What it’s like to be a Millennial in 2020

Disclaimer: I thought a lot about whether to publish this post. Reason is, people don’t like “negative vibes”. More so, people don’t like negative vibes online. The Internet shall be a timeless, happy place, and you better keep your pity party private if you want to conquer it.

Well, I don’t strive to conquer anything. I try to fight self-deprecation as much as I can, but sometimes I wish I could see less #goodvibes #success #lifeisgood on my feed. I wish I could feel less lonely in my generational struggle with life. That’s who this post is for: anyone who wants to feel less lonely.

The Lost Generation (?)

Who: Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996

What: “They have smaller savings accounts than prior generations. They have less money invested. They own fewer houses to refinance or rent out or sell. They make less money and are less likely to have benefits like paid sick leave. They have more than half a trillion dollars of student-loan debt to keep paying off [in the US], as well as hefty rent and child-care payments that keep coming due.” (The Atlantic – please read the full article for more frustration)

Where: In the West. But let’s face it: other kids around the world aren’t doing any better.

When: I would argue since we were born, but from 2008 on it got definitely worse.

Why: Higher education costs; 2008 financial crisis; COVID-19 pandemic; a dysfunctional capitalist system; etc.

How: “More than one in six people between the ages of 18 and 29 have stopped working since the beginning of the pandemic. Those who didn’t lose their job have seen their working hours fall by 23 percent [read: pay cuts].” Source: United Nations’s International Labor Organization (POLITICO

How it feels belonging to a deemed “lost” generation

Politically correct answer: It doesn’t feel so cool, you know. But I want to stay positive and believe things will get better eventually. #goodvibes #success #lifeisgood

Reality: It feels crap. And I am sick and tired of it. I am sick and tired of being underpaid and overworked. I am sick and tired of owning nothing – be it a car, savings, or (God forbid!) a house. I am sick and tired of being called entitled or cocky when I am finally rocking it after years of unrecognised efforts. Likewise, I am sick and tired of being depicted as lazy or “choosy” because after 18 years in school, 3 degrees, several training courses, a bunch of unpaid internships, and some squeezing entry-level roles, I no longer take on shitty underpaying and unfulfilling jobs just to make ends meet. And I am not sorry for that.

Millennials and the others

I will not go through all Millennials’ disadvantages vis-à-vis their older siblings, parents and grandparents. But if you want to know more, this Vox article explains it very well.

I would focus on the consequences of these disadvantages instead.

N.B. What follows are my personal considerations not supported by any scientific research or data. That’s just anecdotal evidence if you wish.

The pursuit of happiness

“I want to work in a place with purpose. I want to make an impact. I want to live a fulfilling life. I want to be happy.”

I would sum up these statements in just one sentence: I want to feel that I have choices.

When you believe you are choiceless, that’s the end. That’s why depression and anxiety rates are spiking among young adults. Millennials feel trapped in life schemes they did not choose in the first place but are forced to stay in out of necessity – be it huge student debt, skyrocketing unemployment, or tight budgets.

And you know what’s worse? Lack of understanding

As Michelle Obama recalls and describes in her memoir “Becoming” (she was voicing her concern about her job to her mother): ““I can’t do this for the rest of my life. I can’t sit in a room and look at documents. I’m just not happy. I don’t feel my passion.” And my mother—my uninvolved, live-and-let-live mother—said, “Make the money, worry about being happy later.” When she said that, I thought, Wow—what—where did I come from, with all my luxury and wanting my passion? The luxury to even be able to decide—when she didn’t get to go back to work and start finding herself until after she got us into high school.”

It’s difficult to explain your “pursuit of happiness” to people – typically older than you – who couldn’t fuss around fulfillment if they wanted to eat at night. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain it even to your peers who already found their way, are OK with their life and are enjoying it.

Whether chasing fulfillment is a worthy life goal or just a whim, it’s not for me to say. But please, the next time someone tells you he is not happy with his journey, make an effort to understand their point of view before judging them.

Work hard, play hard

“You kids must stop being so entitled. Generations before yours had to fight to get what they wanted. Some of them even went through two World Wars. Nobody owes you anything. So stop complaining and get moving.”

Consideration #1: We were not born entitled; we have been raised as such – if anything. 

Consideration #2: It’s not because we do not experience bombs and bullets that we do not fight for our dreams. It’s quite the opposite, actually. The world has become so fast-paced and competitive that we must strive even harder to find our place in society. And we do. Have I already mentioned the ridiculous amount of qualifications and skills required, exploitation-like internships, and the like? There you go.

