Of late, Gen Y and our vast dissatisfaction have been the top story for today’s Baby Boomer. On one hand, we have Huffington Post, arguing that Gen Y’s are notoriously unhappy because of inbuilt high expectations and presumed entitlement. On the other, we have Adam Weinstein, who protests that there are many other contributing factors (mainly economical) as to why the typical Gen Y person is perpetually unhappy. They both discuss some stellar points, and I tend to agree with both of these articles in their own respect. You should read them.
Then you should read this.
As your textbook Gen Y female, I have these remote feelings of dissatisfaction. I have had a gifted youth, of travel, education and experiences. I was ambitious from the beginning, and this hunger for success drove me to London at age 18. There I stayed a year and a half, because I couldn’t get enough of their cultural sustenance into my soul. However, I didn’t enjoy my gap year for what it was. I forced myself to do work experience, internships and volunteer work, all while trying to see the best parts of Europe. I spent the best part of that 18 months stressing over what university degree to study, resulting in far too many sleepless nights on what is supposed to be a year off.
When I arrived home, I found that uni wasn’t satisfying at all for me, and it still isn’t. During that time away, I was used to being so fiercely independent, but also so wildly reckless. Coming home and having the confines of a Commerce degree didn’t ignite anything within me. I felt stagnant and plain. Two years into uni, I decided to throw myself into some internships that interested me, completely outside of my degree. Still in those internships, I’m loving the work I do. Albeit unpaid, the experience and opportunities are unparalleled. And thus, now more than ever, uni as a priority has fallen by the wayside.
The point of my soliloquy is: it seems like whatever I do I can’t maintain a balance. Not in my lifestyle, goals, marks, ambitions. People constantly ask me what I want to do as a career, and my answer is always intrinsically millennial: “I’m not really sure yet, I think I want to do a lot of different things.” This response, I’ve found, is supported by science. Fast Company (2012) explains that the average number of jobs in a person’s lifetime is rapidly rising, sitting at 11.4 for men and 10.7 for women. So is my persistent lust-for-more normal?
My parents are baby boomers to the bone. They’re both in long-lasting professions that they have occupied their whole existence. Their lives were always directed towards the one career prospect, and there it has stayed. My brothers, only five years older than me, are the same. They should technically be Gen Y (born 1977-1994), but their beliefs are still strongly founded in a solid profession, a life partner and a few children; one house, one city, one job, one life. This kind of life was realistic back then, as the average home cost three times an annual salary in 1978, whereas now it’s closer to 7.5 times (Brisbane Times, 2013). In 1978, Baby Boomer couples were putting 22% of a single wage towards a mortgage. In 2012, Gen Y couples were parting with a huge 56% of two wages to service a mortgage. As well as this, university education was free under the Whitlam Government. Not to say they didn’t experience incredible hardships – war, economic depression, etc. – however in terms of life’s relative expense, the scales are clearly tipped.
The stability and familiarity of that existence tempts me, but I know I’m too volatile a person to hold that down. My adolescence is still raging at 22, and I desperately want to blame my generational category.
I agree with Weinstein in that economic factors have obviously had a strong effect on the generational divides. Of course they do; as GDP changes worldwide, there can’t help but be filtered down effects on the lives of citizens. Adding to the generational divide, is now ever-growing the economic divide. The middle class is disappearing. As Jesse Jackson wrote for the Chicago Sun Times, “The gulf between the realities of our cities and the foolishness of our politics has seldom been wider.” (Read the full article here)
Educational debt is one of Weinstein’s huge points, and it is definitely something that is buckling the futures of students everywhere. However, I also agree with The Huffington Post, as they argue about entitlement. All around me, I see friends, unsatisfied with a regular working life, so they go to extreme lengths to supplement their income. As well as this, they grab at any opportunity that is thrown their way because they’re all convinced they’re going to be millionaires. I know people earning an income from Instagram. Yet the realest thing is, I probably wouldn’t turn down a prospect like that, as unsustainable as it is
I think Gen Y’s unhappiness is due to a mix of vast economical changes, the onslaught of student debt, but also the distortion of the bright lights of social media. Having this new form of accessible, satisfying media at our fingertips is something our parents and generational ancestors cannot relate to. We are the cyber generation; we can see who is doing what, whenever we like. We commentate our lives to gain the approval of others. What’s more, seeing a highlight reel of another’s life evokes vicious feelings of insecurity and envy. Is my life worthy? Do you approve of my excuse for an existence? The Human–Computer Institute at Carnegie Mellon has found that the “passive consumption” of your friends’ feeds and your own “broadcasts to wider audiences” on Facebook correlate with feelings of loneliness and even depression (Slate, 2013). Lives have changed from being an existence to a validation, and I think this is one of the stronger points we need to consider when analysing Gen Y’s.
Don’t ask me though; I’m just a regular Gen Y/Millennial, refusing to accept that I’ll probably always be middle class.
So I leave you with this quote by Ronald Wright: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."
Do you ever feel like a temporarily embarrassed millionaire?
Written by Grace Bullen, edited by Kira LaFave.