Analysts and commentators talk about millennials (also generally known as Gen-Y) in hushed tones, as if we’re not in the room and on the web, reading every single thing they postulate about our futures. Well, actually, when The Atlantic ran a piece last week titled “The Unluckiest Generation: What Will Become of Millennials?” I avoided it for a few days because who wants to read a piece calling you the unluckiest generation?

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The article is full of the same depressing numbers I’ve seen every month since I was a senior in college. Sometimes I wonder if non-millennials (note: writer Derek Thompson is presumably in the Gen-Y club) enjoy writing and reading about our young people problems out of a sterile disinterest, as one would gaze upon hyenas fighting over savanna territory in a documentary.

You don’t have to tell us that we’re not doing well. We live out those statistics every day that we sit at home and send out 50 cover letters to positions we never hear back from. The messages we receive from media experts and other adults can be conflicting at best and otherwise downright motivation-sucking. These are the two messages we hear most often:

You’re Screwed

This one’s easy — it’s everywhere! Our student debt is bloated and growing, and that pesky wage gap will follow us until the end of our days because our salaries simply start lower. Plus, while the rich get richer and the rest of us get nowhere.

No wonder we don’t want to grow up. I couldn’t if I tried!

You’re Special, But Not Really

As befitting of the older generation, some folks chastise millennials for being “entitled.” Apparently we’ve been “coddled by parents,” according to HR executives who deplore our job-interviewing skills. How is it our fault that our parents thought we each needed to be treated like special butterflies?

Are we considered entitled to believe what we’ve been taught our whole lives, that we’d be able to make a decent-to-wealthy living for ourselves if we worked hard enough and maybe graduated from college? Make fun of liberal arts majors all you want, but some of my friends who graduated from one of the best engineering schools in the country still couldn’t find work two years post-college.

“Do millennials really count as the unluckiest generation since World War II?” Thompson muses. I almost laughed out loud at the compensatory paragraph toward the end of the article:

For one thing, they’re living in an age of affordable abundance. Food has never been cheaper as a share of the typical American family budget. The price of apparel is also falling relative to wages. The Internet … has also made mass entertainment cheaper, especially music and amateur videos.

Indeed, I should feel lucky eating $1 corn-syrup-covered processed corn — also known as every cheap food ever — while wearing my $2 T-shirt made by wage slaves in the developing world and watching videos of cats trying to drink water in my parent’s basement (just kidding, I do all this in my childhood bedroom because I never truly moved out!). This is why I went to college, right?

To answer his question, I would say yes, sure. I’ve accepted our collective misfortune. As for what’s to become of us, it’s pretty much a cliché at this point to end on a hopeful note, so I won’t. Things are bad, but they might be getting better slowly — in the meantime, all this negative reinforcement is just demoralizing.

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  • jrwells5

    Great article Laura. The folks who see the shortcomings of the Millenial Generation as unrelated to economic and social problems caused by members of preceding generations and their elected and appointed government officials, are same folks who treat the Financial Crisis as unrelated to a banking industry that was allowed to prey upon the American public for several decades with the support of federal regulators.