A “Millennial” POV

For a while now “Millennials killed _____________” has been the Mad Libs of news networks for easy clickbait headlines. Millennials are blamed for destroying everything that has to do with our society’s perception of successful adulthood because we’re seemingly not achieving it. To many of the Baby Boomers and older end of Gen X, Millennials are whiny and want things for free. We’re treated like children despite the fact that the oldest Millennials turn 40 this year, 2020.

Why?

To start, Millennials as a generation are defined as those born between 1980 and 1996. There is leeway on the ends there (one example being the “Star Wars Generation” or “Xennials” born between 1977-1983) but basically a Millennial is old enough to remember 9/11 happening and was likely in school at the time. Older Millennials were encouraged to use the internet for their high school and college papers since it was an amazing new resource, whereas younger Millennials were encouraged to use books since one can’t believe everything they read on the internet.

As part of the older, Xennial end of this generation, I remember a lot of anticipated changes as the world inched closer to the year 2000. I remember speculation that we’d have flying cars, space exploration would be a big industry, and maybe we’d be among the first to colonize Mars. It was drilled into our young minds that we were destined for greatness. We were the future. We were going to change the world.

So much of this attitude came from classifying essential job positions as “less than” our potential. “You don’t want to be flipping burgers the rest of your life!” was the saying I most clearly remember hearing. I worked teaching private lessons through my youth orchestra, so I wasn’t in the typical service industry job a teenager usually sees, but that teaching job was justified as partial preparation to go to music school and be a professional musician. “You don’t want a teacher who can’t perform, and you don’t want a performer who can’t teach,” were the wise words of my youth orchestra conductor. (For the record, during semester breaks in college I had an office job for a time and a retail job for a different time, so yes, I did experience “The Real World” at some point.)

I remember sitting in one of my freshman year music ed classes in college, being told that if we were string teachers who wanted to go to Long Island, there were jobs waiting for us. Available jobs for college graduates were plenty. Paying off student loans was not a concern. We’d be working! It was easy to see the pathway to greatness we’d been promised since elementary school.

Only a few Millennials were old enough to vote in the 2000 Presidential Election, yet as a group were most vulnerable to the policies of the W. administration. More of us could vote in 2004, but not in large enough numbers (and probably a bit put out by lackluster candidate choices) to make a difference. But our potential jobs were still there, we were still destined for greatness, so we figured we’d get through. It was easy to find work or continue to an advanced degree program.

The banks failed in 2008.

I was in my final semester of graduate school at the time and lost the majority of my income from parents immediately deciding (from their secure gated communities in affluent sections of Orange County, California) they couldn’t afford private lessons for their young kids. Friends of mine from undergrad lost their school teaching jobs because they were *just* entering their qualifying year for tenure as the district axed their music and arts programs. That plethora of jobs we’d been promised dried up and became increasingly competitive as tenured teachers lost jobs to budget cuts and had to find new ones, interviewing against shiny new graduates with little “real world” teaching experience.

I graduated into the 2009 Recession with a Master’s degree. It didn’t matter that it was in music, it didn’t matter that I had very little service industry experience, it didn’t matter that I was actively looking for work. That advanced degree made me “overqualified” for entry-level jobs. Parents were still cautious about spending so teaching private lessons was not reliable income. Gigs were not plentiful even for the A-list L.A. performers, so my shiny new degree didn’t make me any more visible. Years passed with accumulating debt and people insisting I wasn’t trying hard enough.

I attended my Ten Year High School Reunion and all of us were in the same boat. Well educated but completely out of work, reevaluating careers we had only begun to establish. I was weirdly relieved to hear so many stories similar to mine. All those jobs we were promised, all that “destined for greatness” prophecy, gone. We were all adults approaching thirty navigating uncharted waters on a journey for which we were never prepared, because it was “beneath us.”

The youngest Millennials weren’t able to vote in a Presidential Election until 2016 and were ridiculed for wanting things like universal health care, free college, and an end to student loans. The youngest Millennials were in grade schools watching their after school programs get cut, watching their parents struggle to keep life status quo during the recession, and likely got service jobs in high school to help pay for college. As the depression went on, wages stagnated, but life got more expensive. A person growing up in that environment knew changes needed to happen. Growing up with almost mandatory internet access they could see and learn about policies in different countries and wonder why the U.S. is adamant about clinging to its outdated structures. But neither on-ballot Presidential candidate in 2016 reflected or even cared to acknowledge the needs of the Millennial.

Millennials want things that would create a higher standard of living for everyone. The things we want are achievable through change, which we are willing to make but older generations choose to see as us whining or wanting things for free, or even worse, “Well you just have to work harder and stop spending money on things you don’t need.”

Most Millennials have smart phones not because they’re trendy, but because their jobs require them to be available to answer a phone or text 24/7/365. Back in 2014 I was BROKE and went to a job interview for a (now out of business) retail store. This store was at Hollywood and Highland mall, so it’s a high traffic tourist destination. In the job interview I was told that, for minimum wage, I was to be available at all times, be expected to work as late as 2am, and the only day the store was closed was Oscars Sunday. For minimum wage I’d have to keep my schedule open to be on call, especially because I lived close enough to cover. I’d be expected to say no to gigs if I had a shift to work, meaning I’d have to say no to something in my career because of my day job. There were no health benefits to be had. I was expected to tie my life to a minimum wage job that, honestly, was unable to pay my rent. I wasn’t given a follow up interview when I mentioned that I couldn’t be available 24/7/365.

Working a single job as a full-time employee should equate to a living wage.

I have friends that have worked service jobs for multi-million dollar companies that make sure their employees are just enough hours under full time employment to avoid paying benefits. So those workers get a second job, usually again in the service industry and also still labeled “part-time”, to be able to play schedule Tetris and hope they don’t get sick or pass out from exhaustion. These are workers who, now in the pandemic, are deemed “essential” because they provide something the public needs. Yet, the public thinks these workers should “get a real job” or don’t deserve hazard pay, or ultimately that these workers are inferior and should’ve tried harder when the economy has been against their betterment since 2008. These workers, along with many other Millennial adults and older Gen Z (who are in their early 20s and yes, able to vote) WANT to be out of debt, WANT to be able to afford their own apartment or home, WANT the better life they were promised as children. They’d love to be able to take a sick day so they don’t infect anyone else. They’d love to go on vacation or, even simpler, have more than one day off every few weeks. They’d love to own something expensive without being criticized for wasting their money.

In many ways, and for some time now, the U.S. has confused “luxury” and “necessity” while maintaining economical class divisions. Sadly, those people once deemed “The Future” are now seen as perpetual children in the eyes of their creators because of that definition confusion. Millennials get blamed for the nation’s shortcomings because older generations as a whole don’t want to change what worked for them. They’re unwilling to acknowledge the massive shifts that have happened since the year 2001. Articles criticize Millennials for not knowing how to do simple repairs around the house but never taught home repair in school. We’re criticized for not cooking at home but also for trying to eat healthy on a strict budget. We’re not paid enough to live on our own yet made fun of for being adults with roommates or for still living with parents.

Millennials could have been the future, but we’re too tired from working ridiculous hours to make ends meet. We could have been the future, but certain administrations cut scientific research, cut school programs, and cut artistic budgets, while trying to convince everyone that the U.S. is still a powerhouse, still a leader, still worthy of admiration. Millennials could (and should) be in power, but some people still think we’re too young. We’re highly educated yet have nowhere to use that knowledge.

Of course we’re killing everything. It’s the only way people pay attention.

 

 

~ by violarockstar on August 4, 2020.

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