Millennials have a bad reputation. We’re lazy. We’re spoiled. We’re entitled. We spend more time glued to our smartphones than we do actually working. Technology has destroyed our attention spans, and we bounce from one job to another. We live with our parents because we’re too lazy to find a job that pays well.
I disagree with these stereotypes.
We are not lazy. Many of us have spent our entire lives working hard in school and earning excellent grades. We aced all of our classes in high school so we could get into a “good” college – something our parents said was necessary if we didn’t want to spend the rest of our lives flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Our parents told us that going to a university was not a choice. It was our only option. An education was the key to having more than they did. We trusted our parents. We didn’t question them. We wanted what they wanted for us: a better life. We believed in the American Dream.
Every time we signed our financial aid documents, we cringed when we saw another 10 or 20 thousand dollars in student loans. We were horrified by the cost but didn’t know what to do. We wondered if college was worth the cost. Our parents assured us that it would be worth it in the long run. Then the recession hit in 2008. We worried more. Would we be able to find well-paying jobs despite majoring in a liberal arts subject? Our parents told us we were worrying too much. Our parents told us that as long as we had a degree (in any subject), we would find a job. Having a degree was all that mattered.
Then we graduated. We realized that everything we had been told (by our parents and other family members, by society, and by teachers) for our entire lives was a lie. Getting good grades was not enough. Having a degree (any degree) did not ensure we would find a decent job. Finding a job was incredibly difficult. Many of us accepted minimum-wage jobs in retail or food services. Others worked a stream of contract jobs or unpaid internships. Many worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Quite a few of us continued to live with our parents. Our student loans were not worth it.
Millennials are not lazy. We are frustrated, and we are angry. We are disappointed. We feel we have been lied to by everyone we trusted. We know these people had good intentions – our parents truly believed that education was the key to success…because when they attended college, it was. They did not graduate with five to six figures in student loan debt. They were able to work part-time at minimum wage jobs and pay their way through school. That is no longer possible (today, a student at an “inexpensive” state school would have to work 68 hours per week at a minimum wage job just to cover tuition alone).
In 2015, the average college graduate completed school with $30,000 in student loan debt.
After the initial disappointment, frustration, and anger wear off, many millennials learn to adapt to the new reality. We begin to accept the fact that we are the first generation in history who will be financially worse off than our parents. We put off getting married, buying homes, and starting families. We drive 15 year old cars. We realize that the majority of our income will go toward our student loans.
We learn how to live as frugally as we can, and we work like crazy just to scrape by. Despite this, we’re called “lazy” and “entitled”.
Millennials are not lazy. They’re screwed.