Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generations
By Anne Helen Peterson, 2020
Chapter 1: Our Burnt Out Parents
Grandparents and Parents are the very reason we expected more out of our lives and careers. Boomers were unaware of how easy they had it. They lived in a time of unions and a growing middle class.
Read Barbara Ehenrich’s book Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class. She talks about how if you are born poor, you will die poor. Most likely if you are born rich, you will also die rich. It is uniquely the Middle Class who could move either to Upper Class or Lower Class. Obviously, they hope to move up in the world, but there is a very real fear of losing their Middle Class Status and dying Poor.
The GI Bill offered college to people who no longer the Elite or the Rich. Now college could be for the average person. Yuppies label in the 80s was a play on the world Hippie or Yippie from the 60s. In the 80s College was seen as a pragmatic way to make more money. During the 80s and 90s English Majors numbers dropped, but Business Majors more than doubled.
Chapter 2: Growing Mini-Adults
Parents these days over schedule their children. They enroll them in all kinds of sports activities and AP Classes. Helicopter Parenting is the label given to parents who hover over their kids constantly in order to ensure their future success. College became a must in the late 80s and early 90s. Now nearly 70% of High School Graduates go to College. And 90% of Students Graduate High School! Instead of a College Degree, now you need a Graduate Degree to get ahead. It was only the lower income parents who allowed their children more freedom. The kids were “free range” and able to indulge in creativity.
Chapter 3: College At Any Cost
Up until WWII College was only for Upper Class White Males. (Now, it is predominately Females!) Millennials are so focused on succeeding in High School and College, that Social Lives and Relationships are often delayed. They were forced to be perfectionists and the result was largely unhappy young adults. Then, once they graduated, they were disappointed to find that there were no jobs or, at least, no jobs in their chosen fields. And on top of all that, crippling Student Loan Debt!
Chapter 4: Do What You Love and You Will Still Work Every Day For The Rest of Your Life
There is a prevailing myth we hear over and over. We hear, “If it is your passion, it shouldn’t feel like work.” Sadly, fun jobs or creative jobs often don’t pay well or don’t offer benefits. Often the creative jobs offer only low paying entry-level jobs or even unpaid internships.
Miya Tokumitsu is the author of the book “Do What You Love And Other Lies About Success and Happiness.” She talks about how the prevailing attitude is that if you work hard that you will be successful and happy, but that isn’t true at all. This sense of entitlement we learn from society leads us to believe something must be wrong with us if we can’t succeed. It places the blame on the individual and not on society or the fact there may be NO opportunities available.
Chapter 5: How Work Got So Shitty
Once Upon A Time you could get a good paying job and keep it for your whole life, but that isn’t true any more. Employers often rely on Temp Agencies, which don’t offer the benefits of unions or medical insurance. A lot of big corporations use Temp Agencies to do everything from cleaning to book keeping. Why? Because it saves the company money to do so. But Capitalism isn’t Benevolent on its own. Regulation and Unions were needed to keep Companies honest and fair, but then anti-union legislation was passed and deregulation increased. Eventually, there was really very little protection for Employees.
Chapter 6: How Work Stayed So Shitty
So, Generations X and The Millennial entered the work force and were chronically overworked and underpaid. Only the Elite who were rich and went to Ivy League Schools were able to get ahead. The average employee was subject to increased regulation with the advent of computers and cameras. The idea of the open office might seem better than a cramped cubicle, but studies have shown that open areas actually decrease productivity. The climate has changed to a “Gig” economy. That means a single person needs multiple jobs in order to pay bills or just get by,
Chapter 7: What Is A Weekend?
The 90s saw a ton of downsizing and outsourcing labor. In order to save money, companies have laid off large amounts of people. This leaves the employees who are still at work to be overloaded. They have to take up the slack for the lack of staff and often do the work of 2 or 3 people. Workers with jobs get burnt out.
Chapter 8: What Is Free Time?
Free Time Is Exhausting. Even as adults, we are expected to fill our time with activities. We are expected to take Yoga or Pilates and get together with our friends and go to restaurants. We are supposed to be caught up on TV, Podcasts, NPR or the latest Movies. There are a ton of social obligations on top of work, which is already exhausting.
Chapter 9: Exhausted Millennial Parents
There is a reason more and more Millennials have put off getting married, buying a house and having kids. It just isn’t financially feasible. But there are those who have taken the plunge. Now the Millennials have become parents themselves and we are expected to work, stay in shape, keep up social obligations and take care of our kids. Society tells we can have it all, but something always suffers. Either our work suffers or our marriage suffers or our time with our kids suffers or our relationship with friends suffers. There is no way to make everyone happy.