Finding happiness as a millenial when the world seems to hate us
Millenials may be sneered at, but we have real issues to contend with and some incredibly positive aspects too.
It seems that no matter where you look these days, you’ll find a headline denouncing millennials for some new slight to humanity as a whole. We’ve been blamed for killing entire industries (including paper napkins, cars, and diamonds). We’ve been sneered at for not understanding outdated technology, and ridiculed for “constantly having our faces in our phones.” We’re told that we’re too easily offended, and laughed at for our use of trigger warnings and safe spaces. We are the older generation’s favorite whipping boy.
Ultimately, all of these complaints and insults come down to one thing — the vast majority of boomers and Gen Xers don’t understand what’s really happening in our day-to-day lives. Whether they’re misinformed or willfully ignorant, this lack of awareness (and compassion) have led to a bitter rivalry that’s only serving to make us more miserable than we already are.
All that said, there’s still a way to take life’s punches — and the boomers’ insults — while managing to be happy, well-adjusted human beings. It starts with knowing where we need help.
There’s no doubt about it, life hasn’t been overly kind to Generation Y. We were raised with inflated expectations of what success looked like, and when the economy tanked in 2008, so did our hopes, as we had the misfortune of starting our careers in the midst of one of the worst financial crises in American history. With so many of us failing to live up to our own expectations (by an incredibly wide margin), the members of our generation have come to view themselves as failures.
Growing up, we were told that a successful life looked like this: You moved out of your parents’ house, went to college, got a degree, landed a good job, bought a house, became financially stable, and achieved happiness. Unfortunately for millennials, all the pieces of that particular puzzle were completely annihilated during the recession.
Our debt problem is out of control. Not only does it start young, it sticks with us much longer than anticipated. A study from Filene Research Institute found:
“Two-thirds (66%) of all Millennials have at least one source of outstanding long-term debt, whether student loan, home mortgage, or car loan, and 30% have more than one source of long term debt. Among the 2,124 college-educated respondents in our sample, a staggering 81% have at least one source of outstanding long-term debt, and 44% have more than one source. In other words, a sizable share (if not the major share) of young adults’ financial decision making has to do with debt and debt management.”
Furthermore, over half (54%) of millennials over the age of 30 are worried about repaying their student loans.
Essentially student loans financially crippled most millennials before they could even dip their toes into the job market. How is that a formula for a sound financial future?
Since a college degree is now tantamount to what a high school degree used to be, kids are under even more pressure to go to college — and thus take on student loans. Meanwhile, our lifeless economy no longer offers an abundance of jobs once you have said degree in hand. Although our economy has shown signs of recovery since 2009, millennial unemployment remains high. The current unemployment rate in the U.S is 4.6 percent. However, for those aged 18-29, that number almost triples at 12.8 percent.
And that’s not taking underemployment into account. According to a report from New York City Comptroller, Scott Stringer, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of young adults working in low-wage industries who have a bachelor’s degree grew ten percent (from 23% to 33%.)
If you’re living at home with your parents, you’re definitely not alone — 32% of young adults are still living at home. And if that statistic wasn’t enough to bum you out, check out this one: Bloomberg News found that 47 percent of millennials expect to have a lower standard of living than their parents did.
Image via MadameBomb.tumblr
Even for millennials with full-time jobs, moving out isn’t that simple. Since so many are encumbered with student loan debt, saving enough for a deposit on an apartment (forget about one for a house) is incredibly difficult. There’s also the landlord or property management’s expectation for a potential tenant’s credit score, savings, or income history — all of which are negatively affected by debt and job market issues.
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found millennials to be the most stressed generation in the United States. That stress no doubt plays a large part in the 30 percent of 18-29 year olds diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
So what exactly is behind the high rates of depression, anxiety, and self-injurious behaviors in our generation? Responsibility often falls on many of the things listed above: the dismal economy, over-priced universities, soaring debt, and society’s obsession with a version of success we can no longer achieve. It certainly doesn’t help that skyrocketing medical costs and a shortage of mental health practitioners make it incredibly difficult for generation Y to actually do anything to work through their mental health issues.
With all these things working against us, it seems damn near impossible to be even remotely optimistic about our present state of affairs, let alone our future. However, there are a surprisingly high number of things we can be thankful for.
What We Have Going For Us
The labels society seems intent on affixing to millennials — lazy and entitled — couldn’t be further from the truth. Our high levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment leave us champing at the bit to better our situations through hard work. We’re dedicated to making sense of our world by being both productive and innovative. We’re keen to prove our value by driving societal change through our work. And we’re not so arrogant as to think we can do it on our own. We’re always more than willing to ask for help when we need it.
We truly understand the connection between money and happiness. Being perpetually broke means that not only do we appreciate the value of money, we also know how to find some semblance of happiness without it. We’re not materialistic. We don’t chase riches simply for gain; we just want enough to pay our bills and put money in our savings accounts.
We’re the most educated generation to date — and we love to learn. The minute we realize we don’t understand something, we search online for it. We want to know the who, what, where, why, and how behind everything. If you want to have an intelligent conversation about anything from current affairs to the history of food transportation, seek out another millennial and start talking.
All that education and readily available information has led us to be far more open-minded and progressive than previous generations. We love and respect our fellow human beings regardless of race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical capabilities. We understand privilege, and we’re willing to have intense and uncomfortable conversations about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and islamophobia.
The internet has so connected us to each other that we see the pain and suffering in the world. We have no excuse to be complacent, and so we aren’t. We care so much about others that we’re willing to do whatever we can to help. We volunteer, we raise money, we fight for social programmes. We want to do good and to better the lives of everyone around us.
We’ve refused to be tied down by archaic and sexist gender roles. By embracing all gender identities, and accepting that actions, emotions, and desires aren’t tied to any specific gender, we’ve freed ourselves to create our own idea of family. And so we love — and we do so wholeheartedly and with everything we have.
We’ve opened up the discussion surrounding mental health, working to eliminate stigmas that have persisted for generations. We’re tired of suffering in silence, and we’re going to make damn sure that mental illness is no longer considered a taboo subject. We seek mental health services when we need them and support others in doing the same.
Thanks to everything life has thrown at us, including the uncertainty of what’s to come, we are more focused on the present than ever before. Instead of focusing on what may bring happiness ten years from now, we look at what will bring happiness ten seconds from now. Life is simply too short to keep our head in the clouds.
And so, fellow millennials, I pose we work together to fix the problems society has dumped upon us. Let us lean on each other when need be, and find joy in the truly wonderful, caring, and accepting generation of people we are.
And as for all the things the others have to say? Well, we’ll show them just how wrong they are.