Ernest Hemingway referred to the post-World War 1 generation as the “Lost Generation”. In the 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, young men were a demoralized and lost group that could no longer identify or find success in normal society.
In the 21st century, the millennial generation is facing a similar identity crisis. Student debt is at 1.2 trillion dollars, and continues to climb with each graduating class. A shocking 27% of students move back in with their parents following graduation from a university. The challenges for the millennial generation are greater each and every day. With crippling statistics and a national debt reaching over 20 trillion, it’s no wonder so many students feel hopeless.
In this country, a college degree does not guarantee a high paying salary. The bachelors of science is equivalent to a high school diploma. In a competitive and shrinking job market, many students are forced to collapse on their debt and take minimum wage jobs to pay off their education. US News reports that 284,000 college graduates made at or below minimum wage in 2012. What’s worse than these facts, students many times do not realize that the government can take these minimum wage paychecks to pay your debt without permission.
“The United States Government can garnish wages and withhold tax-refunds to satisfy unpaid student debt.”
The Congressional Budget Office protects that the US government made approximately 50 billion dollars on student loans during 2013. To put this into perspective, that number is 5 billion dollars more than the collection from ExxonMobile.
It’s evident that millennials could be the next “lost generation”, but the future is still determined by the aspirations and hopes of people themselves. With such great adversity comes great opportunity. According to the Brookings Institute, the millennial generation will make up 75% of the US workforce by 2025. The onset of smart technology, data abundance, and free online education, provide a base for a successful generation.
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Through strong communities, students are finding ways to innovate and make do with as little as possible. The “Macgyver Generation” is a much better term than “Lost”, as it sheds light on millennials capacity to turn adversity into a fulfilling career that stands above the rest. Taking the worst and turning it into something that not only betters their life, but those around them. The future may seem bleak, but we hold the power to shape the future itself.