07 Jun Staying Positive as a “Millennial”
I’ve been mulling over writing this particular post for so long.
The truth is, when I sat down at first to write this, I was going through a bit of a rough patch. It left me feeling pretty lost and hopeless at times. Of course we all have times when we feel this way, but I was struggling with these feelings with more regularity than usual.
I didn’t want to write about it because I didn’t want to rub off as a whine. However, grafting on through the confused wilderness of being in my twenties gave me a lot of food for thought the past few weeks. And the fact that I kept coming back to this post signalled that I needed to persevere and wrangle my tireless, straying thoughts and worries into something mildly coherent.
I’ve been confronting the harsh realities of what it means to be a “young person” nowadays, or a millennial as we have become known in recent years. Or Generation Y.
Popular opinion veers towards the idea that it’s tougher being a young person today. Tougher in terms of starting a career, finding a steady job, buying a house and starting a family. That we are the first generation that will be worse off in adulthood than our parents.
This doomed perception of “millennials” is etched, actually no, engraved into my mind.
And it’s just so unhelpful.
It’s unhelpful because it makes me feel absolutely screwed. That it’s a hopeless situation. As though I’ve been kicked down before properly getting up on my feet.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be facing the facts. More that my constant dwelling on how doomed we apparently are really hasn’t done me any favours.
I’ve read countless articles about how there’s no jobs out there. How things like buying your own home and starting a family are rapidly becoming a luxury that we can only dream of affording comfortably. That we’ve had basic milestones of life torn away from us. How nowadays, students are partying less and studying more when compared with previous decades because they’re all so worried and painfully aware of bleak job prospects.
(I’m purposely NOT linking to any of the articles above because: A) I’ve read these over the past few years and they’ve stuck with me, it would take a lot of digging to unearth the same articles B) one of the purposes of this post is to NOT make you feel worried and overwhelmed.)
The general consensus that it sucks to be a young person nowadays has crept silently into my mind. In fact, it has curled up & made itself at home throughout the past five years. As a pretty worrisome person in general, it has exacerbated my anxieties and has regularly left me feeling disillusioned, angry and hopeless.
I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in this.
I like to read comments sections on articles and one opinion I see reiterated is the idea that my parents’ and grandparents’ generations had it so much better. That having a degree was regarded so much more highly. That it was significantly easier to buy your own property back in the day. That there was a wealth of jobs.
It’s as though we missed the Golden Age and are now doomed for a life of zero hour contracts, paying high rent on low grade housing, shit pay, a failing NHS and paying back student loans for eternity. Shit one, right?
In my lowest moments, the world feels like it is going through some sort of 1984-esque shitstorm of decline, with alternative facts, a shit economy, tax evasion, rising inequality, an NHS at breaking point, and oh, have you thought about global warming in a while?
(That was essentially an in summary brain-vomit of just some of the concerns I have backed up in my mind. I have them ready to whop out in my lowest moments to assure myself that yep, correct, THE WORLD IS AWFUL.)
Let’s just breathe for a moment.
We are at a hyper aware point in history, where we are constantly plugged into what is going on in the world. Thanks to the internet, we can grow our list of worries and anxieties at an exponential rate.
Would I be as worried about my future if I didn’t read news articles, comment sections and browse social media? Probably not, to be honest.
The scope of things I would incessantly worry about from day to day would be much more limited without social media and the internet planting the seeds. And right now, in my hyper-aware state, that actually seems quite attractive.
Rather than feeling more informed, I just feel more worried about vague things I read or heard “somewhere.”
There’s just so much to be distracted by nowadays and often I don’t realise just the extent to which this influences my anxieties.
In our hyper-aware world, we are consistently and desperately holding today up to comparison with decades gone past like a point of reference for how things should be progressing. Which doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
Things always look better in hindsight. We don’t see the nitty gritty, grim details when we’re looking back on things.
For instance, I think back on writing my final year dissertation with fondness. Yes, fondness. But in reality it was absolute hell, mostly. I’ve had the time to space myself from the horrible element and just see the nice bits, the finished product.
The same, undoubtedly, goes for decades gone past.
Our parents and grandparents may well have been able to buy a house easier. And didn’t have had student loans mounting with interest every second.
But, that is not to say that we’re worse off than them. They certainly didn’t have access to the same quality and scope of education, or even the same level of choice when it came to starting their careers.
And university was not as accessible. I’m the first person in my family who has gone to university. While the ROI of a degree might not be as great as it once was (and I definitely wonder if I made the correct call going to university sometimes) I still remind myself of how privileged I am to have had the opportunity to go to uni in the first place.
I’ve also been lucky to have had so much opportunity to travel with ease. Which was so much more of a luxury in decades gone by.
It’s all too easy for me to get lost in my own worries and concerns, I need to consistently remind myself to take damning articles about how doomed we are with a pinch of salt, put things in perspective, count my blessings, and just take things one step at a time. Being in a constant state of worry is no way to live.
The concerns of decades past are not the same concerns of today. Being in a steady job after graduating, buying a home, getting married, having kids by the age of thirty – that all may have been the norm for a long time, but it isn’t necessarily going to be the norm going forward.
Whenever I feel anxiety about what I feel should be doing at my age, I just remind myself that the word should is problematic.
It does not make sense to keep applying what was once considered the norm, the done thing, to today because we feel we should be doing those things. Put the shoulds to the side. Be open minded. This is our own unique point in history, this is the card we have been dealt and there is nothing we can do about it other than get on with what we want to do.
For anyone facing the same concerns about the future, I think we need to become aware of our own hyper awareness. Bear it in mind during those tough times when we find ourselves questioning everything.
I’m sure we’ll look back on it with an odd sense of fondness. Eventually.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!