Thought Catalog
May 5, 2016

This Is Why Millennials Think The American Dream Is Bullshit

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Anna Vander Stel
Anna Vander Stel

I pulled the chairs and tables in, locked the door and started mopping. This is usually what I do at four in the afternoon while working. A few years ago, I guess I imagined I’d be replying to emails, proofreading documents or doing research or project work at four in the afternoon — something in an office.

I imagined things a little bit differently, my imagination often referred to by others as “entitlement.” We’ve all heard it said about our friends, or us, and I’m sure some readers have said it about millennials. We are entitled, technology obsessed, lazy, and not prepared to start at the bottom or work hard.

Now, just like many feminist articles in which the author feels they have to justify their statements by saying “Not all men,” as though that sentiment isn’t bleeding obvious, let me state my own “not all.”

Not all older generations have these beliefs.

But not all millennials can genuinely say that they don’t fit that description.

I however, don’t fit that description. And just like the others like me, we’re feeling a lot of things about trying to find work, and the type of jobs we end up with.

I am willing to start at the bottom, work hard and I know that I don’t know everything just because I went to university. However, I had expected to at least be starting in an industry related to my degree or my postgraduate studies. Not in hospitality, where I do the exact same tasks as a fourteen year old. The exact same tasks that I’ve been doing for four years.

Upon trying to express what we’re feeling in these situations, millennials are often met with angst, annoyance and a not so subtle undertone of “been there done that” and “toughen up.”

We are tough and we aren’t whining. But let’s be honest, we all know that life was different in 1976 than it is in 2016.

That needs to be kept in mind when judging the position that millennials are in.

When I first finished university, I got a lot of the “so what are you?” questions. I did a business degree, so that simply makes me a person with a business degree. Not all degrees are as straight down the line as study medicine, become a doctor.

In high school, and even during university, it was touted as smart, reasonable and logical to do a business degree. But I can tell you that it hasn’t really helped get me anywhere.

That sentiment goes for thousands, if not millions of other millennials. It turns out getting a supposedly useful degree hasn’t actually been that helpful.

And we feel let down. Know why?

Because for years, literally two decades, our teachers, parents, families and society, told us that knowledge is power. The pen is mightier than the sword, that if you do well in school you can get a good job, that research shows that those with degrees tend to earn more than those without, etc etc.

And now, we’ve done what we were told was going to be good for us, and we’re in the exact same position we were in before we started university.

We feel disappointed and despondent. Think of it like this:

A child is told that if they behave for the next month, they can have a birthday party. Every day of the month, they are like an angel, doing what they’re told, not talking back and not throwing tantrums. Then, once the month us up, their parents say, “You don’t get to have a party.”

The child asks why this is so, when they did what they had to do to earn the party. The parent gives no explanation or reasoning. The child is confused and let down. They wanted that party, and were prepared to do what it took to get it, but still didn’t get it.

Millennials are kids, who just want their birthday party, but are continually being told they can’t have it.

People are losing faith in the American Dream, the Australian Dream and likely many others.

And we’re starting to lose faith in the Education Dream; that being smart and placing importance learning will help you get ahead. Because so far, we’re not seeing much evidence that it actually helps, and we don’t know what will. TC mark