September 3, 2010

Kids These Days

There's been press recently - at The New York Times and Slate - about twenty-somethings, and how we can't seem to settle down and get a job or family, and so we keep mooching off our parents and working unpaid internships, and psychologists wonder if this is a new stage in development because our brains are still changing.

I had heard something like these theories (as a high schooler, you hear pretty much every day that your brain is not fully developed, and that's why you can't be trusted to do all manner of things, and there's been talk lately about how many recent college grads live at home as well), but I wasn't sure how I felt reading them laid out in ten pages of sympathetic discussion that nevertheless felt a bit... off.

Granted, I don't turn twenty for another month, so maybe I don't count. But I read an article responding to the Times and Slate articles that really struck a chord with me, so I thought I'd pass it along. Rebekah Monson has a theory about what's up with my generation, and it has much less to do with our brains and much more to do with the current economy and corporate culture. Prepare for a long block quote, I couldn't find a short one that summed up what I related to in it.

We accept that we are numbers on a spreadsheet in the current corporate landscape, but we don’t have to like it. We check off your boxes, and we accomplish the goals you lay out. We play nice. But, if there is no benefit to going the extra mile, then why bother?

That said, we are largely financially conservative. Our debt is daunting. We try to save more, we try to live more sustainably. We do not trust Social Security or that our 401Ks will see us through retirement. ...

We have a lot to be excited about, but less and less of that exists within the current corporate structure. We communicate constantly. We love to collaborate. We are data junkies. Many of us are imbued with entrepreneurial spirit. We strike out. We tinker. We play. None of this is particularly valued in the current corporate environment. But, we value it in ourselves and in each other. We have interesting side projects. (And, we keep them from you so that you won’t fire us.)

I sent this to my friend, and she found it incredibly depressing, but I found it kind of exciting. I mean, it ends with "we are decidedly chasing our own ideals, even when things seem hopeless," which does seem a bit bleak, but also kind of exciting. As the Times article points out, we are a painfully optimistic generation despite having a thousand different reasons not to be. So while I think Rebekah's rather dreary analysis is pretty spot-on, I also have a feeling that this whole twenty-something thing could be fun.


Foxie said...

I'll tell you something I learned about being a twenty-something...

(Prepare for Old Man wisdom! *pauses to light his pipe*)

All throughout my childhood, I was imbued with the idea that by the time I was in my early twenties, I was a grown up. I was ready to leave the world of education, leave the world of teenage self-absorbtion and irresponsibility, and take my place as a responsible and productive member of society. I wasn't going to grow up any more, I was just going to get older.

That's a pile of horse crap. I've done more growing up in the past ten years then I thought was possible in a lifetime. When I was in my early twenties everyone was telling me I knew everything and I believed them. I didn't have a clue. Not about myself, not about the world, not about other people.

Around 27, you enter your First Saturn Return ( It's a time of huge change in your life. It can be the time you stop drifting and start plotting a course. During your twenties, you're playing around, trying things out, working out who you are and how you want to fit into the world. By your First Saturun Return, you've got a few ideas and are ready to put them into practice.

Fitting yourself into the corporate struture in your twenties is putting a rope around your neck and throttling your potential to explore life, engage with the world and find out how you want to make the world a more awesome place.

Fuck the corporate structure. Be a human being and don't feel guilty about it.

Spiffy said...

Yay, Old Man wisdom! Thanks for that. ^_^ I would agree with the "fuck the corporate structure" sentiment, but that seemed to be the ideas the articles were complaining about - what are all us foolish kids doing, not settling down into a good job and a suburban house with 2.5 kids? Which is nonsense. But the worry is there because I'm not sure people have quite worked out what the acceptable alternative is...