Why is Generation Y unhappy? It’s the economy, stupid.

At the Energy Exodus earlier this summer

If I read one more piece like this, I’m going to scream.

No, my generation isn’t unhappy because we’re entitled special snowflakes who want rainbow-barfing unicorns on our lawns. We’re unhappy because we’re facing crushing student debt, a terrible job market, the downgrading of most stable jobs to contingent work, falling wages, and widening inequality. We’re unhappy because we’re working longer hours for less pay–or getting our hours cut to the point where we can barely survive. We’re unhappy because so few of us have health insurance or paid sick days.

We’re unhappy because we’re coming face to face with the reality that we might never be able to afford to own a home, or have children, or many of the other things we want to do. We’re unhappy because we see our dreams and opportunities vanishing before our eyes. We’re unhappy because we look around and see so many of our friends struggling–so many bright, talented people faced with shitty options. We’re unhappy because we’ve learned first- or secondhand that intelligence and hard work don’t guarantee being able to pay the bills, let alone personal fulfillment.

Not to mention that we live in a world where our government shamelessly spies on us, where corporations have more rights than people, where there’s a mass shooting every few months, where the environment is being destroyed at a stunning and possibly irreversible rate.

Of course, this isn’t to say we’re all unhappy. Happiness is a lot more complicated than jobs and money and ambition. Happiness is also about friends, family, community, art, music, dance, nature. It is entirely possible to find happiness in the midst of suffering and injustice–people always have. There is so much love in our world, so much beauty, so much connection and fierce resistance and hope.

Generational divides, too, are more complicated than many make them out to be. Millenials aren’t a stereotype, and nor are our Boomer parents or our Greatest Generation grandparents–or our Gen X friends, or anyone else who doesn’t fall into the millenial/boomer/gg taxonomy.  We are all shaped by our times, by our opportunities, by the social and economic landscapes we navigate–but we’re also so much more than the sum of our years. We’re all human. We all have our struggles and our passions. We all have our stories.

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On quitting, risk, and (the lack of) safety nets

I just came across this post about a podcast, Quit!, that helps people leave unfulfilling jobs and try new things.

The author of the post, J. Eddie Smith, IV, notes that:

A lot of people who call into the show are 18 to 25, and they sound trapped. Truly trapped. These are people with no kids. They aren’t married. They really have no responsibility to anyone but themselves—and they have the voice of a burned-out 45-year-old with four kids, a resetting mortgage on an upside-down home, two car payments, and a deck of maxed-out credit cards.

Why are these people, barely out of childhood, already so afraid of change and so unable to take any kind of risk?

He argues that it’s because schools and the media push traditional career paths, and therefore kids grow up without entrepreneurial role models.

That may be true, but I doubt it’s the real reason that so many young people feel trapped.

You know why we’re afraid to take risks?

Because we need health insurance. We need to pay off our student loans. We graduated into an incredibly uncertain economy, with a historic amount of debt, and we’re just trying to stay afloat.

It’s hard to take risks when there aren’t enough jobs to go around, and leaving one means you might not be able to get another.

It’s hard to take risks when you’re exhausted from just trying to get by.

I agree that entrepreneurship is a good thing, that it has the potential to create the jobs we so desperately need. I agree that we, as a society, need to encourage new ideas and non-traditional paths.

But I don’t think it’s particularly surprising that so many young people are afraid to leap when we have no safety net.

On life and dreams: a ramble

I aspire to be glamorous like Kat Williams and La Carmina: to wear vintage dresses and get paid to travel the world. To make magazines. To go on adventures with kindred fa(t)shion spirits in party dresses, petticoats, and pink hair.

I aspire to inspire other fat girls and women like Tess Munster. To create badass images of fat beauty. To show them they, too, can be beautiful.

I aspire to walk in the woods, full of wonder, like Mary Oliver. To live by the ocean, to wander the tidal flats, to dive deep into the blue mystery that is life.

I aspire to tell my truths, like Cheryl Strayed. To crack hearts open in the best way. To write with both brutality and kindness.

I am still struggling to integrate these visions, these dreams, the many different ways I see myself. Continue reading