Tue Apr 10 2018

Recently I’ve had the chance to read two books on what it means to be a young adult in the 21st century: Strapped by Tamara Draut and Emerging Adulthood by Jeffrey Arnett. Draut takes a more economic stance, while Arnett takes a more sociological one. From reading these two books and reflecting on my own coming of age, I can safely conclude that being a young adult, right now, really fucking sucks.

Draut’s still fresh in my mind - I’d just read the last page 10 minutes before writing this - and most of what she’s written points to the deregulation of businesses and laissez-faire style of government that Reagan hailed in during the 80s as the source of our current problems. The whole “government is bad” and strong belief in capitalism and the free market essentially created a huge rift of economic inequality, as Big Business tried to keep profits up and costs down to satisfy Wall Street’s expectations in order to get investment money. Before this, businesses would typically provide yearly raises and a retirement pension, which promised a comfortable life.

With deregulation in place, businesses basically did whatever it could to raise profits - even if they were, in my opinion, immoral. This ultimately leads to a pretty shit ecosystem where, for example, a credit card company gives out cards to college students, who already have a tough economic time with reduced government aid to help them get through school. These students, upon graduation, are already burdened with some student loan debt, so piling on potential credit card debt is simply adding insult to injury.

Some might argue that high education leads to higher paychecks, so these young adults should be able to pay down their debt. Yeah, that’s a great idea, but since businesses operate on the basis of reducing their operating costs to raise their profit margin, they’ve elected to pay less and ask for more credentials/experience up front. Many people of my age complain on social media that there’s this impossible cycle of “We won’t hire you because you have no experience,” but to get experience…you need to be hired. So we have swaths of young adults who are struggling to make ends meet, by taking on jobs below their experience or from jumping around jobs until one satisfactorily pays their bills. And in the unlucky case where one can’t make ends meet, they’ve got little choice but to move back home and start again - a humbling prospect for anyone trying to make it out in the world.

I read Arnett about a month or so ago, but what I distinctly remember is that, in response to these ridiculous economic times, our generation is taking much longer to explore ourselves and to discover what we truly value in life. It’s a valid point, because money isn’t really everything, from a spiritual/self-identity perspective. In all other cases, it’s basically your only ticket to obtaining services and goods in this dog-eat-dog world. It’s interesting to note that even though it’s tough to get ahead, one can argue that our generation’s concentration on pursuing a life that you, as an individual, desire in spite of all other economic expectations, is important. I think this is the silver lining in the midst of all this.

We’re frequently called the most educated generation, as more of us have complete primary education, with some of us even obtaining degrees and advanced degrees in the pursuit of a higher paycheck. I believe that education is truly the best of all social mobilizers, and with the recent political climate, I’m happy to see that others are partaking in politics and paying attention to current events. At the end of Draut’s book, she argues that we should be taking part in politics, because laws and regulation will be the way for us to establish better social safety nets and get (presumably) immoral business practices under control. I’ve been hearing speculation that the 2018 Midterm elections are going to be a real upset,so I’m looking forward to casting my vote and seeing how this generation, with its rising number of eligible votes, will begin to affect the future of our country.

Sure, we may be burdened with a boatload of debt to pay off, but I think we’ve got the potential to turn over a new leaf in the years to come.