According to The Huffington Post, Gen-Y Is Sad…But Are We?

And to think, all this time I thought we were perfect.


Oh, sure. We’re pretty fond of each other, but the truth is you all are our favorite contributors to The Man Repeller. Really! We’ve formalized that fact with “Let’s Talk About It.” This weekly column is a forum for conversation, communication, and complete distraction from the jobs you’re supposed to be doing right now. So get involved. We promise we won’t tell your bosses.

This week, the Huffington Post shared a little secret with its mass of twenty-something-year-old readers. And spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty.

In a piece self-explanatorily titled, “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy,” the brains behind attempted to pinpoint why exactly my solipsistic peers and I seem to find our present lives so existentially dissatisfying.

The conclusion? After walking us—and a slew of illustrative stick figures—through a bit of socioeconomic history, the article blames what it diagnoses as my generation’s vague despondency on a combination of “wild” ambition, utter delusion, and our, yawn, overactive Twitter feeds. To sum it up in 140 characters: we suffer from professional, personal, and nothing-short-of metaphysical disappointment because we all secretly believe we’re Lena Dunham but only one of us actually is.

As we are ourselves tend to do, the author blames our parents for this sorry condition. You see, Mom and Popsicle mistakenly taught us that we could be whatever we wanted to be. Astronauts! Backup dancers! Scowling, Céline-toting deejays! The world, they claimed, was our oyster. And what’s more? They also effectively communicated that each of us is somehow uniquely, cosmically, fabulously special.

“Everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling careers,” we have been thus encouraged to tell ourselves. “But I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.” In other words, according to HuffPo, mere personal gratification is not enough. We crave distinction and recognition. We feel we’ve fallen behind even when we’re exactly where we should be. We don’t have five-year plans. We have—to invoke Andy Warhol—fifteen-minute ones.

As you probably know, The Huffington Post is hardly the first publication to doom you and me for our grave misapprehensions. The New York Post wonders whether we are, in fact, “the worst generation.” (See? I told you we were special!) Forbes wants to know if we are “unemployed—or just lazy”. And CNN suspects we may be too demanding at work.

And here’s the real heresy. Although I hate to admit it, some small part of me agrees with the critics. My generation may be spirited and ferocious. We may be enterprising and brilliant and able to count the inventor of Uber as one of our own, but for all of our ingenuity and fire, I worry about us. I worry that we lack our grandparents’ capacity for austerity or our parents’ passion for civic reform. I worry that we don’t know how to actualize our vision for the world or even how to vote for someone who does. Newsflash: I know that we can’t all be Lena Dunham.

But the question, then, is how are we meant to become our best selves? Should we deactivate our Facebook pages? Pursue PhDs and doctorates and more meaningful relationships? More tantalizingly, should we dismiss our detractors? Are they just jealous of our youthful good looks and sunny dispositions? Do they too wish they had the courage to become scowling, Céline-toting deejays? Is there, perhaps, nothing wrong with us after all?

And, on an unrelated note, do we even want to get into the fact that the aforementioned article’s archetypally insufferable twenty something is depicted as a ponytailed girl named Lucy? Duh. I think we do.

So, let’s talk about it.

P.S. Did you read something you’re just itching to share with the class? Send it my way via Twitter. (That’s @mattiekahn, to you.)

Huffington Post article can be found here. Illustrated graph courtesy of Wait But Why.  

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  • CarolinaG

    Love your blog!!!!!
    I’m posting looks from L.A. and accessories:

  • Maggie Clancy

    I thought this was interesting and a bit of a wake up call in ways. I would describe myself as ambitious and wanting to be recognized, but you gotta work. This is something I know and have to tell myself every day, as silly as it may sound. A lot of people I know who want to be writers or artists or something grand and wonderful just kind of think they have plenty of time and after all the partying in five years they can just sit down, write a script, and become a success.

    I think there are definitely people like the ones described in the HuffPost article. I like to think that there are more of us, however, that have the ambition but the realistic drive and dedication to back it up.

  • Amatoria Clothing

    There’s nothing wrong with believing you can achieve your goals. The problem is when they are delusional. You can’t be a famous artist, if you are not at least a bit artistic. I could never b any type of athlete because I couldn’t hit a beach ball with a tennis racket if it was thrown at me by a 5 year old girl.

    I think some people our age are used to having everything handed to them their whole life. We are entitled. We think we deserve promotions just because and should be able to afford a BMW by age 25.

    A few of us may be talented and hard-working enough to make that a reality. But that’s the catch. Paychecks are by like your weekly allowance. You gotta work for that shit.

    • Guest


  • Eujenia Renfroe

    *Sigh* Is the preferred alternative cheerfully embracing indentured servitude?

