It took me a long time to finally hit send on the e-mail containing my resignation letter. It sat in the corner of my desktop for months, greeting me with temptation every morning, and torturing me with indecision every night.
My thought process was a seesaw. I was raised in a family of teachers, who switch employers maybe once in a career. I was in the third year of a career in journalism, a field where you’d be considered half crazy to leave a job paying above the living wage with benefits. I had nothing substantial lined up, and was talking about walking away from a relatively comfortable financial situation that had me knocking on $50k a year.
I was living in Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, in a nice apartment, with plenty of spending cash to catch shows on the weekends, watch the Phillies fall apart from the 2nd deck, and take that nice girl from the coffee shop out to dinner.
My work was far from soul selling. I was the editor of a few yawn-worthy community magazines in the suburbs. Not a wordsmith for big pharm, or big oil, or big agro. Not a call center drone. Not somebody’s coffee-retrieving bitch.
What the hell was the problem?
And then again, I wasn’t the writer I wanted to be either. I wasn’t chasing down stories and dialing up sources as I zipped around town in my beat-up, beast of a car, racing to file by deadline. I wasn’t receiving the rewards– both external and internal– of penning just the right sentence to capture the emotion of a story. I wasn’t going to bed satisfied that I had lived up to the best of my abilities that day.
There’s a lot of talk about Generation Y not being able to just sit still and live a humble, hardworking life. And for many of us, that’s true. There’s a certain beauty of the simple life, where the paycheck is the means to provide for a steady, secure existence, and that, for the most part, it doesn’t matter where it came from.
It’s a beauty that I understand. But I’ve come to know that it’s also one I cannot fully appreciate, at least not at this stage in my life.
And oddly enough, I feel that quality has a little something to do with my parents.
When they were our age, our generation’s baby boomer parents fought the good fight. They believed in the Kennedys, stuck flowers in rifles, marched and rioted in the streets, made love at Woodstock, and generally challenged every status quo.
And then they had us. And they settled into starter homes in the suburbs, and took jobs to pay for our food, and saved for our education, and kept their activism alive through voting. And there was nothing wrong with that.
But it’s why we, as a generation of highly educated and highly pampered boomer’s babies, have to unapologetically not settle. Our parents put down the banner they carried against money, power, war, and close-mindedness, so that they could pursue a greater cause: raising us.
Now we’re all grown. We’ve become the most educated generation to ever enter the workforce. We have unlimited access to information. We can communicate and organize globally. We can teach ourselves how to code a website, or speak Arabic, or start a company, for free, while making ham sandwiches in our kitchens.
And that’s the reason why I quit my job.
If it seems like our career goals and the 1970s are two divergent topics, they are not. Our parents beat the man, and then went about raising the most privileged generation in American history.
Now the man is back in the form of corporate everything, and here we are, the world and all its possibilities for professional and political change never more within our grasp. Settling would be a disservice to the sacrifices and legacy of our parents, and a disservice to the endless possibilities within ourselves.
And any excuse to settle, if it’s not really what you want, is just that: an excuse.
Don’t have the skill or know-how to achieve what you want? It’s called Google; go find out how to get it.
Don’t have the proper connections? Then get down to networking, and e-mail anyone you think may be able to help, whether you know them or not.
Buried under what feels like a crushing amount of debt? Then do everything you can to cut costs wherever you can, even if it means humbling yourself in any number of ways. If that’s still not enough, then use that understanding of unfairness to lend your support to groups or politicians advocating for policies, like student loan forgiveness that help the nation’s young professionals.
Millennials have a flair for the dramatic. Things are often characterized as “epic.” YOLO, before it (thankfully) died and was revived as ironic, was a leading battle cry. Our movies, music, and websites cater to our sense of living beyond the norm, and doing extraordinary things. But these are just words, and fleeting experiences.
When I finally hit send on my resignation, it was because I no longer just wanted to talk the talk. I wanted to walk the walk. After quitting your job, there’s no such thing as pushing personal passions to “another day,” when tomorrow is just one day closer to be being broke and evicted.
Those evenings when you intended to work on your writing, or update your resume, or e-mail your old professor don’t end up as another drunken night at the bar with your friends. Because you can’t afford to have those nights. And you don’t want to either, because you know you’re doing what your heart has been screaming at you to do.
There’s nothing wrong with the simple life, if that’s honestly what you want. But if it’s not, and you’re not doing all you can to strive for something more, then you’re not really trying.
The stage is set. Generation Y has arrived and is in position to challenge the status quo professionally, culturally, and economically. So dream big, and follow through. Silence the critics, and listen to the inner voice that tells you what you should be achieving.
With the knowledge and tools that we possess, the only reason for hanging on the sidelines is fear. Whether you achieve your goals, or fall short, the simple life will be there waiting for you on the other side.
Get in the game. Make something of yourself, Generation Y.