Often times, I hear adults lamenting the frivolities of millennials' lives. I've heard too many times to count that people my age—I'm on the tail end of Generation Y—are too dependent on technology. We're not only narcissists; we're also ridiculously entitled. We're not nearly as tough as the generations that preceded us. We've been given everything on a silver platter with a silver spoon.
Entire articles, studies and illustrations talk about the laziness, narcissism and immature behavior of millennials.
Regardless of what it is that I am using my laptop or cell phone for—or whether or not I am even using them—it is unusual that I use either in public without hearing someone make a joke about how "kids these days have everything," or how "young people are always tapping away at those little screens."
As the child of two baby boomers, I have heard more times than I'd like to admit, "Back in my day, if you wanted to talk to your friend, you'd have to hope the operator wasn't busy," "Back in my day, if you wanted to know something, you read an encyclopedia," or "Back in my day, we would've made a joke about being able to carry a phone around. We couldn't imagine living a life like yours!"
All jokes aside, millennials arguably have it harder than any generation before us.
At 17, I have lived through the mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult; through the Columbine High School Massacre; through the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks; through what's happened in Ferguson and Baltimore; and through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
As a youth of color, I have lived with the fear that at any moment, I can be gunned down. Eighty percent of rape victims are under age 30, and I have feared that, at any moment, I could become part of that statistic. I have lived through Mike Tyson's ear-biting incident, and—somehow—I managed to survive the premiere and the resurrection of "Family Guy."
At 17, I have lived through (and participated in), the Harry Potter franchise (yes, I was there during Midnight Madness when the books were released, and I celebrated my 14th birthday at Cinemark Tinseltown USA watching the premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two"). I have also lived through the entirety of the "Star Wars" prequels (and soon, the sequels as well!); through the rare date Feb. 29, 2000; through the development and dominance of reality television; through Kanye West; through 24-hour news cycles; and through the modernization of self-portraits (selfies).
At 17, I have inherited the Great Recession, and I will live with its repercussions for the rest of my young adulthood—if not for the rest of my life.
Like my grandmother's generation, millennials are more likely to hide their money in a mattress or a sock drawer than trust it with a stockbroker. "How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America," a study on millennials by Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, says, "The average investor aged 21 to 36 has 52 percent of their savings in cash, compared to 23 percent for other age groups." It is understandable that, like our counterparts in the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation, millennials would be weary of corporations and banks that are more interested in making a profit and raising the inflation rate than they are in serving people.
Though I didn't really understand what was happening at the time, the words "Great Recession," "financial burden," and "too big to fail" are almost ubiquitous in prominent memories of my 10th and 11th years—2007 and 2008, respectively.
A film that I saw and continue to see annually during winter break, "It's A Wonderful Life," and one that I saw for the first time in 2007, "Gold Diggers of 1933," took on a new meaning for me during that Christmas. I was able to recognize, to a certain extent, the resemblances between the bank run, the Depression and Recession and strife in both films, and compare them with what I saw and heard on television, and with what I lived through.
When I begin college this autumn, my peers and I will be burdened with tuition prices and student loans that were unfathomable only 25 years ago. The U.S. Department of Education reports that the average annual cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at a public college or university from the 1964-1965 school year to the 2010-2011 school year increased 101.7 percent. In that same time period, the average annual cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at a private institution increased 137.2 percent. Without adjusting for inflation, college tuition prices increased 297 percent from September 1990 to September 2012. By the end of the second quarter in 2014, total student debt surpassed $1 trillion. This debt will cripple many of my generation until we are collecting Social Security checks (if we get to).
I probably won't own my own home before I am in my mid- to late-30s. A report by Pew Social Trends finds that the share of 18- to 34-year-olds living with their parents increased from 28 percent in 2007 to 31 percent in 2014. The amount of student debt, when coupled with both the high unemployment rate in my generation and our distrust of banks, makes purchasing a home very difficult.
Though millennial rapper Chief Keef raps, "Get money, get money, get money, get money" in his song "Get Money," it is quite unlikely that most millennials will be able to get enough money to fill their pockets. When fellow millennial rapper Vic Mensa raps, "Make money, but the money you make don't make you," in his song "Time is Money," he echoes the views of many in his generation. In the same study by Winograd and Hais, 64 percent of millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they find boring. Millennials are also more likely to work as interns or do unpaid work. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that one in five millennial young adults live in poverty.
Regardless, young people have managed to survive and thrive. In this issue, you will find an array of teens who do phenomenal things. Whether they volunteer in their communities, excel in their schools or are all-around talented individuals, the teenagers in this issue are some of the best voices of my generation. In other words, these teens are truly amazing.
In "Howl," Allen Ginsberg wrote, "I saw the finest minds of my generation destroyed by madness," and in "To Elsie," William Carlos Williams wrote, "The pure products of America go crazy—". Fortunately, my generation doesn't give up that easily.
A former JFP intern, Adria Walker is the new editorial assistant of the Jackson Free Press. She is graduating this month from Murrah High School and will enter Millsaps College this fall.