  • Samantha Baehr

    Honestly, I read the HuffPo piece and it struck a chord. They were basically talking about me, haha. I am a recent graduate and I feel like all of those things are true about me.

    Although… many of my friends are not in the same place at all. A lot of them are happy with where they are and aren’t ready to dive into a *glamorous* career and are content with min. wage and staying in our college town. Uh, who knows. I have an existential crisis weekly.

    • Amatoria Clothing

      I went through an existential crisis when I turned 25. It was the age my mom had me, so I always thought that would be the age where I would have my shit together, and be ready to start a family. Once 25 came, I realized I was not even ready for marriage, let alone babies. And my career… may have satisfied the average person, but I was not happy.
      This actually was the reason why I went back to school for my masters. I felt as though I should be accomplishing something while figuring out what to do with my life. I think that is what your early/mid twenties are for. I think it’s a good thing to not want to settle. You should always be growing as a person.

      • Samantha Baehr


        That is exactly what I need to hear. Thank you for sharing your story : )

      • Julie

        I needed to hear this too – 25 and going through a similar crisis. I don’t really know what I want to do the rest of my life, am having trouble finding a job, and trying to decide whether to go back to school. I haven’t really had much of a career at all, mostly because of the economy, and that is really frustrating to me.

        • jen

          OK. I don’t usually reply to this stuff but I will relay my experience and thoughts – you can ignore or not, your choice. I will disclose up front I am 43. But when I was 25, I didn’t know what I wanted to do either. Thing is, it didn’t bother me. What I DID know I wanted was independence. I did not want to live at home or accept any kind of financial support from anyone. What I cared about was working asap so I could get myself into an apartment and live on my own. So I started temping with a local temp agency for a local company. I did data entry. I didn’t care – I was making money! After about 6 months, they offered me a full-time position. The work wasn’t anything awesome, but I liked the company and my co-workers. I worked hard and did a good job. Within a year, I got promoted to another position, and another, etc. I worked my way up. Each job was something new and each job paid better. I worked hard and did good work, and it paid off. The satisfaction I get from my job is knowing I work hard and do a good job. But beyond that, my personal happiness stems from my friendships and family that exist outside the workplace. As long as I feel like I’m doing my best work, and I like my co-workers, I don’t need my job to be more – that is what my personal life is for. Work is a means to an end and enables me to have my life OUTSIDE of work. Good luck ladies!

  • MissKhalila

    I’m glad you brought this up. I read this article a couple days ago and was torn between feelings of appreciation for the socio-historical explanation supporting the argument and defiance and pride for my generation. Firstly, I think the issue you bring up at the end is the most problematic. Who are we actually talking about in this article? It’s way too over-generalized. As someone who has experienced several walks of life and moved around the world quite a bit within my short 23 years on Earth, I can see how there may be a little bit of Lucy in everyone, but we are definitely not a generation of Lucys.

    While the article makes a great point about the impact of shifts in society and upbringing on our goals and expectations, I think there is something beautiful about the way society naturally shifted toward making conscious efforts to teach its youth to believe in themselves. There is hardly any mention of alternatively significant societal shifts, such as the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist movement, LGBTQ, … the list goes on. As much as trends in the market have to do with these ideological changes, I think diversifying access to education and success have a lot to do with this article as well. I guess that’s where I see the beauty in it. It just hasn’t been balanced with a complementary cultural ideology of hard work and worthiness. Media, technology, and culture have done a detrimentally great job of teaching us to be proud of the individuality and freedom that generations prior had not been granted, to the extent that we’ve forgotten the hard work and resolve that went into the opportunities that we are so casually provided with and “entitled to” today.

    • Amatoria Clothing

      Well said. I hate to go back to “blaming the parents”, but I feel that some of the baby boomers over-compensated for their hardships. It’s easy to want to give your children everything, to make up for the fact that you didn’t have all those things growing up.
      My mom would always tell me how her mom didn’t even have money to buy her school uniform, so she had to make her one. She didn’t know how the other girls would keep theirs so clean, but later realized it was because they had multiple uniforms.
      I am sure my mom wanted me to have everything in the world (and I was very spoiled in many ways), but she still taught me that money doesn’t grow on trees. I am glad to see these values in you. When I interview for various positions, I rarely come across someone your age who is so well spoken and mature.

