You’re not alone.
While I absolutely do not wish to speak for an entire generation, I will do my best to offer some context. The Millennial Generation – also known as Generation Y – is made up of adults between the ages of 18 and 33. Most of us were born in the eighties and early nineties, and were still in primary school when the September 11th attacks occurred. By the time we had entered the workforce, another disaster was just around the corner – the 2007 financial crisis.
If the Millennials hold any distinction, it is this: we may be the first generation since World War II that will experience a lower standard of living than our parents.
To put it mildly, the numbers are not working in our favor. A 2012 study concluded that over 2.7 million Millennials either lost their jobs or were unsuccessful in finding any work during the past year. For those of us lucky enough to be employed, the mean starting salary for 2012 college grads currently stands at $44,259. Now, that might seem reasonable at a glance, but consider this: the average monthly housing cost in the United States has now climbed to $1,410 per month – that’s $16,920 annually! And with more Americans waiting longer to retire, advancement opportunities and pay raises are hard to come by.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many Millennials have decided not to commit themselves to one trade; as our parents and grandparents did. Forgoing the (questionable) security of a traditional job, millions of young adults have pursued alternative means of supporting themselves. Some have traveled the world working barter positions on farms or in restaurants. Others have pursued self-employment; an occupation made easier by the proliferation of social media. A few have even built their own businesses, overcoming meager financial means by utilizing grassroots tools like crowdfunding to great effect.
In essence, the Millenials are chasing their dreams to the ends of the earth.
Millennials have been criticized for this. Certain voices – mostly Baby-Boomers – have called this lived idealism irresponsible, feckless, naïve, and worse. Our lack of enthusiasm in pursuing old-fashioned jobs is often attributed to a swollen sense of entitlement; the unsubstantiated notion that Millennials believe they deserve trophies “just for showing up” or consider themselves “above” certain lines of work.
These are generalizations that do not reflect the young men and women I have encountered in my life, from the streets of Los Angeles to the frozen north woods of New England. When I look at the Millennials, I see a generation of Americans capable of thinking creatively and committed to building a rich future for themselves, and their children. But when I say “rich”, I refer less to money and more to ideals and ethics. After all, it was an unchecked deficit of both that sent our nation into a recession!
Because the Millennials are still young, most of their contributions to the world have yet to be seen. The road ahead will be punishing and difficult, but I have complete faith that many of us will survive the harsh times in which we live. The stories of Drive All Night are intended to keep that faith burning.