nation of US, to recognize where we actually are and decide what we are going to do about it. It is and has to be up to US, especially YOU, our young, best and brightest, and most necessary and crucial.

    Occupy. Travel. Learn. Create cooperatives. Learn just to learn and grow, and forget the rewards, since the awards are not really there. BE. You are and will be enough. ACT. And live your best life, no matter what.

  • Sandy

    Well, there will always be losers and there will always be winners. Do what you can in order to ensure you’re on the right side of that divide – without, of course, doing harm to others. Not necessarily out of some sense intangible morality, but because Karma is a bitch and that’s the truth.

    Remember, there is great potential in the both the destruction and creation. Society and economy as we knew it 5-7 years ago is collapsing in on itself. Something new is evolving in its place. The change is never smooth, never painless. But if you can harness the energy of the new creation, ride the new trends, the world may seem a little less bleak to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/everlastingstorm Aegeus Cadogan

    As someone else said, nothing is ever one-sided. Previous generations have made irresponsible moves in ways that have affected their successive generations in ways that were less ideal for the world. The boomers have done it, we will probably do something that is not ideal for the next generation. What matters is not so much the mistakes that one person or one generation made, but where people’s hearts were when those things were done and where their hearts remain in the aftermath.

    If you really want to analyze generational behavior, take a look at the works of the late William Strauss & Neil Howe. The GI’s, for example, who, while they are collectively known as the Great Generation, for the most part supported getting involved in the Vietnam conflict. Where did that leave the boomers who were affected? Several came back, not just wounded, but also with severe PTSD, and many remain homeless today. And while I am not an expert on the matter, I have had real-world experience working on behalf of this population. Some have been less fortunate and others more fortunate. Eventually, most of the GI’s looked back and realized that they were not necessarily in the right, despite that their perspectives for their circumstances were valid. I can’t be as confident that the boomers will ever do the same. However, I can’t change another person, much less an entire generation. Each person has to want to change on their own account. So, who is in the wrong, really? It seems like neither generation wants to pick up the pieces, or at best, each is showing reactivity vs. proactivity. Hard to judge the ‘wrongness’ in each one there, although I do resent the boomers for some of what they have done to the world.

    While the draft may not have been a choice, most people not in that situation will say well, they chose to remain on the streets looking for handouts. In a sense, yes, there is some truth. But having worked with the homeless, including the veteran and drug-addicted population- most of whom are part of the boomer or joneser generation, it’s a case of not having the tools or coping skills more than it is having a choice. I believe that in order to make a sound choice and act on something for the better, one needs to have the coping skills to do it and move forward. Otherwise, choices just become cloaked in passive reactivity, and are not really choices with intent at all, but rather ways of scrambling to any resort.

    The beauty in this piece of writing that I see is that it is reflective, besides being analytical. I challenge you all to look at this as a work of reflection rather than one of whining. Not everyone can relate although many of the generation that the author represents can.

    Special is a misnomer. It’s the wrong word. Special? As the author so perfectly illustrated, all of us know the reality that we’re just a dime in a dozen, like any other hardworking, earnest, tax-paying citizen. I believe a more accurate term is uniqueness- they believe in each of their own uniqueness, that each person has an individual story, life circumstance, perspective, what have you, that is neither “better” nor “worse” than any other as ‘special’ connotes.

    I don’t agree with the Gen X’ers being lumped in with the boomers, as I know that Gen X- mostly early and core Gen X’ers got the short end of the stick in life, as well. I believe the issue at hand, in the larger picture, is that of unlearning a mentality that has been drilled in to these kids; a mentality that is so self-defeating and out of touch with the real world that is the only way of thinking, seeing things, and doing things that these kids have ever known. You can model responsibility, but you cannot teach a shift in perspective. I am not taking sides. There are other things that I have to say about the differences in the market, tuition payments, etc. that are relevant and valid to each generation’s perspective on life and on the hands that they have been dealt in the world.

    I don’t believe in expecting handouts in life, because there are none. I did not expect to make $50k a year out of college as many of my peers did, and some are doing. I was lucky enough to be able to find meaningful work, that paid not as much as I liked, but enough to get by. I had a supervisor quite a few years ago though, who was just a little over twice my age, an early boomer, who could barely read and interpret what she was expected to. She relied on me, as her subordinate, to do the job for her. We had been discussing the SMART approach to project management on a project that had to be completed. I had a menial title, and this person was asking me, once I presented her with the work to review. She asked me, “Now, is this specific?” “Is it measurable?” “Is it attainable?” “Is it relevant?” as if she didn’t know what she was talking about. As a boomer manager, you’re asking ME to judge this when I’m your subordinate, and I’m paying my dues here, and you’re reaping the title and salary but cannot honestly provide effective supervision to my work? I’m asking this not in a snarky way, but I am asking these as rhetorical questions here to the choir. This is precisely the type of situation that I think that most young adults are disgruntled by when things like “entitlement” comes to mind. For the record, I just turned 30 not long ago, so I am sandwiched between “X” and “Y”. Entitled is yet another subjective interpretation.