  • Aubrey Green

    I agree to a certain extent and I will be honest, I am 30, not 20something and there was a time in my life not that long ago when I had gotten laid off from my job (that I LOVED) – so I took internships in hopes to get hired, for the experience, these internships were non-paid I might add. ALL of the other girls/guys working at these said internships, were either still in college, or had just graduated and of the age of 21-23, ALL of them were freaking out about getting a job and the fact that they were working for FREE and that they should be treated differently than they were, getting promoted, or hired in the first place – which, lets be honest the employees, or your direct boss sometimes don’t treat you the best, but I wanted to give these girls a wake-up call, not because they dared dream of their perfect job, or think that they deserve to get hired, because they do and they should dream big, but there is such a thing as patience, hard work, and not everything in life is just handed to you.

    I think for anyone to say, you can’t do this, someone tried that it can’t be done, why waste your time, more often than not, they are reflecting their own insecurities, or the fact that there was a point in time they wanted something and didn’t go for it – I don’t think anyone should let someone else determine what, how, when they get to where they want to be. Of course as someone mentioned, you can’t be delusional and I do think it is wise to have a back-up plan (preferably in the form of a College Degree), not because you can’t do what you want, but for unforeseen misfortunes, or delays…

  • Bria

    I almost didn’t read the HuffPo article because I’m sick of the whole ‘Millenials are lazy and entitled’ rhetoric, but this article hit me like a ton of bricks. I see too much of myself in Lucy and I haven’t even finished college yet.

    Btw, I damn near spit out my water when I read ‘Celine-toting deejays.’

  • Funny thing is, when reading that HP article I thought of you of the Men Repelling kind here and that is why I read it with some reserve. I mean: I don’t really know that many people of your generation, at least not in real life, but I do know I like to come here because even as a non-fashionista I get excited over the content, the amount of wit, intellect, willingness to put real effort into things … and I am 40 and thus of generation X (is that right?).

    Also, I still remember blown-up expectations and self-indulgence minus serious effort constituted a widespread mindset when I was young, too. I even have a proof for that: I was too often forced to defend my ways (glasses, books, good school results, hardly any boyfriends and later on, not of the marrigeable type 🙂

    I do wish I had more of that spontaneous self-confidence and ease your generation is supposed to have, especially around all things electronic and concerning communication, but only because that makes life easier, not because I think those are absolutely important.

    But: there is one thing I don’t understand (= comprehend emotionally, even though I have read much about it) about you, Y-sians: I’d never really suffer just because I am not beautiful, thin or witty enough. As it turns out, it is quite enough not to stand out, have some handles your hubby can hold on to and as for wit … there’s always that Douche Girl Jar whenever the need to be clever occurs, so.

  • Nura

    I guess the most important thing to take from the article is that everyone who reads it is going to stop and reflect on themselves and this can’t be a terrible thing. I read it a few days ago and had quite the AHA moment. I’m also a recent university graduate who’s back living at home with the parentals because Toronto rent is a joke and breaking into my field is incredibly difficult. It’s more than dissuasive to read over a job posting and see how many hundred other views its already had. But c’est la vie. I’m slipping into a depression and throwing a huge pity party every day until i remember that life isn’t going to hand me opportunities! Like Lucy, I can’t expect that perfect job to fall into my lap. I’m obviously not as skilled as the applicants who beat me to that great position so maybe I need to beef up resume, study a new language, find another internship and reach out to friends and family. I’m the eldest child of refugees; what the hell do I have to complain about?? We’re the most educated generation that’s ever existed, but during such trying times, that isn’t going to mean jobs, roses and unicorns for all. It means we have to get creative and forge new paths to what we want and it’s not going to happen overnight; those who want it the most and don’t quit are going to be the successful ones.

    • Mattie Kahn

      So true. As evidenced by this here meditation on the subject, I clearly thought long and hard about “Lucy’s Lesson,” and I think you’re absolutely right.

    • tunie

      Seconding the ‘so true’…We may be the most educated generation ever, but we also have the most competitive playing field ever. Never more people on the planet at any other time than this one, and while that may have always been true – we’ve always had traditional resources available to fill the demand. But with comfortable, traditional resources evaporating daily, we must literally become the re-creators of new sustainability, just like the old industrialists were in their time. The top, middle and bottom are still there, they are all just infinitely more enormous, and on a global scale. (Western middle class is actually rich, they just don’t appreciate that until they travel).

  • becky murphy

    Maybe our generation is a bunch of experts at delusion, but I happen to think delusion is imperative to success. We have to secretly believe we could roll on set with Lena or get a literary agent right after college. Of course, the “problem” is that we actually have to work for it. Womp womp. Instagramming artistic photos of our creative smoothie concoctions is so much more fun though! Maybe I’ll work on that dream after I write a clever caption and decide if it’s good enough to also post to Twitter.

    I don’t know the exact ratio or anything, but I ASSUME every generation has ball busters and burnouts. We don’t hear about the latter because they didn’t make an impact. They were there in 1950 polishing their Red Ryder bb guns instead of actually shooting them, and they’re here now, reposting photos on Tumblr instead of actually shooting them.

