Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On The Emotional Health Of The Millennial Generation

There have been several (and by several I mean two so far, but something tells me more are coming) articles circulating which attempt to address the issue of why middle and upper middle class members of the millennial generation (born late 70s to mid 90s) are unhappy. One such article  (article A) basically claims that it's because we have unrealistic expectations which need to be adjusted. The other article  (article B) claims that its because we have been left a world that is disproportionally challenging and that no one has the right to judge our response to these conditions. My first response to both of these articles was "Oh, I wasn't aware that I was unhappy, but thank you for pointing out that I should be."

What is strange to me about both of these articles is that they both assume that happiness is a byproduct of success, and that success is measured against a particular standard. The standard being referenced, albeit indirectly, is essentially the worn out vision of The American Dream in which the stable family is a symbol of emotional wellbeing. The articles argue about whether or not the root of Gen Y's unhappiness is our sense of entitlement or our sense of frustration about the fact The Dream is no longer attainable.  I don't believe that either of these are valid arguments. In fact, I don't believe that most of us are really unhappy at all. We're just being told that we are.

Article A positions Millenials against "our" baby-boomer parents (though many of them aren't that really) and suggests that this generation's success has altered our perception of reality and warped our expectations. Article B suggests that it doesn't matter what our expectations are, because our education debt is higher, our cost of living is higher, and our options are fewer. Both articles ignore completely the fact that there are just a few more than 50 years of human history from which to source perspective on the topic of happiness. We are, if nothing else, an over exposed, over stimulated generation that has been bombarded with information from an increasing number of angles from birth and yet we seem to have no sense of our place in a broader human scope. Economic strife aside we're bound to have a few screws loose.

Regardless of their ideas of what causes unhappiness, both articles suggest that I'm definitely supposed to be depressed about the fact that my student loans are making it harder for me to save money, and that I have to live in Queens instead of Manhattan and that I don't have any reason to own a pantsuit. The thing is though, that I feel fucking fantastic most of the time because I have the freedom not to have children if I don't feel like I can support them. I have the option to fulfill my creative impulses privately (Ex: This Blog) while paying my bills in a job that doesn't own my life.  If I ever feel compelled to exercise my ambition am I free to do that as well. Young, single women in past generations didn't have nearly as many reasons to be happy as I do.  Furthermore, I just don't believe that some vague idea of maybe someday raising a family comfortably is a compelling reason to be consistently at odds with the world around me. Even if that was something I REALLY wanted I understand that we can't always get what we want, and with the population as bloated as it is I really can't get behind the idea that anyone "needs" to have children.

Article A suggests that Millennials are unhappy because we assume that we are special, and on that count we are mistaken. I think that's an irrelevant line of argument. A little confidence never hurt anyone. What does cause problems, however, is having ones emotional state both generalized and scrutinized on a regular basis. I've been doing a lot of research about NYC history and I for one would not trade being where I am now making the money I make for the chance to be some bank man's secretary/future wife in the era of Robert Moses. (Sidenote: If I could go back in time I would find Robert Moses and punch him right in the dick). If you are a Millennial and you are feeling a little gloomy because you're having trouble finding stable ground, let me remind you that there are worse things. And if you're NOT feeling gloomy then  please stop reading articles about how you might be unhappy! Stop it right now! I'm serious. This one included. STOP.

1 comment:

  1. Next big topic: why millennials are unhappy that people are saying they are unhappy.