I’m a young person.
A ‘young adult,’ supposedly. I’m married with two kids and back problems, so I don’t necessarily feel like it all the time, but I do fall into that coveted 18-34 demographic.
As a young person, I take special note of all the bad press we tend to get. I’m sure you heard about the 18-year-old woman (not kid, not child, not teenager — woman) who sued her parents to force them to pay for her college tuition. She lost the first round in court, but you can bet that we haven’t read the last of this sordid tale.
I’m sure you’ve also heard about the various studies and reports, released every few months it seems, confirming and reconfirming and confirming again that people in my generation are very reluctant to move out of mom and dad’s house. A report this past summer found that over 21 million millennials are still sharing a mailing address with their parents.
And, of course, there are the statistics on millennial unemployment, and millennial drug abuse, and millennial alcoholism. Millennials afraid to get married, afraid to start families, afraid to move out, afraid to do anything. Millennials in hibernation and stagnation; standing still while the world speeds by.
We get the picture. It’s not always a fair picture, either. Many of us do not deserve this humiliating reputation. And every person who ‘lives at home’ isn’t necessarily an apathetic loser hiding from work and responsibility, although some fit the bill.
Still, extended adolescence is a very real epidemic in my generation (it’s a problem amongst the Boomers, too, but that’s a subject for a different post). I don’t need any study or statistic to tell me that; I see it with my own eyes every single day. It is a disease that afflicts many in my age group.
So I’d like to speak to my fellow young people for a moment. I’d like to share with them four absolute truths that we must all accept if we ever wish to find success and fulfillment in this world. These are the things that I’ve discovered in my eight years of independence and self-sufficiency.
The cure to perpetual adolescence can be found in these four realities.
Embrace them, and embrace growth.
Here they are:
The Four Harsh Truths That Everyone In My Generation Needs to Accept
1) Nobody owes us anything.
Literally. Figuratively. Metaphorically. Physically. In the material, in the abstract. In every conceivable way — we are owed nothing. We are entitled to nothing. Maybe it’s been said so many times that the words just whizz right past us, but we really ought to stop and reflect upon this reality.
We are not children. Nobody has to give us anything anymore. We can go hungry, and feel pain, and live without — we will, in fact. And this will be no great injustice because it isn’t anyone’s job to shield us from discomfort in the first place. Nobody promised us a life of ease and pleasure, and if they did they lied.
We have no place to be outraged when we are made to experience some small measure of suffering or sacrifice. This is what it means to exist as a separate, distinct, mature human being. This is what it means be alive. The world has left bumps and bruises on everyone, why should we be the exception? Even if we can think of a reason, it doesn’t matter. We won’t be the exception. Why would we even want to be?
2) We have to work.
I know people slightly younger than me who’ve never had a fulltime job. Ever. They mutter things about ‘the economy’ and ‘the tough job market,’ but the groove on the couch and the glossy look in their eyes tells me that video games and lethargy are much bigger factors in their current predicament. The lazy, video-game-playing manchild is a stereotype, but it’s a stereotype for a reason.
Here’s a thought. If you don’t have a job, you shouldn’t be playing with toys. A revolutionary idea, I realize, but it’s something to consider.
There is work to be done in this country, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be the ones doing it. Can’t find a cushy, high paying job with competitive benefits and three weeks paid vacation every year? Join the club, your Highness. Now go flip a burger, dig a ditch, mop a floor. Something. ANYTHING.
There is absolutely no excuse for a young person to turn down any job offer. How is it possible that fast food joints across the country go understaffed while 24-year-olds sit around at home, complaining that there aren’t any jobs available? Stop whining. Put on your business casual, walk in there, shake the manager’s hand, ask for an application, get the gig, work hard, operate with enthusiasm and competence. In 6 months you’ll be running the place.
We cannot claim that there aren’t any opportunities. If we’re willing to humble ourselves and put in the work, there are opportunities aplenty.
