Ah, Generation-Y. There’s no doubt that we’re unlike any generation before us.
We go out to dinner and end up skimming Instagram instead of talking to our dates. We take selfies. We don’t do what we’re told. Though these are trademarks of our generation, a noticeable dissatisfaction with our professional lives is also a trademark of our generation.
We’re unique because the world we made for ourselves is more technologically-driven than ever before. This means we’re also smarter, faster, more innovative and potentially even more motivated than our predecessors because competition has risen.
But, living in a world with more opportunities also means being flooded with too many choices. Because of our new senses of self-awareness thanks to things like the Internet, the idea of the “American Dream” has transitioned into meaning not only finding financial security, but also inner gratification.
Fifty years ago, our parents had to choose from a number of career options they could count on their fingers — doctor, engineer, plumber, railroad worker — solely in the name of supporting a family.
Now, in this not-so-great economy, some of the best and the brightest are conflicted with having to choose between careers they’re passionate about that have little payout and careers that drain their souls, but easily help them lock down apartments with $1500 rents.
So, why are handfuls of crazily-driven people suffering the most?
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity says that space and time are dependent on each other, rather than being absolute concepts. If this holds true, then our definition of “success” should change in accordance with the evolution of time and technological advancements.
“Success” is defined as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” But, these days, it seems impossible to get and maintain any of the above. Years ago, 20-somethings would go to college, get degrees and find employment.
Now, it’s not so simple because our generation is so knowledgeable that some refuse to hold out for any job that results in less satisfaction from the passion they studied. And, it makes sense.
If universities are now capable of offering classes as obscure as “How Beyoncé Changed Feminism,” then shouldn’t there be a job market for those who paid to take that class, and others like it?
Years ago, hard work used to pay off in the form of concrete goals. Today, hard work still pays off, but these tangible goals require several times the effort, and even then, we are not guaranteed the traditional definitions of success.
Just because the system is struggling doesn’t mean those who follow it should have to shift their goals to fit it; instead, we should redefine “success” as the possession of undying willpower.
Let’s consider Allie. Allie is a college graduate who majored in communications and culture at NYU. She has always been an overachiever; she held down a bunch of internships, got some of her articles published and networked her butt off.
She graduated more than two years ago, but the only job she could find in her field was a part-time hostess job in her hometown of Rochester, New York.
She’s 24, lives with her parents in the town in which she grew up (not fun) and she’s stuck; she can’t leave because the radio doesn’t pay her enough to stand on her own two feet, so she considers working in her spare time as a waitress in order to live on her own.
But, after she takes that job on, too, she goes home every night and cries herself to sleep because she feels like a failure. She asks herself how the hell she ended up a blue-collar worker after spending over $50,000 a year on an education that told her she would land flat on her feet.
She then proceeds to create her own website on culture and fashion; she figures that if she can’t get hired full-time, she might as well be her own boss. But, she doesn’t have the funds to materialize her business. Every penny she makes is spent on rent and food, and nothing is saved up.
So, Allie has no choice but to change her career path entirely. The end result? Incredible dissatisfaction. The highly motivated, unbelievably intelligent and never-lackluster Allie is left with a marketing job she could have taken years ago — one that leaves her little room for editorial creativity.
She’ll never be the same because she’s compromised her passion for what society believes to be a true measure of her abilities: money and “success.” But, this was the only way to survive. We have to redefine success.
The “we” in the preceding sentence doesn’t only refer to the system and society, but to ourselves, as well.
Two girls went to college for journalism, both worked equally as hard and both are equally as skilled. But, is the girl who has written articles published by a magazine more successful than the unemployed girl with her own blog? Or, is Girl A just luckier?
Generation-Y tends to get down on itself because it’s incredibly talented, but there are too few spots and many talents that end up wasted. If we could, we’d be our own bosses. We’d create our own startups with the money we grew on trees in our backyards. We’d be rock stars. But, we’re limited.
And, we must stop taking it out on ourselves. We want it all, and rightfully so; we have access to more than tenfold of what our parents did. So, naturally, the more exposed we are to greatness, the more of it we want.
A lack of focus on one specific topic or trying to do a million things at once doesn’t decrease our value as human beings. In fact, it does just the opposite: It makes us wildly ambitious. It makes us admirable.
We’re not failures; we’re successful because we continue to try, despite the obstacles. And, if we can triumph in even the smallest of ways in the face of economic or financial roadblocks, we’ve succeeded.
It’s the technological revolution that’s made us, perhaps, too smart for our own good. Blame your stagnancy on the robots.
My advice? Go to your nine-to-five. But, when you get home, work on achieving your real dream. Don’t you dare lose sight of it. Nurse it on weekends, not just weeknights. Instead of chasing men and shots of vodka, chase your passion.
Our parents’ generation and ours may not have a ton in common. But, there is one philosophy that will never change no matter what year or person or fiscal situation it’s applied to: Work insanely hard, and success will find you.