    Pros: we have the capacity to multitask and move FAST. More resources than ever before.
    Cons: We’re entitlement champs. Information overload.

    Conclusion: let’s be delusional but shut up until we “get there”. Let’s give our dreams a little push with a little work and let’s take gratitude seriously. We can be content starting today.

  • Stacey Freeman

    Funny, I didn’t know people were using the term ‘Y’ anymore. I thought it was replaced by Millennials. According to Wikipedia, they are one in the same. That’s besides the point. I do think our generation (and I’m on the cusp of X and Y) has a bit of the ‘everyone should get a trophy even if we didn’t win’ and ‘we are all uniquely special and can do whatever we want’. A lot of girls I know believe 100% in the Disney fairytale, and they are single to prove it (did you see that article on Brooklyn women being picky daters?). I’ve personally had a lot of issues with my 50-60 something female bosses because they don’t give me enough praise and don’t like my definition of work-life balance (I’m paid for 40 hours people!). So yeah, I think there is some truth to their article, but I also think people in our generation bring a lot to the table. These high self-esteems help us to go after the unrealistic and find creative ways to get what we want. 🙂

  • Rachel

    I loved this article because I feel less alone to the fact that…I may be academically experienced, but I in no way have any work experience needed for any job (according to everyone one I’ve ever interviewed with this past year). I am in my mid 20s and taking on an internship because NO ONE Will HIRE ME! I am not lazy, I’ve earned a Master’s Degree, I am not entitled, and I will be more than happy to be successful at anything and start from the bottom up. The problem with our generation is that articles like this make older generations actually believe us to be those things. What ever happened to giving someone a shot? It’s easy for previous generations who’ve have had endless employment opportunities to call us out.

    • Tatiana Popovitchenko

      I don’t think “endless employment” is a real thing. Ever.

    • tunie

      The situation you find yourself in is what drove me to start my own business – and to hire other women with the understanding that I would be searching and nurturing whatever innate talent they brought, or even knew they possessed in order to make sure my business made us both a living. I hire based upon serendipity, trust, vibe and a demonstrated work ethic. I fire and replace if necessary without the least concern, though I will help them find something else when possible. Just start your own thing – doing ANYTHING.

  • Kate

    The narrative here–in both the article and the response–is carelessly generalized. As if this characterizes the majority of young people in America. As if the only demographic that matters is what age bracket you fall in. Which is empirically, extremely false. Plenty of us didn’t grow up with parents coddling us, don’t think of ourselves as brilliant, and are working hard at jobs that don’t come close to being tantalizing but that we’re grateful to have. Plenty of young people would be lucky to just be able to imagine themselves as existing in a zone of stability.

    And even in uber-privileged elite circles this is just gross generalization. Large numbers of us are going to finish grueling PhDs before 30 and move onto professorships and policy positions. We’ve nursed friends and family through illness and death; have to help our parents figure out how to navigate the changing economy; and are serious about understanding and trying to make better our social, cultural, legal, economic, and political systems.

  • Fernanda Vetromille

    I’m from Brazil, and here this post is becoming really famous! I saw myself in that essay, and many friends of mine also did. And now I see it’s a worldwide problem! (I feel very mean ’cause I can’t help to feel a bit relieved to see that I’m not the only 25 who finds herself in this storm – not to mention the other s-word!)

    Anyway, I do believe that one of the problems is that we were born in a world that has been changing drastically, in a way and speed never tasted before, and we feel guilty not to seize this opportunity and do something different and innovative! I feel I have the duty to do something great, the problem is to discover what and how….!!!!

    Here in Brazil a poem written by a journalist was a huge success, and it says: “Não se sinta culpado por não saber o que fazer da vida / As pessoas mais interessantes que eu conheço não sabiam / Aos 22, o que queriam fazer da vida / Alguns dos quarentões mais interessantes que conheço ainda não sabem.”

    In a free translation: “Don’t feel guilty for not knowing what to do with your life / The most interesting people I know did’nt know / At 22 what they wanted to do / Some of the most interesting “forties” I know still don’t know.”

    As a big fan of yours, I have just read you book (my boyfriend presented me with this cute surprise so that I could get my copy as fast as possible), and I guess that one thing your mom told about man, perfectly applies in our gen-Y situation:

    “we’ll just know at the very pit of our existance” when we’re doing it right!

    Beijos, Fernanda.

    • Jellylorum

      The “poem” you refer to is actually a line from a 1997 article published in the Chicago Tribune with the title “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”. It was later put to music by Baz Luhrmann as “Everybody is Free to Wear Sunscreen”.

