When I was 3 I wanted to be a superhero, at 6 the president, at 15 a photographer and at 22 all I want is financial security. I know the easy arguments come along: yes I could have picked a cheaper college, yes I could have gone to trade school, sure I could have just become a manager at the job I had since I was 14. But I didn’t and I’ve accepted that. I just wish that every member of the generation before me could accept that too.
Do not ask me what I would do if money wasn’t an issue. When I tell you how in debt I will be, or how I just want to get a full-time job, I am not asking for your pity. I don’t go to the Career Center, or my family for pity and fantasies, I go to try and make myself a better possible employee. There are plenty of issues with this mindset, but that’s not the issue at hand.
The older generations, especially those who are fairly well-off or are living without school debt, refuse to accept change and adapt to the society we currently live in. Millennials know the job market is miserable, they know how much college costs and they know that following their dreams comes at the cost of decades of school debt.
The question of “What would I do if money wasn’t an issue?” is insulting coming from the generation that has done nothing to stop the inflated cost of college or the need for a degree to exist in the job market. To be a store manager at Target you need a bachelor’s degree. Working your way to the top from the ground up is not an option open to many students.
Jobs require experience. Experience is gained from internships. Internships require college. College requires money. Even with community college or state schools, both of which are greatly affected by your geographic location, higher education is still a cost that is insurmountable for most lower income families. Telling students to take unpaid internships, to pay for credits over the summer and wasting their time with fantasy questions that will only disappoint them is inexcusable. This isn’t about fixing the situation, most of the people saying these things don’t have the power or care to fix these situations. This isn’t even about pity, no 20-year-old working three jobs during a full school semester wants your pity.
This is about recognizing the reality of the situation most people in my own generation face and adapting to it. We grew up on the American Dream, and we adapted pretty well to its subsequent death. So before asking someone about finances or pushing them to take an opportunity even with the financial strain it will cause, pause and understand the reality of today.
Don’t ask me to pretend that money isn’t an issue, because it is; one that students across the country deal with on a regular basis. In 2014 the Economist reported that student debt had surpassed 1.2 trillion. 75 percent of students graduating from private universities have student debt, this is not a misstep of students, this is a reality of being a 20 something in the United State. Students have grown up believing their future was doomed unless they received a degree. We are shaming students for a problem they did not create.
The solutions to these problems will not be simple, growing up in a society that punishes students for not being frugal enough at 18 will not be enjoyable. It is abundantly clear that this problem will not disappear, and the problems that may or may not cause will show themselves as we move forward. Staring debt in the face will not be easy, but this generation will survive, with or without the help of the generation before it.
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