Thursday, May 26, 2016

Millennial-X

I'm one of the those individuals who falls somewhere between "Generation x" and "Millennials." I'm old enough to know what it's like to spend an entire summer playing in with neighborhood kids the street but I also used to charge those kids 25 cents a pop to come inside and watch us play Tetris. I'm tehnologically savvy and wired to the gills but so uncool that I thought "on fleek" had something to do with the Navy. Either way, it just seems more relevant to just round up my birth year and lump myself in with the younger, lost generation. 
Recently, Millennials have received an unfair onslaught of criticism from our media and politicians. We have been told that we are lazy, entitled and incompetent. We are expected to simply recover from things that we did not invent, like subprime mortgages, by showing more "gumption." 
I'll use my story as an example. I graduated from LLHS in 2001, took advantage of the lottery scholarship and enrolled at UNM. I earned a BA in English, a first-generation graduate, the American dream.
I landed a job as an editor issuing corporate press releases. I saw myself at the bottom rung of a golden ladder, eager to reach the top. My first summer, in 2007, I spent my days issuing an untold amount of bankruptcy notices, my workload read like a shortlist for government bailouts. I had a birds-eye view of the economic collapse but I focused on staying busy, grateful to be employed. After work I'd read stories of people living in cars and unable to feed their families. I was determined this wouldn't happen to me. I worked harder. My company had a round of lay-offs but I was promoted. I gave 100% of myself to my job and rung by rung I was making it up that ladder.
My life outside of work also blossomed. I got married and had a son. I continued to work as my husband finished up his master's degree at New Mexico Tech. When my husband landed a post graduate job at a hydro-geological firm I made the difficult decision to leave the workforce and to focus on our family. I had another baby and we were the ideal American family, one boy, one girl and a miniature pack of dogs. 
Then, my husband was abruptly laid-off. I've often tried to figure out what was the most humbling moment of that whole experience. Was it sitting across from a stranger at the WIC office tearfully explaining I couldn't afford to feed my babies? Was it the sobbing at my in-laws' dinner table asking for enough money to get through "one more month?" Was it the hours spent in front of a computer trying to get past online application algorithms in hopes that somebody would look at my resume? Was it the my daughter's first Thanksgiving Dinner, when I had to leave early to fold tee-shirts at my minimum wage retail job? Was it the monthly smack in the face when we got our student loan bills which we just couldn't pay?
We couldn't understand why we were working so hard and still had nothing. We didn't want a handout but we had to take anything we could get. We weren't lazy, we were exhausted. Finally, my husband landed a job that kept him on the road 4 nights a week. It wasn't ideal, the hours were long and the pay was low, but it was something. I found job ghostwriting academic papers for pennies a word. Next to nothing, but it still, something. For the first time we have hope, we are dusting ourselves off and starting to climb that ladder again on albeit, shaky legs. This is what we have to do, this is how we move forward.
My experience has shown me that we millennials are not struggling for lack of trying. We are the smartest, most passionate generation in history. Right now we are feeding on the scraps of a bygone era but we will emerge stronger. Tasked with making something out of nothing, we will bring about unprecedented innovation. We will get there, we've got this huge mess to clean up before we can find our bootstraps, but it'll happen. 

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