I recently read a piece in the New York Times entitled ‘The Go-Nowhere Generation’ by Todd and Victoria Buchholz. The article focused on how we, referred to as Generation Y, are more “sedentary and risk-adverse” than previous generations. That we have somehow resigned ourselves to hide in our parents’ basements rather than go out and chase our dreams as Hemingway’s starry-eyed generation once did.
The two writers lament that in these hard economic times, the country needs young “movers and shakers” to liven up the economy again. They wonder why we don’t pack up and seek “sunnier” economic climates. They are worried we are not out getting our driver’s license. They are concerned about us living at home. They say we are complacent. They say we’re going nowhere.
Their evidence, a handful of statistics and testimonials from economists and sociologists at big name universities is supposed to validate an argument that is flat out short sighted and incomplete. What the Buchholz’s do not realize is that while these figures may be true, that is not the whole picture.
We have the advantage of hindsight. We are in the thick of a recession, and are experiencing first hand the adverse effects of generations’ worth of risk takers. Furthermore, before one writes us all off as cowardly couch potatoes, one must not forget the power of innovation. We live in a world where the movers and shakers have a much less literal meaning. Through the beauty of technology, one can hunt for a job from any corner of the globe. Gone are the days of Steinbeck’s vagabonds traveling far and wide in search of work.
The writers also claim that fewer young people are moving out of their parents’ home. This is definitely true, but have they ever stopped to consider that the romanticized “broke-and-starving-twenty-something” phase has since died out? That we’re more focused on actually getting on our feet instead of bursting into the world guns blazing only to find out our big city dreams can’t be supported on our thin wallets? We have seen the crippling effects of debt. We have seen entire countries and economies (our own included) go down in flames. We have been forced to understand the value of a dollar and just how little it will get you in this day and age.
Most importantly is the shift in values for people our age. For one thing, we’re more environmentally conscious. Sure, fewer people are getting their driver’s licenses. However, with gas creeping up to $4 or $5 and the ever-increasing popularity of public transit, who can really blame us? Furthermore, we’re in the midst of an era that focuses not on abandoning one’s roots, but returning to them. All over the nation, local restoration projects have been popping up and efforts have been made by cities to retain their population’s youth. Since when is strengthening and giving back to one’s community lamentable?
Finally, there is the fundamental shift in our view of success. Sure, call us disillusioned. It’s pretty accurate if you ask me. Look at the mess in front of us. A government out for blood. Economic disparity comparable to many lesser-developed countries. Social injustice. Environmental ruin. Led by whom? The generation of risk takers and go-getters the Buchholz’s laud so eagerly.
For us, success is greater than a car in the driveway or a figure on a bank account. We have seen how quickly even the most fortunate can lose it all in an instant, and we are working toward transcending that mindset. We are going somewhere, Mr. and Ms. Buchholz, and we’re all too excited to leave judgments like yours in the dust.