• Adrien Book

Being young sucks right now

First things first: why on earth does every article about millennial has to have an avocado picture? See exhibit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… What’s wrong with avocado? It’s delicious, versatile, and is a source of healthy fat.

I want answers about this and I want them now.

It appears obvious that “avocado-gate” is in fact strongly linked to the trend of blaming any societal or economical problems on “these damn youths” *angrily shakes fist at clouds*: critics often end up redefining millennials’ economic desperation as “lifestyle choices”, and making fun of it. We don’t own cars because we are ecologically woke, we don’t get married because we’re heathens, we don’t buy diamonds because we don’t like enslaved children (the irony of using an iPhone to write this is not lost on me)… The fact is millennials are not young, happy and well-off consumers who merely prefer style over stuff: we simply cannot afford to buy much stuff to begin with. But who needs Occam’s razor when you’re publicly deriding the behavior of an entire generation? Lower wages are sending 22-year-olds back home after university, the economy sucks, the environment is going to hell, we have a mountain of student debt, social media makes us depressed and we’ll probably never be able to afford a home even though we’re part of the most educated generation ever. BUT AVOCADOS, AMMARIGHT?

The sad truth is that for most millenials, life since 2008 has been a struggle to survive. And we’re angry.

The numbers backing this claim are staggering. Regardless of actions taken, millennials in most advanced economies are likely going to face worst income inequality than any generation in recent memory:

  • Millennials earn $2,000 less than their parents did at a comparable age, and they are more likely to live in poverty. In fact, millenials’ net worth is anywhere between 34% and 50% lower than what previous generations had at their age

  • A millennial with a college degree in 2018 earns the same amount as someone in 1989 with only a high school education. Earnings with only a high school degree have also dramatically decreased

  • In 1979, it took a student working at minimum wage 385.5 hours to pay off one year of the average college tuition. Today, it takes 2,229 hours to do the same. From 1963 to 2013, the average price of college more than doubled, adjusted for inflation

  • Right now, millennials have taken on at at least 300% more student debt than their parents, and 56% of millennials with student loans have delayed a major life event — including getting married or having kids — because of their debt. Young men and women who graduated in 2015 owed, on average, around $35,000, about twice the amount of their counterparts two decades ago, after adjusting for inflation

  • Nevertheless, Millennials are still rushing to get degrees, in part because the alternatives are getting worse.

  • The share of young adults in their 20s living with their parents is the highest it’s been in 75 years (3 times as many as in the 1970s) because of all the above. No group has been immune from the trend

  • Furthermore, millennials are half as likely to own a home as most young adults were in 1975

  • Cherry on top: millennial employees face a higher level of depression than any other generation

But hey, we’ll apparently be fine, if we work until we die. Which makes sense: life expectancy is significantly dropping for the first time in decades (mostly in the US, but the above is applicable across the board). Soon we’ll be back to the middle age. It’ll be great. Deus Vult.

Much like my kin in “generation screwed”, I am not only finding it increasingly difficult not to be scared about the future, but also angry about the past. If we’re going to lay blame for our troubles, I’d like to offer the Boomer generation as a sacrifice. They have committed generational genocide, pillaging the economy, indebting future generations, letting infrastructures go to waste, repeatedly cutting their own taxes at our expense, financing conflicts with social benefits funds, turning a blind eye to climate change, forgoing educational investments, and leaving their children and their grandchildren to clean up the mess they’ve created.

And we’re then told that we’re the most entitled generation there ever was, that we expect too much.

But Millenials tend to be acutely self-aware. As a group, I actually don’t think we could have lower expectations.

I don’t expect to own a home before I’m 50. I don’t expect to retire well, or at all. I don’t expect anyone to give me anything I haven’t explicitly asked for, and even then. I don’t expect it will ever be affordable to send my kids to good schools without over-indebting myself. If a package gets lost in the mail, I don’t expect to ever see it again, or be compensated. I don’t expect the government or the banks or other large corporations to do anything that will directly benefit me. I don’t expect them to expel abusers from their ranks, or to put my safety over their bank account. I don’t expect to feel safe in large crowds. I don’t expect that my privacy will be respected, online or in general. And I don’t expect my internship to hire, despite the many promises.

Fixing this will not be easy, and there’s no way around the fact that millennials will have to sacrifice in ways other generations refused to sacrifice, but that’s where we are — and these are the choices we face.

We must stop trying to control the world in our heads and in the headlines, and start controlling ourselves. We sleep. We go to the doctor. We log off. We talk about our problems. We vote. We water our plants. We collect our neighbor’s mail when they’re out of town. We take a deep breath before reacting in anger, and question whether this particular battle is worth our energy. It’s not. Why were we fighting again? We volunteer. We vote. We focus on ourselves so we can eventually focus on others — in a real way, in a non-transactional way, in a way that slowly but authentically strengthens our kin. We don’t wait for permission. We get over ourselves; we stop demanding perfection; we start. We teach our kids to say thank you. We vote.

And we eat avocados every Sunday morning.

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