      However, it is pretty fantastic:

      • Fernanda

        Hey, Jellylorum!!! Thank you very much for correcting me!!! I kind of knew it wasn’t his authorship, but I really didn’t know the origin of the poem! Really nice to learn – fashion is also culture! Anyway, as that comment became longer than I wanted to, I put it in a very simple way, which now I see it wasn’t right because the text is so nice, that the real author must be receive his honours!!! 😉

        Beijo, Fernanda!!

  • Roze P
  • brideshead

    The problem that the HP article hints toward, but doesn’t quite ever get around to articulating, is that the formula for success that worked so well for the baby boomer generation (i.e., go to college, and all will be well), isn’t panning out so great for some of us born in the 80s (give or take). It’s not JUST that this generation has been coddled, it’s that an implied cultural promise hasn’t quite gone according to plan. For the boomers, a BA was a pretty sure ticket to a stable, middle class life. Perhaps more, if you were especially lucky or hard-working. And maybe that’s still true if your degree’s in Engineering or something. But it’s a lot less true than it used to be.

    I don’t know about you guys, but as someone who was a bit of a Lisa Simpson /Hermione from Harry Potter as a kid, I don’t even remember middle school or high school in the heady days of the 1990s being all that footloose and fancy free, or ever feeling like my golden future was just out there waiting for me. I mostly remember freaking out over the zillions of standardized tests, AP exams, SATs and hours of homework… even when my 8th grade report card didn’t qualify for 9th grade honors English. (I now have a PhD in English, so screw you, 8th grade English teacher.) I’ve got a 12 year old nephew, and from what he tells me about his workload/extracurriculars it sounds like it’s even worse now, all that pressure and competition at such a young age.

    Also, I think there’s a gender component to this collective Generation Y malaise that the article fails to consider (even though it’s implied by the character Lucy), namely that this sense that “I did what I was supposed to do, WTF universe” affects women with college and graduate degrees currently in their late twenties / early thirties particularly badly.

    Hear me out. I’ve only realized lately that I was never encouraged to think of myself as, potentially, a sole breadwinner. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. While I know (end envy the nicer wardrobes) of plenty of female lawyers and consultants and engineers, it strikes me that women are less often dissuaded from “following their dreams” in favor of studying something practical in college. I don’t mean to imply something insidious about it, it just never occurred to my parents, and frankly never really occurred to me until recently. (Probably after yet another a-hole I went to high school with posted some wedding/baby/engagement pics.) I never wanted, or indeed, expected to be Bentley convertible / purse-dog rich. I did expect to be able to stay in the middle class, because I worked hard and went to the Brand-Name universities and did competitive internships and all that crap. So much for that!

    Would I encourage my own hypothetical children to be a bit more practically minded than I was? Hell yes! But I think our parents’ generation couldn’t have envisioned the economic shitshow we’ve emerged into. I think many of them just wanted to encourage their daughters and sons to have the comforts that they had without the concessions they had to make. It was a nice idea, anyway.

    • Tatiana Popovitchenko

      I’m confused- you don’t think girls can dream of being lawyers or engineers? Also how could it not occur to you to study something “practical” in college? ALSO that you don’t think an English degree is practical and went on to get a PhD in it truly scares me. If you have a PhD then you most likely received some striped or were at some point paid as a TA to do what you love- or at least something very nearly related to what you love . And this is all based on the passion v. Practicality picture you draw- as if they are diametrically opposed entities.

      • brideshead

        I don’t think English is impractical, my beef is more with the disappointed promises of higher education in general. There used to be a far more stable correlation between university education and a middle class standard of living than there is now.

        I also didn’t mean to imply that women exclusively gravitate toward “soft subjects.” But I do think that women are at greater liberty to choose “fulfilling” careers over lucrative ones, and a significant number of them do, even if said lucrative jobs would also interest and challenge them. There are more women going to college and grad school today than men, and women are far more likely to pursue careers in low-paying sectors: arts and humanities, social work, public health, education, non-profits, NGOs, etc. These are the fields in which the few new jobs created in the last five years tend, overwhelmingly, to be part-time or unpaid.

        The HP article pisses me off, personally, because I don’t think it’s all that bratty or entitled to want to live in a society that values the contributions of people other than software engineers, management consultants, and hedge fund managers. I’m not saying that these jobs aren’t important or fulfilling or necessary, they’re obviously all of these things to many people. Still, wanting to be a human rights lawyer, a museum curator, or a schoolteacher shouldn’t mean that you’ve taken an ascetic vow to renounce all worldly possessions, or that you don’t have a right to complain when the promising opportunities you were raised to believe in fail to materialize.

