I’m pretty firmly within Generation X, being born in the late 60s. These days, I see a lot of media doing these smug or judgey ‘think’ pieces about millennials, and I honestly just get furious.
The idea that millennials are ‘lazy’ or ‘immature’ because they sometimes wind up boomeranging back to their parents’ homes or living dorm-style with a group of others in apartments is an idea that completely ignores the reality of American economics. Higher education prices have skyrocketed, and loans and other sorts of financial aid don’t keep up with those costs. Wages have been stagnant for decades. Even the controversial $15 minimum wage is still barely a subsistence salary for someone with student loans looming.
My generation had it easier, and it still wasn’t great then, but the millennials got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. People in my generation mock them for being ‘entitled’ when the idea of ‘free college’ rallied them politically, when truth is, tuition is insane these days, and the days of being able to pay off your loans within the seven-year limit is more a dream than a plan. If you chose to go into a field that requires graduate and post-graduate education, you may be paying off those loans for the rest of your life.
Is it surprising, then, that a 25-year-old who cannot secure a job in their field that pays a living wage would want to see a future where others don’t carry that weight? Is it surprising that when a couple looks at the cost of child care and realizes half their salary or more would go to that alone find themselves having to choose between paying rent and having kids? How can we possibly be surprised that millennials can’t do what we did in the generations before them because we pretty much screwed their futures by allowing this situation to happen? Gen X was known for angry apathy. We let this happen.
At what point do we take our share of the blame for things being as awful as they are? At what point do we look at our enormous SUVs and trucks that guzzle gas and pollute the air, our wastefulness in the name of convenience, our inaction in our adult lives, and own the fact that we helped make this shitshow of a situation?
Whose generation made the idea of the ‘participation trophy’ happen? Yup, that’s us. So… why are we angry when the generation that followed us accepted them, not having known any other way?
Gen X, stop blaming the millennials for being trapped in the world they didn’t make. We helped make it, and we need to either help fix it, or get out of the way so others can do what we didn’t.