Consideration #3: Yes, we complain a lot. But look at the figures I have shown before. I mean, can we complain at least? Yet, Millennials are arguably hard workers. We study longer than any other generation before us, work longer hours, and wait longer for a promotion or a salary increase. That means we must look for “side-hustles” to compensate. And we do. Then we try to stay fit, eat healthy, and look after our social life and mental wellbeing. So, please, give us a break.

Odi et amo (Hate and love)

The generation(s) before us robbed us of our future in terms of education, wealth, and natural resources. We have been promised a lot, and now our expectations have gone unmet.”

Let’s be clear here. Older generations had – and still have – a neglectful if not detrimental approach to environmental issues. There is no coming back from that, and we all agree. So what? Bashing our parents and grandparents will change nothing. Let’s look for some solution together instead.

 And by the way, who do you think your ancestors were working so hard for? Why trying to collect so much money, real estate, social status?

Millennials are the most educated generation and are more likely to focus exclusively on studies instead of combining school and work. Millennials have shaped technology, and their access to it is unprecedented. 

(Western) Millennials were the first generation to enjoy peace and prosperity after WWII and the Cold War. And yes, they are the most spoiled generation, if you wish. How so? Because some “old men and women” provided for them

If being a Millennial can be awful (see previous section), we must acknowledge that many of us are not drowning because of that financial safety net called family. And we should be grateful for that.

Company in distress does (not) make sorrow less

“You are responsible for your own dreams. If you can’t make it, well, that’s your fault.” 

We have been taught that success is good while failure is always a bad thing. Moreover, our self-made-man society requires you to make it on your own. It’s like a mantra children are consciously or unconsciously exposed to since infancy. 

That has three far-reaching consequences:

  1. It puts incredible pressure on kids;
  2. It forces kids to compete against each other to “win” – as if I can’t succeed if you do;
  3. It labels failure as a “disgrace” that not only you are responsible for, but you also must feel ashamed of.

Needless to say, this system is flawed.

Now, if I look at my peers, I see people who struggle to stay afloat while the world is collapsing together with their (our) dreams. They (we) are trying very hard to break through, to succeed, to make all the years spent on the verge of burnout worth the effort. The result? Internal frustration and social bashing. Great, isn’t it?

Yet, I am speaking from of a place of privilege. I am a white Western female kid, living in a peaceful and rich country, with a loving family and friends supporting me and my choices. But still.

An old saying goes like: “Two in distress make sorrow less.” Do they? Should I really feel relieved knowing that people like me around the world are struggling as much or even more than me? Not for a second. I feel twice bad. And I end up thinking this is definitely not what the future looked like in my teenage dreams.

What we can do

Hopeless options

  • Indulge in self-pity: You keep feeling sorry for yourself, blaming past generations for their conduct, while waiting for “better times” or for “someone” to save you.
  • NEET-ing: The acronym stands for “Not in Employment, Education or Training” and refers to (young) people whose career or education journey has come to a halt. Some of them might actively look for a job, but the label usually identifies those who are unemployed and not seeking change. While it may look “cool” doing nothing all day long, trust me, that’s no fun at all.
  • Settle for crumbs: Life is unfair, and we need to accept it. You give up on improving yourself and your status. You resign yourself to an unfulfilling and lousy life. (Please note that this is else from “being grateful for what you have.” When you “settle for crumbs”, you accept something way below your standards. And you regret it. That in turn lowers your self-esteem, energy, and faith in the future. You end up living a “grey life.”)

Hope-full options

  • Hustle: Someone said that giving up is failing already. So you just keep going. You give yourself permission to make a career/partner/house/life change. You try as many options as possible and learn from your mistakes. You are not afraid of showing off your talents – when they are real. You end up attracting people, job offers, and whatever good. Remember? People love positive vibes.
  • Lifelong learning: “Never stop learning” is a general rule everyone should follow. But it has become as relevant as ever. You read, study, follow the news on a regular basis and open up to the world. The benefits of it may not be clear in the short term, but I swear they will become in the medium and long term.
  • Community: Sometimes, you can’t really make it on your own. So you reach out to others for help – and return the favour when needed. You get involved with your community. Or you help your loved ones with their businesses, needs, domestic help, you name it. You always have plenty of opportunities to keep yourself busy and make an impact.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Confucius

Are you a Millennial? What are your thoughts about being a young adult in 2020? Aren’t you a Millennial? What is your advice to this troubled generation? I would love to read it in the comments down below!

Published by Nadia Musumeci

Copywriter. Millennial. Expat. And a lot of questions.

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