As I’ve previously explained, I recently decided to go into business for myself, using the success of this website as my platform. There aren’t very many one-person opinion blogs that get more traffic than mine. I earned that. None of this happened by accident. But if this whole thing comes crashing down tomorrow, if my uniques plummet and my readership disappears and my ad revenue dries up (and it could, the internet is a fickle beast), do you know what I’d do?
I’d become a trash collector. I’d be a janitor at the school down the street. I’d get a job moving boxes, or clearing brush, or mowing lawns, or cleaning dishes. I’d do whatever I needed to do, and I’d spend my free time crafting my long range plans. I wouldn’t give up on my dreams, but I’d forge a new path. And I’d never stop working.
Whatever the case, here’s what I know I wouldn’t do: nothing. Nothing is not an option.
3) We’ll never be successful if we don’t take risks.
I’m talking about smart risks; not guzzling 9 beers and going for a drive at 2AM type of risks. I’m talking about bold but calculated risks.
It causes me actual, real pain when I run into young people afraid of risks — afraid to strike out on their own because it ‘might not work out.’
Might not work out?
OF COURSE it won’t ‘work out’ at first. That’s part of the fun.
OK, maybe not fun, per se. But it’s part of the adventure.
What, we refuse to get on with our lives until we’re guaranteed safe passage and smooth travels? Well, I guess our lives will go unlived, because trust me, we will never be afforded such a guarantee.
When you’re young — particularly when you don’t yet have a family of your own — you can do anything. You can go anywhere. You can chase any dream. You can move across the country. You can work four jobs at once. You can live out of your car or under a bridge or in a tent. You can go all in. Swing for the fences. Toss up Hail Marys. Whatever overused sports metaphor you prefer — that’s what you can do.
You are untethered and unburdened. You are mobile. You can carve out your niche. You can make radical decisions. You can walk out on that ledge in pursuit of bigger things. You can take risks, because there isn’t that much at stake. Not yet, anyway.
4) Nobody cares about our excuses.
Notice I didn’t say that ‘we can’t make excuses’ or ‘there aren’t any good excuses.’ We can and there are. For every personal failure, there are thousands of perfectly reasonable excuses and rationalizations.
There are valid excuses to explain your shortcomings — but nobody cares. It’s that simple: nobody cares.
Out here, standing on the cold, unforgiving ground of solid reality, our worth is inexorably connected to our ability to get things done.
We all have inherent value as human beings. But if we want people to value our opinions, our efforts, and our time — especially if we want someone to pay us for it — we have to get things done. If we don’t, the reasons won’t matter. Good reasons, bad reasons, it makes no difference.
So maybe we’re sick, maybe we’re tired, maybe our dog just died, maybe our lives are hard, maybe nobody understands our struggles. Fine. Millions of people are sick and tired. Millions of people’s dogs just died. Millions are struggling. Nobody understands anyone else’s pain and suffering. Everyone’s life is hard. Everyone. Nobody on this planet has an easy life. That simply isn’t in the cards for anyone. No sense in bemoaning the fact. We might as well just get up and get on with it.
We might think our excuses are better because our hardships are greater, but they aren’t because they aren’t. Our excuses are about as valid as everyone else’s.
It’s not that successful people don’t have excuses — it’s just that they don’t use them. Hence the success.
And that’s the truth.
These are all truths.
And here’s the good news: we — all of us — have indescribable potential. A young person with ambition, character, courage; a young person willing to work and sacrifice and take risks; a young person who thinks outside of the pop culture, video game, gossip magazine cage; a young person willing to scratch and claw and fight and dig and learn and grow, is an absolutely unstoppable force. A world-beater. This is a person with the power to unlock the universe and bring out its beauty, and truth, and joy.
History might be written by the old, but it’s made by the young. Just look at Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander the Great, or William Wallace, or Joan of Arc, or Beethoven, or Frederick Douglas, or Martin Luther King Jr. Young pioneers, all of them. Conquerors, artists, heroes. Martyrs.
That’s our destiny — to be the people who change the paradigm. Not vassals and slaves and mindless, shallow, lackadaisical sloths.
There is so much we can do, so much that must be done, but it starts with accepting the reality of the world in which we live.
This is that reality.
It really isn’t so bad once you get used to it.
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