It's hard to be taken seriously whilst growing up. I know, I myself am a hypocrite, as I do tend to laugh at the year 7's who are rushing home from school with their ginormous backpacks as I get off my lunch break and I do occasionally judge the younger teenagers who hang outside various shops in the hopes of bagging somebody kind (or stupid) enough to buy them cigarettes and alcohol. But I feel like, as by being a part of this generation, I've earned my right to judge us. Yet the moment anybody over 30 judges them in the same way, I jump to their defence. It's a bit like siblings, I can call my younger sister all of the awful names under the sun -I'm sure I have- but if anybody else did or said anything against her, I would immediately jump to her defence.
We've all been compared to the generation before us. 'You have it easier'. 'You have no idea what it was like back in my day'. 'We actually had to go to libraries to research things.' 'Exams are nothing like what they used to be' Yada, yada, yada. And the other day, whilst waiting in a cafe for my family at a train station, I overheard a couple of elderly men talking about the 'youth of today', and how, I quote, we are '...all lard, sat about waiting for things to be handed to [us]'.
As somebody who drinks copious amounts of coffee, there are a lot of coffee shop conversations I wish I'd never heard, but this one ruffled my feathers like no other has before. I am from a lower middle class background, the further either of my parents got in education was O-Levels (GCSE's), I have been working solidly, alongside my GCSE's, A Levels and now my University degree, since I was 14, and these men sat at this table have the audacity to believe I don't know how to work hard to get what I want out of life.
Collectively, generation Y has been named the laziest, spoon fed, over sexed, immoral, narcissistic, antisocial, dumbest generation ever to grace the planet. We are told to get jobs, but if we get a job then we should be in education. We're told to go to university, but if we go to university we come out with a £50,000 debt and have no guarantee of a job. We're told to make a vote that matters, but last time we voted, our tuition fees tripled. If we stay in, we're antisocial, if we go out, we're causing trouble. We don't work hard enough, and if we do we spend all our money on electronics.
We know you didn't mean to ruin the economy and the recession wasn't planned, and we know the job market is near impossible for every generation. But the days of free school meals, free education, relatively uninterrupted long-term employment and government supported state-pensions are a thing of the past, and we may get called lazy and untuned and uninterested. But we care.
Getting a job after completing my degree is some three years in the future but it is something I worry and have frequent discussions about. Our £50,000 debt is a running joke throughout uni, but we know it's something which will be held over our heads for decades to come. I wasn't bought up thinking I was a special snowflake, and any ounce of thinking I could be anything I wanted to be was taken away the minute I learnt to read a newspaper. Our generation may be the first in the punch line of anybody born before the late 80's, but we're also the generation who don't care about sexuality, we have friends of any race and any colour, we are standing up against sexual harassment and we're trying to stop gender discrimination in its tracks. We let our hair down now, because we know we can't do it forever.
We will never stop being judged, and I will never stop hearing coffee shop conversations about the youth of today. We will be judged when we clean up the biggest economic recession to ever happen, we will be judged as we pay back our thousands of pounds worth of debt, we will be judged when we battle for jobs against more people than ever before and we will continue to be judged as globalisation becomes inevitable and unstoppable. We will always be judged as the generation who have been handed everything on a silver platter, but the reality is, we're the generation who are going to have to fight harder than ever to gain a place in society.
Ciao for Now!
(please note, this is a defence, not a complaint)