In The Shadows of Greatness

Lazy, entitled, unequipped. These are just some of an abundance of adjectives used to describe my generation. Let me clarify a bit for you – I’m speaking of the Millennials, the Gen Y’ers, the boys and girls who were born between 1980 and 1990.

I graduated high school in 2005, and while I didn’t pursue a STEM degree, I did manage to obtain an analytical degree in Economics by 2010. While it was never my intention of becoming an analyst, or a data modeler, I had started to pursue the path towards policy making and politics. After all, what is more noble than a life lived in the service of others? Or so the rhetoric lead me to believe. Like Vegas, college has a way of misleading – or enchanting – attendees to a way of life that is dissimilar to the stark realities that lie with the rest of society.

Like many Millennials, I believed that the obtainment of a good education was the guarantee to subsistence and occupational success.

So what went wrong?

The greatest recession since the Great Depression may have had something to do with it.

It didn’t take long after graduation for me to go from cheery-eyed to gritted teeth. In fact, by the time Ruben Navarrette, Jr. had his piece run by CNN in August of 2011, I had already exhausted my options on the west-coast, and moved 3,000 miles across the country for a job offer in Washington, D.C.

Appropriately titled, Are millennials cut out for this job market?, Navarrette pulled no punches in his lambasting.

The catch: Having been told their whole lives that they were “special” and destined for greatness, she says, millennials are unequipped for setbacks. They feel entitled to the best of everything. And they want it now, since they were raised in a fast-food, drive-thru, high-speed Internet culture that believes waiting is for suckers.

He isn’t alone with his vehemence. Naverrette tries to make it a point that we are lazy and incredulous; unable to fit the mold cast for us, despite precise instruction from the past generation.

After all, the average age of NASA during Apollo 11, man’s first exploration of the moon, was 28.  So why should the Millennials be treated differently?

Dylan appropriately said it: “The times, they are a-changin’.”

40 years later, when Space Shuttle Atlantis left Earth in 2009, the average age at NASA was 47.

‘Qualification creep’, the growing educational and vocational minimal requirements of companies over the past few decades, possibly played a part.

The other part, I believe, is the squandered social and economic progress made by our predecessors. Economic regulations were loosened. The political agenda shifted from social progress to privatized profits. Ultimately, the house of cards came crumbling down.

Navarrette, and many others, forgot to heed Winston Churchill’s words: “the price of greatness is responsibility.”

At 28, I sit here writing, among the shadows of greatness. A generational befallen to the social and economical ineptitude of his predecessors, lamenting.

Regardless, I too can pay the price of responsibility. That is, student loan interest rates that outstrip inflation 3-to-1. And while I just paid off my first attempt to ‘make it’ in this society, I am now taking on the weight of loans for a second degree, for a second attempt.

Fear not Zeus, for I don’t ask for a lighter load – just broader shoulders.

After all, it wasn’t your generation that shot for the Moon, Navarette. It was your generation that settled for the limitations of Earth. Cassius said it best, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Maybe the circumstances you’ve made for us are the circumstances that we will take responsibility for as we shoot for Mars and settle among the stars.