The generation known as "the Millennials" is in the news almost daily. Sometimes we're being praised for our progressive nature in the workplace or regarding social issues. Other times we're being blamed for further damaging the economy by our inability to pay off student loans or buy houses. Most of the time, it seems like we just can't win.
Adjectives that I've heard used to describe my generation include "lazy" and "entitled." As recently pointed out by Teddy Wayne in The New York Times and Ryan O'Connell on Thought Catalog, this stereotype is not true. Just like any generation, I know there are members of my peer group content to spend all day lazing around their parents' basements playing video games. But the average Millennial is driven. We were simply dealt a bad hand of cards and graduated into one of the worst economies in history. Still, the majority of us are finding ways to make it work and survive.
From the time some of us started school, we were already thinking ahead to college (though admittedly college was a pretty vague concept when I was five). Many Millennials like myself grew up being urged by parents and teachers to become well-rounded individuals. We were encouraged to participate in everything from athletics to the arts because it would make us look better on college applications. During my senior year of high school, I was the editor of the school newspaper. When I graduated, I planned to pass the baton onto my assistant editor, a rising senior. After this news spread I got a call from one of our staff writers (also a rising senior) practically begging me to bequeath the editor position to her. She was already the head of nearly every organization on campus yet was convinced that she needed more in order to impress college admission directors.
Like O'Connell stated, Millennials are incredibly ambitious. Unfortunately, sometimes employers take advantage of this quality. In college (and even beyond), we're exploited in unpaid internships or positions offering paltry stipends with the promise of experience. Like many of my peers, the terrible job market forced me to take a position completely outside of my field. But this hasn't stopped me from doing whatever I can to further my writing career. After a long day in the office, I usually come home and work on pieces for The Huffington Post and my musical outlet Britpop News. I often feel like I work two full time jobs except only one of them pays.
Many of my friends face similar challenges. They take whatever jobs they can get in order to bring in a steady income while spending their free time working on music, writing, etc. I admit that many of these passions become hobbies out of necessity. Our college lifestyles seem to persist as we find it unaffordable to live sans roommates.
We Millennials are facing adulthood in an unfamiliar world. Our parents could not prepare us for the new age of technology and the struggling economy. Gone are the days of making connections in college and getting a job right away. Due to seemingly endless budget cuts and layoffs, job security is a thing of the past. For my fellow writers and I, our field is in a transitional period and it's anyone's guess as to when this industry will stabilize.
Right now, I know I'm lucky to have a job that pays the bills (barely -- I live in San Francisco, a city only affordable if you have a cushy tech job or a trust fund). But I'm not letting go of my dream of being a writer. Perhaps I'm still naïve and a few more years in the real world will leave me wilted and jaded but right now I've got the ambition to do whatever I can in my off hours to further my career.