[Thanks to the always charming Nikki for the inspiration]
I’ve made a huge mistake.
Yesterday, some other 24-year-old wrote exactly how I feel in the New York Times. Well, not exactly. He focused more on the international atmosphere in which the current economic recession affects our dear 20-somethings. However, one paragraph stood out:
The cost of youth unemployment is not only financial, but also emotional. Having a job is supposed to be the reward for hours of SAT prep, evenings spent on homework instead of with friends and countless all-nighters writing papers. The millions of young people who cannot get jobs or who take work that does not require a college education are in danger of losing their faith in the future. They are indefinitely postponing the life they wanted and prepared for; all that matters is finding rent money. Even if the job market becomes as robust as it was in 2007 — something economists say could take more than a decade — my generation will have lost years of career-building experience.
For most of our Generation Y lives, we were told that if we studied hard, got a good education, and didn’t do drugs, that we would come out on top. Well, we did those things (except maybe some of the drugs), and so far the brightest minds of our generation are working part time at coffee shops to make ends meet.
Where is the promise of good grades at good schools leading to good jobs? Perhaps it is a flaw of our generation that we think we’ve been promised something. But then again we were. We thought we had struck a deal, like some sort of verbal contract: “stay in school, don’t do drugs, get a good education, and you’ll do great.” After all, that is what we were told in by oh so many afterschool specials or ABC TGIF shows. The dumb jocks may win now, but that’s alright, that’s OK, you’re going to work for us some day.
Except no one is working for you unless you’re managing a Starbucks or paying freelance writers $50 an article to review a restaurant where a meal costs $75 and you don’t reimburse.
More and more, people like David Brooks are telling us that grades don’t matter. And it is just so fucking frustrating. As I said before:
We did RABDARGAB in elementary school, did educational summer camps in middle school, and made national merit finalist in high school. We did practice SAT classes, applied for awards, and did every little thing with the hope that one day it would pay off. If I had known then what I knew now, I wouldn’t have been afraid to drink in high school. Or even more in college.
We were promised our work would pay off. That our education was an investment. Well, now we’re coming to collect and finding the bank empty.
We just want a job. A good, old fashioned 9-5 way to feel like you can contribute to society. We want a way to start a life. But now you have to be an unpaid intern for like a year first, if you even get a job after that.
This situation could possibly be ameliorated by raising the pay and stature of teachers. Top college grads don’t seem to have much of a problem working for less pay at admirable non-profit jobs, so why don’t we try to view teaching the same way. Impressive non-profit positions are competitive and command respect, and have the promise social and vocational benefits in the long run. If we could raise teaching to a similar status, this would both ensure that teachers come from the cream of the crop and reward the hard work of those students.
But who the hell would want to be a teacher? Teaching is denigrated as a lazy job. And new teachers aren’t given support to train them for their positions.
Top notch graduates could prove to be an excellent resource of great teachers, but no one wants to go to a job where you are underpaid, disrespected by students and society, and get little training to even do your job right.
Another potential fix would be to guarantee a minimal degree of health coverage for people in the 20s. The lack of a safety net is a barrier against launching one’s own business or becoming an entrepreneur. The sheer need for some sort of health coverage drives people to get a minimal job that doesn’t put educated talents to use. Simply ensuring some sort of basic level of protection could encourage a new generation of self-made businesspeople.
But rather than focus on the next generation of workers,politicians apparently think that the biggest threats to our nation are Muslims bringing shampoo on planes and the deficit, even though there is no noticeable affect on the bond market. But we can’t raise taxes on the rich back to where they were in the ’90s to make up for that deficit. So instead we have to cut jobs, like teachers or state historians. Not to mention this compounding with the problem of private companies outsourcing and computerization of white collar jobs.
So now we have a generation of overeducated, underpaid, 20-somethings who desperately try to hold onto the fun of our youth because the reality is too depressing to confront. And because we actually have time to waste.
We don’t have jobs, but we have blogs, bands, and computer games. We don’t have the money to start families so we move back in with our parents. We hang out with our friends, and try to hold on to our past, because then at least we can pretend it is acceptable to not have a high paying, respectable job with a future. If we act like we’re still in college, then we don’t wonder why our degrees haven’t fulfilled the unspoken verbal contract of our youth, and can hope that it will get better.
When we’re getting high, we don’t contemplate whether our entire lives up to this point were wasted on fruitless academic endeavors.
But then the media accuses us of being a bunch of manchildren with arrested development. And the only appropriate response is: I’ve made a huge mistake.