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I am 29 years old. My friends and I are architects and designers. The recession has been horrible for us. I am working, but painfully underemployed and barely surviving. I don’t think the American dream is unachievable, but I think it is a different dream today than it was in the 20th century. I feel insulted when older generations call my generation “entitled.” The world we grew up in was (mostly) not in our control, and we are also living through this recession. I am not afraid of hard work, but I want the opportunity to work, and that is proving difficult. I don’t want to be a millionaire, and I don’t have a credit card. I am trying to stay optimistic about my future, but some days that is hard. Please have some compassion for my generation.
As a 21 year old about to graduate from college the job market and economic climate are pretty terrifying. The reality is that even though we embrace this myth of the American Dream, hardwork and strong moral character alone really aren’t enough to move up the income ladder or ‘make a better life’. I do think there are strong misconceptions about our generation’s sense of entitlement. While it is present, we aren’t all privileged. Today the neighborhood you’re born into is the strongest predictor of your economic success, mobility, and education achievement. While I wish the American Dream was a reality, it’s a rare occurrence and we rally around the occasional story of mobility and success, touting it as a cornerstone of our nation’s identity. It’s not the reality for college grads right now and it’s definitely not a feasibly reality for children born into poverty without access to quality education. If there’s ever been a call to action for our generation, this is it. Where we go from here though, I’m not really sure.
I saw the twin towers fall the first week of my senior year of high school, in my psychology class. In the next class, statistics the teacher didn’t know about what had happened, so he proceeded to teach. But at that point all of the students in my class left our pencils on the desk including me and told our teacher that the lesson plan had changed. I was an honor student, but when things change and the ones teaching us continue you to teach unnecessary things, I’ll be happy to rebel a little from the lesson plan and change course.
If I didn’t have hope for the future, I might has well have done statistics that day. Then I would have probably killed myself because the statistic we just saw that morning was not just a number. Life is still good and life goes on — we know that, so when you fall just get back up and keep going. The sunshine is to beautiful not to. That’s the dream I have, to see the sun every morning no matter how much cash is in my wallet.
I appreciate the idealistic thoughts of the those who have commented. However, coming from a more realistic perspective, I believe achieving achieving our idea of ‘The American Dream’ be difficult for our generation. I don’t think our school systems are preparing students today with the skills they will need in the future of our technology driven society. The cost of undergraduate education continues to soar while advanced degrees become more commonly required for jobs. Broadly, domestic jobs continue to be outsourced to other countries. We are seeing a slow recovering economy and its’ effects on opportunity in all sectors.
As a sociology student going into my senior year of college, I realize the American Dream to be a myth. Wealth and power are often handed off from one generation to the next. So often opportunity is already reserved for an elite few, and disproportionate disadvantages exists for the many. I think some commenters above should research the term ‘meritocracy’.
Though I don’t buy into the idea of the American Dream, I do believe success is how you define it. I may not achieve the American Dream by achieving marked social mobility. I may not climb the corporate ladder into an executive job, go on extravagant vacations one day, or maybe even ever be a homeowner. But I WILL strive to carve a career and life that is meaningful and fulfilling to me. The salary, power and mobility is not so important. I choose to go by the motto ‘do what you love’ and hope the rest will take care of itself.
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