Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
I think anything that happens in our lives, any situation we find ourselves in, is a result of the combination between our own decision-making and factors that are out of our control. The question is: To what extent is this recession, this financial crisis, to blame for having knocked us off our intended paths?
How does one even go about determining that? I guess you could look at the statistics if you wanted hard numbers. I certainly don’t feel part of an “entitled” generation. I don’t expect special treatment from any person or from any job. You have to earn everyone’s respect around you and prove your worth just like anyone else. But there is a sense of frustration that comes from being dealt a bad hand, from getting the short end of the stick, for being punished for something we had no control over.
Yes, we grew up being told that good grades and a college degree were the keys to success. They were supposed to guarantee you a salaried job you could live off and support a family.
And that’s the frustrating thing about all of this. We can’t blame our educators or our parents, who could not predict that all of the things that we expected from our society to run smoothly would go wrong. They only wanted to help motivate us the best way they knew how.
There is a frustration with the fact that previous generations didn’t have to worry about so much competition. They were guaranteed jobs in their field after graduation and that’s what the concept of the American Dream was all about. Employers used to provide more benefits and they’ve had to cut more and more from their budgets. Now it seems we have all sorts of hurdles to overcome. We have to acquire all kinds of experience before we can even begin to work at the bottom of a particular company or organization.
We’re competing with all kinds of people, in different age groups, with all kinds of backgrounds and experience. Now we almost can’t count on anyone for anything and that’s the shock to our system — that of my generation, who as children and teenagers came to expect our financial system to work as a stable, reliable entity. We slept soundly with no forewarning that this kind of crisis would throw off our career aspirations.
People still have opportunities to “rise up,” to surpass the income of their parents or grandparents, but the factors that typically determine a person’s success have changed. Who you know and the diversity of your work experience matter more than the kind of education you received or whether or not you even went to college.
So it is exactly because these aspects of life have changed so drastically, and out of our control, that I have no choice but to let that resentment go and just move on and do the best I can with what is available. I won’t dwell on it and I won’t blame it for where I am now.
I won’t forget about what the Occupy Wall Street movement meant nor will I forget about the laissez-faire economic policies of deregulation that I believe, among other things, got us into this recession in the first place. It is important to acknowledge and discuss who should have been held accountable for all these abusive consumer practices but still move on with our personal lives and our careers despite all the growing competition and despite the saturated job market for liberal arts majors.
Ultimately, you only have yourself to answer to if you’re not happy with where you are. I know a few
people who are exactly where they want to be in this economy, so it’s not impossible.