    My point? It’s easy to get a menial job and do whatever while you find something more meaningful and hopefully more profitable. It’s easy to have the desire to create something better. It’s easy to grab any job by the reigns and deliver an outstanding performance in many instances that our bosses have never seen. And we do learn from them on other things, besides that. And it’s easy to critique what is not our own. But it’s not easy to unlearn a mentality, and with these differences I can only hope that people can be compassionate towards one another in regard to their differences and can acknowledge each others’ struggles while becoming proactive together.

  • Marija

    I very much agree with this post. I will be 25 in a few weeks and have faced many of these issues. I’ve had some kind of job since I was 13 because my parents wanted me to experience what life without a college degree was like, I graduated high school and went to an in-state school just as my parents “suggested” I do. I encountered physical and psychological issues while there and had to move back home with my parents. While at home I worked 2 full time jobs and was still not making enough to support myself so I decided to go back to school. After a couple false starts in programs I finally found an associates program that I really liked. I just graduated this year and started looking for jobs. It took me four months, but I found a job and will finally be making enough to purchase my own car. I am hoping some day soon I will be able to pay off my student loans, over $20,000 worth, and be able to move out of my parents house. This job is only a contract position however but I am hoping to gain experience in my field and eventually get a full time position. I am continuing my education this fall as well to turn that two year degree into a four year.
    My best friend did graduate in-state college in four years with two degrees. He decided to go to law school in a major city on the east coast three years ago. He graduated just a month ago and has no job prospects. He sits for the Bar in one month and he will not find out if he passes for an additional four months. In the past law firms would hire graduates with a contingency that they pass the Bar, but since the recession hit a lot of law firms went under or severely cut back on hiring so the market was flooded with lawyers so the firms no longer do that. Even when he passes there is only a very slim chance he will find a job in the field. He has $90,000 in student loan debt which is only a fraction of what some of his fellow graduates owe. So what do they do? Some would say get a job in the government, but there are very few of those jobs to go around. Become servers or work other minimum wage jobs? They will end up having to eat their diplomas because they can’t afford food. My friend comes from a poor family and is the first of them to graduate with a four year degree and not only that he has also graduated law school. That is a huge accomplishment and yet it is looking like he will be worse off financially than his poor family. If that doesn’t say something to the state of our generation and our economy I don’t know what does.

  • http://karljaspers23.wordpress.com karljaspers23

    Reblogged this on Reason & Existenz and commented:
    I would encourage Sierra to keep following through on this. She is beginning to see, in her comments, the basic structure that Gen-Xers had to RAISE their own Boomer parents which then led part of the Gen Xers to create a situation in which their children are as dependent on them as their parents were. The basic gist is that Boomers are the most over-privileged generation in the history of the United States. They were taken care of by their parents and then when they got kids, most were taken care by their own children who were far more responsible than their parents. But this then leads the first wave of Xers to being over-responsible for their own children. The second wave of Xers was raised mostly by the second wave of Boomers. These boomers were over-privileged but a tad more responsible than the first wave Boomers. Generations are always interesting to study because you can have so many generations contemporaneous with each other so that second-wave Boomers raising second-wave Xers are being inlfuenced by First-wave Xers raising Millenials. You can call this generational cross-pollination.

  • http://sowingthesuburbs.blogspot.com Tipper

    Newsflash: Every generation before you could’ve written exactly this, with a few phrases swapped out for others. It’s true – on the whole, we’re not special. Certain individuals are, though, and it’s easier to get to that point if you shrug off the blame and start paving a remarkable path for yourself. It doesn’t matter who told you what or when. Just go out and do your thing, make a great life for yourself, and stop with the overgeneralization that might get you kudos from your buddies but will make everyone older than you roll their eyes because it’s all been said before – by them, even.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sean.masters Sean Masters

      Bingo.

  • Bex

    i’ve done a fair amount of research on generational differences.

    while opportunities available to us and societal shifts are largely out of our control, the fact that we give this so much thought as to write a huge whiny blog post about how it’s not only exempt from our control, but that we deserve sympathy, is ridiculous.

