You hear it over and over again, to the point that it's become meaningless and trite: Millennials are "a lost generation". Poor us. We're meandering aimlessly in limbo; we're unsure of what to do with ourselves, indecisive about which path to pick.
We're not like our parents, apparently — they had a plan. They didn't just get jobs, they got careers. They loved trustingly, probably tied the knot in their 20s, and by the time they were our age, they were full-blown members of society. (Unless they were hippies.)
So why are we floundering about precariously on shoddy rafts, as our elders peer down disapprovingly from the crooks of their noses? I'd argue that it's not without good reason. Here are eight totally valid explanations for why I believe our generation appears more aimless.
1. The Financial Crisis Screwed Us Over
The Great Recession of 2008 had a much bigger impact than past economic dips — not only on the overall job market, but in particular on youth unemployment, which in 2010 reached a record high of 19.5 percent in the U.S. Often, even if a young person is not classified as unemployed, they are clinging to part-time or temp jobs. Good, mid-level skill jobs have dissipated over the years as automated machinery replaces manpower and people retire later, decreasing employment opportunities and making settling down more challenging for our generation.
2. One Degree Just Doesn't Cut It Anymore
If you want to be a scientist, a mere Bachelor's Degree isn't going to suffice anymore — most likely, you'll need to continue with school. If you've spent four stressful years studying psychology as an undergrad, well, so have thousands of other people: Between 2002 and 2012, enrollment in postgraduate institutions increased by 24 percent. As more people become more educated, many of us are finding that our hard-earned undergraduate degrees may no longer cut it when we're being put up against our peers for a job.
3. Traveling Is A Priority For Us
According to the UNWTO, globally, the youth travel market has been growing rapidly. They predict that by 2020, around 300 million international visits per year will be made by people ages 15-30. Traveling the world is a much more achievable goal than it used to be. With loads of different commercial airlines, the ability to get miles on a credit card, and budget airlines handing out cheap flights, exploring the world is more within our grasp than ever before.
Who wants to settle down when there’s so much just waiting to be discovered? Many of us have a deep-rooted fear of missing out on something, and it sparks a desire to see everything and be everywhere.
4. We Have More Choices Than Ever Before
I don't have plans for next weekend, let alone for the next 10 years. I don't know if I should live in the place I love at the expense of being apart from my family and friends. And you know what? I don't want to have to decide. Not because I'm lazy, but because it's too damn difficult. No matter what, a billion "what-ifs" are constantly running through my mind like cars speeding down a track. With all of the impossible choices that we have to make, isn’t it only natural that we want to put them off for as long as possible?
The same even goes for our love lives. Gone are the days of meeting someone, falling in love, and getting married. These days we hook up. Sometimes we date. We see multiple people at once. We use labels like "non-exclusive," "friends-with-benefits," and "open-relationship". I doubt that most of our grandparents could even wrap their minds around what these terms mean. We get excited quickly, take things quickly, get bored quickly, and move on quickly.
With so many career paths, hobbies, places to see, and people to meet, why pick?
5. We Have Short Attention Spans
You've heard the rundown — ever-increasing percentages of children diagnosed with ADHD, the Internet cutting short our patience, divorce rates hovering between 40 and 50 percent. The modern world has shortened the length of our attention spans in almost every aspect of our lives.
If a link doesn't load fast enough, we move on to a different web-page. If a Tinder date is boring, we swipe to another as fast as flipping the pages of a magazine. If we can’t find the latest Game of Thrones episode online, our mood sinks. If an article doesn't grab our attention immediately, we lose focus. Thanks to technology, we are able to pursue a million different interests, and if one starts to bore us, we can switch to the next one with the snap of our fingers. Kinda makes it hard to commit to anything.
6. We Don't Want To Be 'Adults'
I can't speak for everyone, but at 23-years-old, I do not even remotely feel like an adult yet. I have a picture in my mind of what "being an adult" looks like — married, probably expecting children, a permanent home, a career.
The reason I don't feel "adult" is because right now, I don't want that picture. I don't want to be tied down to a place or a person. I don't want to "grow up". Why would I? Those things mean taking responsibility. They mean obligations, decisions, and limitations. I'd rather appear aimless.
7. We're Sick Of The Pressure
We were told that if we worked hard, dreamed big, and did our best, we could get anywhere. Many of our parents set the expectations much higher than the reality. How can everyone be "special"? When many of us got into the real world and failed to get our dream job, we had a harsh awakening. Now, many of us are left trying to figure out what truly makes us happy, because maybe our desires are actually much more simple than we once imagined.
8. We're Afraid
At this point in our lives, everything is a change, a choice we need to make. We're finishing college and going out into the "real world". We're moving to different places, getting jobs, deciding whether or not to go to grad school. If you don't have a plan, what's more terrifying than being in such an immeasurable world without a guidebook? It's understandable that many of us might feel paralyzed with fear.
But maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about our rafts tipping over. Maybe we're not lost; we just prefer to wander. Maybe we should stop editing our lives to seem on-track to others, and instead just do whatever it is that we feel is right.
Top Image: Ivana Vasilj