        Also, since you asked, Tatiana, TA’s do get paid, but not all that much, because it’s just for the time actually teaching (i.e., a couple hours a week), and not for the 6-8 hours of prep that a typical lecture would involve. Which would be like an office job that pays you only for meetings and presentations, but nothing you do at your desk. This is also how it tends to work for adjuncts, which (according to NPR), currently make up 75% (!!!!!) of the teaching staff of US universities.

    • coffeetoo

      Woah girl, you hit the nail on the head! I feel you on every.single.line: 8th grade, honors English, AP tests, brand-name schools, working hard at internships – all for some economic downturns and disappointments that our parents’ generation could not foretell.

      You are SO RIGHT on all of this and how the expectations that our parents’ generation grew up with are not at all in line with the ones we had/have on us.

      • brideshead

        Thanks dude, glad to hear I’m not hopelessly lost up my own butt here! 🙂

  • Alex Fagan

    You basically just summarized the article…? Also this is not what Huffington Post thinks, it’s what the author thinks who decided to post it to the blog.

    Here’s my response (not just summary) to the piece, also on Huffington Post.

    I’m basically agreeing with the original author but saying that there is more to the story. There is more to why we are so depressed and it’s not just because of heightened expectations. It’s thanks to the age we’re growing up in. Have a read. THEN we can talk about it.

  • I’m in the throes of lots of homework right now so I don’t really have time to add anything, BUT Mattie I just wanted to tell you that you are a most wonderful writer. All of your sentences just slide from one to the next so seamlessly. You can delve into any topic you present to us on here in a way that leaves me really envious, but mostly thankful that I get to read your work.
    Happy Thursday from a fangirl! X

    • Leandra Medine

      We miss you, Hager. Finish that homework and come on back.

      • I miss you guys so much! Hopefully this week will ease up on the workload so I can do FAR more important things like finish your book and comment on Mattie’s essays.

    • Mattie Kahn

      This is so nice. Seconding LM below! Thank you!

  • Bridgitte

    I have to admit, I’m shocked at most of the feedback from this article. As a youth, I’m both angry and confused about why my generation gets such a bad rep. Most fucked up things out there have not been decisions made by us, but rather by our parents’ generation and we still get the blame. Is it so bad to want a decent lives for ourselves? Is it so bad to want a job that at minimum, pays the bills while also providing us with at least some sense of a decent social and family life?

    Are these not acceptable things to yearn for? Is it overambitious to think for one second that it is unacceptable to be working an internship that provides us with absolutely no income? Is it so terrible that we are educated and want a better world? After all, with the status that the baby boomer generation is leaving us in, we’re going to need all that hope.

    Sure maybe we complain, but look at what the generation before us has left us with. No economy, a trillion dollar war debt, continued social and racial injustice, a system that requires us to take out multiple loans just to pay for a decent post secondary education…

    On top of it all, we’re instilled with this concept of being coddled children who don’t know hardship “like our parents do” and don’t have any hope for future progress. So yes, excuse us for thinking that life is a little disappointing some times.

    • Mattie Kahn

      On the one hand, I agree with you, and I appreciate every argument against unpaid internships and, frankly, menial labor. On the other hand, the piece made me look at my own life and experiences and appreciate the fact that, as a twenty-one-year-old wannabe writer, I have a long professional road ahead of me. It’s humbling, I think, to realize how talented our generation is and how much so many of us stand to contribute to the cultural landscape. The more I puzzle over it, the more I think the piece is advocating for a little perspective. If I’m being honest with myself, I know there are times I need it.

      • coffeetoo

        “as a twenty-one-year-old wannabe writer, I have a long professional road ahead of me”

        I totally agree! and I think this is one perspective that doesn’t get mentioned a lot. As a late-20’s professional, I don’t expect to be manager or executive next year. I rather enjoy being in a position where I have a lot of responsibility while working under people I look up to and I am thankful that there is a “long, professional road ahead of me” for learning.

        There’s so much talk/mud-slinging about our generations’ high expectations and wanting everything handed to us, but I don’t think that’s the case at large. Some of us are enjoying “the process” and being in the trenches, picking up new skills, trying new fields, and having that long, road ahead.

  • jrdoog

    Self awareness is everything.

  • Everythingisnormal

    I don’t even think the direction the HuffPo article takes re: Gen Y Unhappiness is all that compelling. If anything, the standard which my parents monetary success has set for me seems pretty fucking unattainable at this point.

    I’m still in university. When I look around, the depression and anxiety that plagues my peers and I has little to do with overreaching ambitions that we simply must have realized, no matter how prematurely.

