Some people will have you think that in order to be successful in America, all it takes is hard work. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. To be successful in America, you need to have luck. And not just the kind of luck where you win $20 on a scratch-off lottery ticket. No, sir or madam. This kind of luck is like winning the genetic lottery, the intellectual lottery, and $850 Million Powerball in one instant.
Being a millennial in America means having broken dreams.
Being a millennial in America means being told your ambitions and smarts are worthless.
Being a millennial in America means living with your parents, or sharing a room with a former stripper and her snake simply because it’s either this hellhole or homelessness.
Being a millennial in America means listening to Baby Boomers rattle you for struggling to pay your credit card minimum (“Why is it so hard? I got this job when I was 17 and it paid the bills.”) when in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “If you would shut up and retire or die already, maybe there would be a few more jobs to go around!”
Being a millennial in America means being constantly hounded by two phrases:
“Get a job.”
This statement is problematic for two reasons:
1. You raised a generation of people convinced that all it took to do well in life was to go to an excellent university and ‘work hard’ and we’d be able to find work doing what you love and went to school for. Our apologies if post-college life has been a bit of a shock.
2. Fine, I’ll flip burgers. I’ll sell furniture.
I’ll do anything. But who’s hiring? Please oh PLEASE find me a location that will hire me as soon as I walk in off the street with a degree from a top-25 university and I’ll eat my words right now. Would you hire me? Doubt it. You’re worried that you’ll deal with all of the training and I’ll up and leave as soon as I find something better. You’re worried that I’ll be an awful worker because I’m an educated young person and somehow that translates to being a poor worker. You’re worried that I have other priorities (you know, like making my car payment for the month) and won’t perform well for your business.
“When I was your age…”
Well Mom, when you were my age college wasn’t $48,000 per year. When you were my age, Dad, minimum wage was enough to buy a $2500 lightly-used car with cash and still not worry about making your rent or being able to buy groceries. See, Grandpa, when you were my age, you were able to walk in off the street and start working in a dangerous steel mill, no-questions-asked, and make enough money to provide for the family that you started at age 20.
Welcome to 2016, where the national minimum wage, when adjusted to match the modern dollar, hasn’t changed dramatically since the mid-1970s. You bought a house, a car, a college education on minimum wage. I can barely afford to buy lunch.
Don’t worry about us. We’ll make it, eventually. Our misguided thoughts on an American Dream — the one you sold my generation through your broken education system; the Dream that died a miserable death 30 years ago — those thoughts are being reshaped. We’re changing the American landscape, and redefining what it means to be successful. In some ways, yes, you’ve still got to hit the lottery. But we’ll eventually rise to positions of power and use our newfound power and influence to change America for the better. For now, however, we’ll continue listening to the same, lousy narrative we’ve been spoon-fed for our entire lives, waiting for our chance at success… Right?
That’s what it’s like to be a millennial in America.