    “We are not the generation that finds itself in creative abandon. We are not the generation that goes off in search of personal fulfillment and the satisfaction of a job well done, only to come back millionaires. We are the generation that takes whatever work we can get, that knows no matter how hard we try we might not succeed. We know our lot, and it’s not nearly as bright as yours. Woodstock? Ha. Like any of us could afford to take time off to lie around smoking and writing songs. Don’t accuse us of your ennui: we’re too busy trying to find a job.”

    is actually completely false, according to scientific evidence. we are spoiled rotten and the job market is difficult, but we also DON’T SETTLE which is a major difference when you compare us to other generations. yes, job market is difficult, but we’re less likely to accept less-than-ideal jobs, so of course the job market becomes inevitably more difficult.

    boomers were just thankful to have jobs.

    which generation has the highest level of education? think about it. we are looking for better jobs, better paid jobs… our parents want us to have the opportunities they DIDN’T have.

    of course we’re all making sweeping generalizations since actual significant generational differences are tiny…8% or less. so you are dealing with a phenomenon that is largely unaffected by one’s particular generation and probably much more affected by technology, globalization, individual personality and just general shifts in societal values.

    this article is completely misinformed, not to mention ignorant and insulting to people from this generation

  • Sarah

    Hats off to “Tipper” above.

    You know, every generation thinks it is uniquely challenged. And each generation is, in different ways. But I don’t buy your self-pity. I am a young boomer and I can tell you that you have it much better than we did. You don’t have to grow up in a world where women have very little chance of of succeeding in male-dominated fields; where a married woman cannot have her own credit card without her husband’s approval; where sexual harassment is rampant and there is no recourse; where a raped woman, if she can get through the humiliation of going to trial, had to listen to the judge admonished jury to not take her testimony seriously; where a woman is not allowed to adopt children; where the limitations imposed by racism are much worse than they are now; where a gay person can be arrested just for being gay; where gay people don’t DARE come out in public; where you live in constant fear of Russia or the US “pressing the button” and world going up in smoke; where child abuse is barely spoken about and there are few resources and great stigma to seeking help; where pregnant girls get kicked out of school.

    I could go on for pages.

    The boomers lived with parents who were emotionally scarred from living through the depression and World War II (THAT is a generation with something to complain about!!) and thought that attending to our physical needs and financial security was all that mattered. We were often abused and humiliated, though fed well. You complain that you were over-praised. That was not ideal but your parents were doing the best they could, trying to give you the emotional support that they never got. Just as our parents were focused on giving us the physical security that they never got. We compensate for our own childhoods the best we can and each generation feels cheated.

    I challenge you to do something unique and new, which is to stop focusing on how you were wronged by your parent’s generation. I’m sorry, but it’s tiresome. I see your generation with SO much less burden than we had, complaining nonetheless.

    P.S. You are an excellent writer.

    • Sandy

      “But I don’t buy your self-pity. I am a young boomer and I can tell you that you have it much better than we did.”

      If you don’t want to buy others’ self-pity, why should they buy yours?

      P.S. Some thing you mentioned as “changed” are still very much realities. Sexual harassment, for example.

  • Anonymous

    Although written with too much bias for my tastes (sounds more like a rant/whiney than a factual study), I agree. BUT I don’t blame my parents like this article does; the entire social miasma of north america has pushed forwards thoughts of what it is to be “successful,” and we have all perpetuated this into a high population for a small job market. ALSO, with the rise/quick development of technology, jobs are changing, and the old ones we’ve trained to fill are dying, only to be replaced by ones we don’t even know yet.

    I wouldn’t blame pressure for success, I would blame the expectations for the same paths are our parents. It is no longer “get degree, get job, win,” it has become “get degree, start life,” life referring to the infinite paths we can take to success. Look on the bright side: it’s all up to you. Seriously, fucking go out and work your ass off to do something. And, if you like, feel validated that you are working harder than your parents.

  • http://elainebutler.wordpress.com elainebutler

    Reblogged this on Elaine Butler and commented:
    This is such a well-written, articulate outpouring from a child of Generation X.

  • http://sarahburris.org sarahburris

    Reblogged this on Sarah Burris's Blog.

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  • http://theghostofatorturedmind.wordpress.com aleksandrapanda

    And for a look at the price changes:
    Minimum wage has just over doubled since 1980.
    Renting has tripled/quadrupled depending on where you live.
    Gas has tripled.
    The average price of a new house is almost 5x the price in 1980.
    The unemployment rate is 1% higher, but with a larger population.

    And yet… we’re just being lazy because we can’t keep up.

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