THE BLOG
12/19/2014 12:45 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2015

In Defense of Gen Y

Below is a blog post entitled, "Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy."

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

This is not the first one I've read like it. And now I'm chiming in.

I'm a child of Gen Y, raised by Baby Boomers. I've ALWAYS been taught that hard work was how you got anything done, and specifically, that a higher education was the key to all success. But entitlement, excess praise or even a compliment was something rarely achieved for me if at all. And if it was, it certainly wasn't unearned. I recognize that having Vietnamese Catholic parents changes the equation for me a bit, but I can tell you that I was never taught that I could "be anything I wanted to be." And anything I did say I wanted to be was met with the reply that I wouldn't be shit if I wasn't capable of the effort and work it takes to achieve one's goals. Moreover, most of the things I learned about hard work came from watching my parents rather than them actually telling me anything at all.

Here's the disconnect when you call us the whiny, entitled generation. The difference between the Golden Generation instilling to the Baby Boomers that hard work meant a good life is that when they in turn fed the same line to Gen Y, hard work no longer was a direct parallel to success. When the Boomers worked hard and took home their middle to upper middle class wages, they made enough to raise at least 2 children (including putting them through college) and buy a home. Meanwhile they told Gen Y that we are supposed to go to college and that the reason we do is to secure our future prosperity. And once Gen Y started graduating and trickling into the workforce... we were left with the remnants of what was once a booming economy. We are chided for not wanting to flip burgers when we were raised being told that going to college was how we avoided doing exactly that. So no, maybe we aren't thankful for just any job, because why would we be when college was supposed to be the reason we got to pursue a passion over a paycheck? Or even, the reason we'd get to have passion with a paycheck.

This article written over a year ago reported that in the last 30 years, the rate for a college degree increased by 1,120%. That rate will only get higher with time. Gen Y was dumped out of college with mountains of student debt and a job market that was so volatile that the only chance at chiseling away that debt for many of us was to live with our parents and pay it down before we even got a chance to start a real life of our own. (I never had to do this, but I'm not unaware of this as a reality for numerous peers.) And in some cases, when we recognized what the job market looks like and how feeble it can often seem to work for someone who will have complete control over our job security, we started our own businesses. In doing so, we were chided (as per the article I linked previously) and called "yuppies."

Yes, we expected a lot because we were told to. But when we found out expectation paired with effort wasn't the end all, we added new needs to the equation of success. These needs became creativity, the ability to see beyond expectation and hard work, and the need to change the landscape of what we want success to be. We also had to change the route to success because unlike for the Baby Boomers, it is now no longer a straight line. The reality for us is that the palate of colors we were handed was blurred. So we created new ones. And I don't think we owe anyone apologies for doing so. We innovate because we had to. We love new things because we have become the generation of recreation.

In ruthless defense of my generation, I'd like to say: eat shit. Eat your own shit that you left for us. We have arguably been the most versatile of all generations. We have proven to be one of the most tenacious. We are the ones who worked hard because we were told that it led to good fortune and prosperity. When we realized that what we were told wasn't so black and white we found different ways to get to it. Throughout the entirety of the process, we fought wars waged by other generations and we did it willingly. After all, Gen Y has never had a mandated military draft. We have trudged through the feces of economic downfall, a recession that became devastatingly close to mimicking The Great Depression, and environmental, manmade and social catastrophes that we scientifically could not have been responsible for. We've rolled with many punches, refusing a TKO of our generation and ourselves. And we did all of this with people calling us whiny, entitled and enabled. Yet, despite it all, we strive to be better and we strive to set up a system that cares for the generations before and after us.

Let's also not forget that these are generalizations. The Baby Boomers have shitty people and good people, and Gen Y is the same. But I believe that Gen Y has done its best and done well in light of the hand we were dealt. And that if you keep chastising us, it will only make us work harder to show you and the history books that we persevered through more than you may ever give us credit for. But you should start to. Because we've earned it, and we're still doing so.