    In my opinion, the reality is more like this: Gen Y saw the wealth of the United States plummet, we witnessed the nation enter into two protracted wars overseas, we have no sense of civic duty because our sense of hopelessness dominates us, we’ve had a shit economy for 5 years, Occupy failed two years ago…

    I would say that Gen Y might be unhappy because our births coincided with a string of negative events. I don’t know about you guys, but I think the last time “Optimism” had any meaning on a national scale was during the Clinton administration–and I was 6 years old.

    I think we recognize our priveledge and nonetheless feel pretty nihilistic. I think the “special” job we want is the one that is socially meaningful, and not complicit with a system I *think* a lot of us have grown to resent.

    I for one am optimistic about our hopelessness. Browsing through Tibor Kalman’s “Perverse Optimist” (omg I just understood the meaning of this title), I found this quote and it struck me: “Future generations not burdened by the egotism of having created wealth will be able to create a righteous society, live in harmony with nature and germinate culture from the few grains not yet destroyed.”

    Cheers to our fucking pessimissim, with luck we’ll move mountains with it.

  • And that unicorn with its technicolor yawn … quite subversive, one should think.

    So generation Y is barfing rainbows, is it? 🙂
    Is it because you’re so full of yourself or because you are expected to pretend life’s rosy, since so much more has been invested in you?

    (It’s not just US, young people nowadays really do have to work hard to get one of the coveted unpaid internships to qualify for real work, or a permanent work contract and other things older generations might have achieved without blinking. At least that’s true about Germany, too. I was surprised when I first read about young people still staying at Hotel Mum, but if you get no opportunity to earn enough to move away, what can you do (Spain, Italy …)?

  • A surprisingly thoughtful piece. This reminds me of Meg Jay’s book on the defining decade of our 20s.

  • Maura

    Hmmm, the article gives a believable narrative for why Gen Ys could be depressed, but is that a true assessment of who you are? As a member of Gen X, I’m amazed at how much Gen Ys have accomplished at a very young age and their strong sense of self – I find it admirable. Maybe you kids have had the right attitude all along. Whether you’re special or not, if you think you are, isn’t almost a self-fulfilling prophesy? Couldn’t you create your own fantastic little slice of heaven if, against all conventional wisdom, you went ahead and carved a path that no one else has ever taken – even without experience and years of hard work?
    When I first moved to Beacon Hill in Boston, Charles Street, the quaint street that runs down the middle of the neighborhood was riddled with old, stodgy antique shops. An army of young twenty-something women flipped the antique shops and opened boutiques. They almost single-handedly transformed the neighborhood, bolstered economy and made the neighborhood safer, because it became a bustling and well-lit place to be. I can’t imagine any of them having a breadth of retail experience, but they rocked it anyway.
    Anecdotally, humility as a virtue has been the corner-stone ideology of my entire professional career. I’ve been spoon-fed the idea that if I shined too brightly, I would be thought of as someone who doesn’t play nice in the sand-box. That attitude cultivates mediocrity, boredom and a lifetime of middle management. Blech.
    I think if you’ve figured out a way to forgo years of being average because someone encouraged you to “go along to get along”, then you should rock your inner Beyoncé hard. I for one, am going to cheer you on every step of the way!

  • sketch42

    Doesn’t literally every generation complain about the next one? Since the beginning of “youth culture” which hasn’t even been around that long? (Some say it’s only existed since mandatory schooling started. Before that kids would interact with adults all the time. School separates kids from adults and creates a common culture.) Eh. Generation Y graduated into a pretty shitty deal… Give it a few years and they will be complaining about Gen Z… the REAL problem 😉

  • Guest

    I’m in the latter part of my twenties now and I can definitely relate to this. I was unable to start an internship in college so i did straight after and there I watched people slightly younger than me think that it was okay to be chit chatty with the head of the company, make loud remarks about their opinions, and overall just be lazy/bratty. This was foreign to me. I worked hard in school, I was on a sports team (which is like a full time job), and embraced challenges. I kept pretty quiet, spoke when spoken to, and above all absorbed every piece of knowledge I could. I knew it would get me ahead and surely it did as others dropped like flies complaining something was too hard or getting a job was taking too long. I worked as a waitress on nights and weekends and I made it work.
    In my first real job I cried tears of joy even when the pay was less than what I made as a waitress. I knew this was a step in the right direction. I worked hard, I made sacrifices, and didnt party as hard as my newly graduated friends. I even at one point had to take a step back when the economy took a hit and take another internship with a budding company. I told myself “if you leap the net with appear”. I believed in myself and I made sure through my work I could prove to others they should believe in me too.
    Now years later Im in what many have told me is an enviable position. I have friends who are still waitresses and friends who have no idea what they’re doing. I’m happy, in a great position, and I push myself daily because I want to continue to grow. Sadly some people give up a little too easily. I went on interviews I failed miserably, there were jobs I thought Id be perfect for I guess they didnt feel the same about, but I kept my head up and kept at it.
    The world has been giving 20 somethings a hard time well all the time. In your twenties you’re a little lost, you’re between child and adult, you do most of your growning, exploring, and trying to find where you fit. There was disco, and hippies and Im sure a lot of wild twenty-somethings running around cluesless then too. Some of us just “get it” a little quicker than others. Dont peg as us all entitled brats.
    -The reality is that nothing is as glamorous as it seems.-

