The supposedly lazy millennials have grown up with the expectation to be better than our parents and technology those parents never could have predicted. Every young person is told from a very early age that if they work hard in school everything will work out. If we just work harder everything will be okay for us like it was for them. They worked hard and look where they are now. Established. Homeowners. And millennials do work hard in school. More people have college degrees than ever before across all social, racial, and gender boundaries, more people are educated than the generation before us. So we should be succeeding.
The problem here is that while it is expected of all of us to be “A” students and to work as hard as possible to become successful, we don’t exist in a world where everyone can be on top. The grading scale is supposed to have a bell curve — not just students who have A’s and therefore work hard, therefore deserving of success. In actuality we live in a world where a C student was president for almost a decade. Where the bosses we submit our applications to have less schooling than us. What they are is typical. Rich, white, cis, neurotypical, abled, straight, and usually male.
We are seen as greedy, selfish, lazy, and narcissistic and yet no millennial I have met thinks they are entitled to anything. We all know that in order to get somewhere you have to be a shark in the water. Start working when you hit puberty and save up every penny you make and you still can’t afford college. Even if you can afford it when you get out there are no jobs. Even if there is a job it requires experience you don’t have and can’t get without the job. We aren’t lazy; we are staring tiredly at a wall that is nearly impossible to climb. Some people succeed, obviously, but it has nothing to do with how hard they worked. I am sure they worked very hard and I don’t diminish their efforts in any way by saying this but it really is luck. If you really think there isn’t one other person who worked just as hard as you and is just as qualified as you that got passed over for the job you are naïve and wrong.
There are so many roadblocks that the other generations can’t see, or refuse to see. I’ve known so many people who work themselves into the ground and see no results. You work 40 odd hours a week, you go to school full time, you study constantly because you can’t afford to lose your scholarship and it still isn’t enough. And if any of those things slip it all comes crashing down while everyone in the position of authority posits that they simply must not have tried. Despite the fact that they’ve done everything right, it doesn’t matter if you are different in any way. I’ve known people who take jobs that hurt them, that go against what they believe in, purely out of desperation. I’ve seen people in suits walk with their head low, resume in hand, getting nowhere like a scene out of the depression. I’ve seen people go hungry, sell their belongings, have no heat, have no bodily autonomy, and I have seen people attempt to take their own lives.
It isn’t precisely that hard for all of us, some are at a clear and documented disadvantage, but it is hard. Truly, truly hard. And we feel like every action we can take is futile. We are fighting a battle of civil rights on so many fronts that to add to this all of our other stressors creates a deep depression. We are facing a fight everyone except those who are hurt by it thought was over. And with every struggle, from racism to homophobia to ableism, we feel a sense of futility. Like we are kicking and screaming and the only change possible is death or submission.
While this is happening it is incredibly difficult to find the drive to move forward and the inspiration to keep going when you have a thousand weights tied to your feet. Some of us succeed with this, a small number, but some, and when those people are held up to us as examples of what to do we kill ourselves trying to go above that. We can’t all one up each other. We can’t force the generation above us to do anything. And with this sense of futility that nearly all millennial have the addition of a struggle for basic rights causes collapse. Riots aren’t enough to cause change then what is any one person to do? That pain echoes through everyone in our generation as we watch the generation above us murder our friends for how they were born. We can’t feel the glacial progress being made because we are drowning.
Here’s the reason why we can’t keep drowning—there are more of us than there are of anyone else. We are smarter, we work harder, and we have an ability no one else really understands. The ability to be connected to and empathize with everyone. The technology of our generation has brought us so close together that we can truly see each other, and when one trans girl is killed or one black child wearing a hoodie is killed, or even when we see homeless youth, we know them. We know them in a way no one else does and our pain for them, our love for them, is the strongest motivator towards change. The same reason it is so easy to give in to apathy and simply flow with the masses implicit in harming so many of us, is the same reason we can actually effect more change than any generation before us.
We know each other; we’ve grown up with each other, connected by the Internet, by the media, by the news, connected in a way that has bred in us a deep understanding of a plight that can never be yours. Take action when you can and never give up. I know you’re tired, but rest upon the world of siblings technology has given you and continue to fight. We will get there; the world can get there. Acknowledge your privilege when necessary, acknowledge your struggle when it is real, and don’t let anything stop you.