1. “You can be anything you want to be.”
We all had those assignments in which we had to draw a picture and write a few broken sentences about the careers we were going to pursue. Usually somewhere around the age of seven, we all got hard to work scribbling about our dreams to become a ballerina, an astronaut, or — if you were me — a mermaid princess. Now, there’s nothing wrong with allowing us to dream big, but it would have been nice if they could at least have tempered it with the truth: “You can be anything you want to be, but you won’t.” It wasn’t until the dance majors made it through school that they discovered that there are about 30 jobs for ballerinas in the whole country, and people rip each others’ tracheas out to get them. And don’t even get me started on the fact that astronaut, the future employment of 87 percent of 8-year-old boys, no longer exists. Those suckers, suffering through aerospace engineering degrees, only to find out that a desk job at NASA is the highest possible honor that could await them. Womp, womp. I think, from now on, it’s best if we just say, “You can be any of these three things you want,” and then the kids have to choose between criminally underpaid public school teacher, security guard at a mid-size mall, or waitress at a restaurant that makes you wear suspenders.
2. “You’re going to grow up and find your very own Prince Charming to marry.”
Now, I acknowledge that this lie was more heavily directed towards the XX chromosomes in the room, but that doesn’t mean that everyone from our parents to our favorite Disney movies weren’t egging us on to walk down the aisle at the ripe old age of 21-ish. You see, we were pretty much painted the picture that at some point shortly after high school, we would walk down the street and literally bump into the person who would complete us for the rest of our 60+ years on this planet, and we would ride off into the sunset on our wedding night, never to encounter another problem again. Yeah. Then we actually make it to our twenties, and realize that the ones who look like Prince Charming are likely to text you grainy photos of their penis, and the ones who act like Prince Charming will show up to your house on a first date with a bouquet of red roses (shudder). Suffice it to say, the idea of hearing wedding bells with some flawless guy we met when we were 18 seems highly unlikely, and besides, think of how much tedious OKCupid messaging we would miss out on if it were true!
3. “College is the iron-clad guarantee of a f-cking awesome job!!!!!!1”
While college is, by all means, a great institution with so many possibilities for both abstract learning and specialized training, I think that the adults in our lives would have done well to maybe put a few asterisks on all of that college-related screaming. Perhaps the advice to hedge our bets a little and not encourage Bradley McBroDude to take out a 40,000-a-year loan to major in communications at the second-lowest-ranked school in Florida just so he can have some solid plans on graduation day would have been smart, as now we’re essentially a generation who has bought mortgage-level debt with no actual house to live in, and often no jobs to support it. Obviously, instead of banners plastered all over your high school with asinine sayings like, “College is knowledge,” the more tempered statement of, “College is a great tool, and can help you find a lot of different jobs. It is also required for many jobs, and depending on the profession, you may need to put in many more than just four years of study. It is, however, a pretty big investment — so if you’re taking out a lot of loans, make sure that you try and think critically about the viable job opportunities that you’ll have upon graduation, and tailor your studies accordingly. Try and get the most employable skill out of your time, and minimize debt as much as possible,” would have been a better choice. I guess we’d need bigger banners, though.
4. “You are beautiful and unique and special, there is no one like you.”
Okay, okay, this one is debatable. I mean, yeah, on a very literal level, there is no one exactly like us. But let’s not pretend that there aren’t about a million girls from your high school that got married at 22 and now just post status updates about watching The Biggest Loser with their hubbies. Yes, I’m a horrible person, but we all fall into stereotypes. For every me, there are about 13095823085230985 acerbic girls on the internet writing snarky criticisms of everything they’ve ever laid their eyes on for more than two seconds. In any case, everyone being “unique and special” is just a more pleasant way of saying that no one is. And beyond that, we’ve all seen the kids who held, white-knuckled, onto the concept that they were the most special little snowflake in the blizzard, also known as “the most insufferable dude at the house party.” It’s likely that, before the night is over, he’ll play an original song on the guitar and tell a long-winded story about the time he hitchhiked in Tibet. Oh, and as far as us all being beautiful, it would be nice if they could have added, “Depending on your definition of ‘beautiful.’ As the media will soon drill into your head, beautiful has the slimmest margin of error in existence, and let’s not kid ourselves, you don’t fit into it. You’re ‘okay,’ and consider yourself lucky for being it. Have fun at job interviews, uggo!”
5. “Even if you lose, you still get a participation trophy.”
Did anything destroy us more acutely as a generation than the willy-nilly distribution of participation trophies and ribbons? I mean, really, the idea that we’re all competing for something — that, for once, we’d like to actually earn something by being objectively the best — and then, f-ck that, everyone gets a shiny new trophy! God forbid we hurt a feeling or two, better we just completely annihilate the concept of competition altogether and then hold hands and sing about how different and special everyone is in their own way. Little did we know that the concept of “consolation prizes” don’t really exist in real life, least of all when we could actually use them. It’s not as though you go through a cut-throat hiring process and lose the job to someone more qualified, only to have the HR director pull you into her office and say, “Well, you tried so hard, and we don’t want you to go home empty-handed, so here’s a slightly less lucrative salary we’re going to pay you to stay at home and do whatever you want. We wouldn’t want you to feel like a loser.” I mean, really, if they actually existed in real life, participation trophies would be the greatest thing in the world. But they don’t, and they would rot society from the inside out if they did, so we should really just start kicking sand in children’s faces when they lose at soccer matches and scream, “How does it feel?!?! Yeah?? At least you still have an insurance plan!” Better to just start ’em young, I say.