  • Vanessa

    Great words. I was also intrigued by this response to this article…

  • I keep hearing my generation (millennials/gen Y [I was born in 82, which seems to be on the cusp of X and Y]) described as the “everyone gets a trophy” generation. So I want to know, has anyone actually ever gotten one of these “participation trophies” I keep hearing about? I only got awards for things I actually won.

    • liv

      Same. I was born in ’89 and only got awards for placing first, second or third in any competition. There was never a “participation award” or trophy.

  • Ash

    I suffer from a bad case of FOMO in terms of wearing beautiful designer clothing, owning a decent car, etc. I fear missing out on a “fulfilling” life because I’ve been a “starving college student” for the past 6 years! I pursued a degree in engineering so I could stop missing out, and now that I’m close to being done I fear that I will be missing out while I pay off all my student loan debt. I think I am a part of the problem, but there’s no denying that the cost of success has increased dramatically for us in comparison to that of past generations. All we can do is try our best to live in a way we believe is respectable and try not to compare ourselves to others.

    Great article. A lot of my friends have been posting their frustrated responses to the accusations made by the Huffington Post. This is far more eloquent!

  • Claire

    I thought the most interesting part of the HuffPo article was the Facebook Phenom. One is forced to think that we are doing worse than our peers because they keep bragging about their luck and prosperity where we seem to be lacking in that department. I am guilty of the “I got my dream job!” post, but it’s all very high school in the since there’s limited foresight to the future and it’s goals and dreams. Facebook as become more than social media – it’s started to effect our life paths as everyone seems to be content with achieving their short term goals and not even bothering to think of long term goals. Soon, there will be no long term career goals as we don’t want to sound off about how we made it past the plateau – we want to brag about jumping from mountain to mountain (if they don’t appreciate me, I’ll just leave!). Jack of all trades and master of none seems to be #trending..

  • Kristin

    When Hannah said that she was the voice of our generation, I felt like she stole my words and then I realized that due to my real job I haven’t really given much thought to my voice since I was in my early twenties and I left my more….windswept pursuits for something practical. Although medicine is sexy on the outside, six years and an untold amount of bodily fluid later, I find my voice has changed (probably because I am listening to other people’s voices).
    There was an article that I once read about Marnie. And how she is so unlikeable, but why is it so unlikeable to go get a job? I know many Marnies in our generation. And nobody hears our voices because we’re mostly too busy to tweet, and we know our tweets would be so boring that nobody but our closest friends would be following.

    Sometimes I am jealous of my artsy friends who are following their voices. But then I remember that part of the reason I went a more practical route is because all of that freedom and self expression is a little sad. Especially when the only prize is having people read what you wrote or “like” it or retweet it.
    On the other hand, I love the MR and several other 20-something blogs and I totally believe that our generation has more than one voice that is worth hearing and someday all of those voices will listen to each-other and possibly get together and do something, maybe even change the world.
    In the meantime I’ll be reading in my spare moments, wishing it were acceptable to wear something that makes me look like a fancy tent from the side (although given the bodily fluids it would be inadvisable)

  • Luther Blissett

    Great post! I have my own take on the same article that looks at it from a larger socio-economic perpective:

  • Jen

    I read this article and I personally didn’t feel like it was an accurate description of myself, but maybe because I’m in my LATE 20’s (or just really delusional)? Anyway, earlier this summer I read an article in Psychology Today that discusses how people are happiest when they seek risk and work towards their goals. I can relate more to those feelings, which makes me believe that if Gen Y folks are really working towards what they want (instead of just waiting for it to happen to them), then they should feel happy too.

    Here is a link to the article I am talking about.

  • Lou

    Love this article! But a lot of these articles criticising the younger generation AKA all of us clearly are missing the bigger picture and seem to assume that just because we are young and have our life’s ahead of us it must mean we are ‘lazy or unemployed’. And while I am the first to admit that a fair few of us are like that you can’t tar the rest of the younger generation with the same youth hating brush. They need to get out more and really experience what we are like…PLEASE!