In 1600, the play The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare made its debut. In Act 2, Scene 2, Falstaff declares, "I will not lend thee a penny." And in response Pistol says, "Why then the world's mine oyster, which I with sword will open."
As recent college graduates, and young adults alike, we are trapped in a current state of limbo, between our carefree adolescence and the responsibilities of adulthood. We are constantly told that "the world is our oyster" (just like Pistol in Shakespeare's play) and that we have the ability and the freedom to do anything we want. Yet, many of us stick to the same menial, comfortable plan: college, 9 to 5 desk job, tiny apartment, and weekends spent plopped on the couch eating leftover Chinese food with a cat in our lap. If the world really is our oyster, why do we fail at creating the pearl?
This article recently featured on HuffPost seems to suggest an answer of why my generation, the "Generation Y Yuppies," is constantly floundering in an unhappy state of heightened expectations. According to the piece, our parents, the baby-boomers, grew up with the understanding that hard work led to success and ultimately a good life (i.e., happiness.) As children of the baby-boomers, we benefited from our parents' success and thus were given a different "pep talk." Rather than growing up understanding that we must work hard and sacrifice a bit in order to benefit in the future, we believe that we must benefit now.
However, the article missed a huge piece of the puzzle: pressure. We, "Generation Y Yuppies," are told that "the world is our oyster" and we can do/be whatever we want but that we must know immediately; unlike our parents who got to enjoy the ride without added stress. "What do you want to do after college?" "Where do you want to work?" "What industry are you interested in?" "You need to intern..."
There is nothing truly wrong or unusual about these questions, except for the fact that we are asked them and expected to have the answers our first year into college. Little, immature 18-year-olds with no clue of what we really want to be. Yet still, these questions continue to surface and hover above our heads like a dark and gloomy cloud.
We're made to believe that in order to be happy we must simultaneously benefit the world, follow our passions, and make a ton of money in a short amount of time. That's a lot to take in while trying to grow up, if we are even allowed that. The earlier you acquire an internship, a job, an apartment, etc. ultimately determines how respected you are in the "real world." Therefore, the rush to mature is greater than ever. Have we lost the opportunity to grow up? Are we supposed to go from kids to adults immediately? It's a sad fact that we do not experience "our 20s" the way our parents did and it's mostly thanks to the increasing cost of living. Everything costs more: college, rent, healthcare, groceries, dining out, even a damn subway ride! The baby-boomers were more successful because life was cheaper and their income was larger: more money to save and more happiness. The bottom line is our parent's had it much easier because they were given the chance to grow up in a timely manner and in a thriving economy.
Because we grew up underneath this blanket of our parents' success (and surplus of money,) the pressure (there it is again) to reach and surpass their achievements is far greater than ever. In addition, we feel the same pressure within a virtual race to surpass the achievements of our peers. Facebook Image Crafting, originally mentioned in the Generation Y article, explains the idea of being taunted. Similar to a #FOMO feeling ("Fear Of Missing Out" for all my baby-boomers out there.) It is an inherent part of human nature to compare ourselves to one another, and now with the constant interconnectivity of social media (Facebook, Twitter) it's easier than ever to make comparisons. You can check your phone and immediately feel as though you're behind in the race to the top because person X has just received an internship at The Huffington Post or person Y is heading to Stanford next year for Law School.
We are afraid of failure, because success is all around us. No one posts a Facebook status or tweets about rejection; because we build our social identity to reflect our ideal successful self. This is why many of us still end up in the tiny apartment with a 9 to 5 job, hating our lives. Although we "dream big" and have high expectations, the pressure to succeed accompanied by the threatening (and imminent) failure makes giving up all the more attractive. Basically, we are told that the world is our oyster but it's pretty rare that we'll ever see a shining pearl.
But wait, there is hope! In order to break this cycle, we must first lower our expectations and stop being afraid. We are scared that we won't do as well as our parents, scared that we won't have money, scared that we'll be unhappy all of which makes us unhappy in the first place. Why pay interest on debt that you may not even owe? In other words, why worry about something that hasn't happened yet? It's time to screw all the pressure and screw the expectations. It's time to explore, grow up and enjoy this influential time in our lives, a time where we truly are blessed in between childhood and adulthood. With the ability to make a (small) living and name for ourselves, while also having fun and enjoying life without the responsibility to support a family.
Instead of falling into the same trap as many other "Generation Y Yuppies," I am determined to lead a different path (and hopefully inspire you to do the same!) While it is certainly important to recognize that our expectations are far higher than they should be, it is still productive and healthy to have dreams. And just because our parents grew up differently, doesn't mean that they didn't dream. The difference is we focus solely on the goal and not the journey. Instead, I'm going to keep my dream alongside my hard work, like a framed photo on my desk. There for inspiration and hope, but not the end-all-be-all of my life.
So listen closely fellow "Yuppies"! Silence those pressuring thoughts, take advantage of the world and know that you can produce a pearl; it's just going to be really friggen' tough.