The Struggle Of A Millennial

by Gary Seward
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The following may be a fictionalized account of a true story featuring a struggling millennial.

The Struggle Of A Millennial - Fresh Print Magazine


“Kids these days.”  This phrase usually leads to a rant that sounds likes this: “When I was your age, we had to walk to school ten miles. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. And let me tell you a thing or two about the meaning of hard work. Let me tell you what real hard work is all about.” This is the usual rhetoric from baby boomers and even their parents to us, the millennials. According to them, we have it easy. We are entitled, privileged while looking for handouts instead of employment. We are told that we can have any job we want if we put our minds to it.

There have been many articles written about the rising youth unemployment rates in Canada. Those numbers are real and turning a majority of millennials, such as myself, into cynics. I have spoken to many Canadian youth about their futures and their coping mechanisms.

Rather than repeat statistics and quotes, I’ve chosen to share a little story about a struggling millennial.

Personally, I dislike the term millennial in describing those born of the Generation Y. It’s right up there with other cringe-worthy labels that are used to pigeonhole my generation. These words are often thrown at us without any real thought as to what they mean in today’s context. These words don’t carry the same weight as they once did. I have already used a few of them, but here they are:

  1. Millennial- Refer to the previous statement.
  2. Real Job-Is a real job that archaic 9-5 office job with a pension and benefits? Usage in a sentence: “You’re still writing? I thought you’d have a real job by now.”
  3. Privileged– Although we live in the age of globalization and yes, we have more resources at our disposal than previous generations. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a great thing. Do you know any millennials in the 1%? Nope, me neither.
  4. Graduate– This word is more insidious than the others. It’s the promise that many of our teachers have made to us when we were very young. If we went to school, particularly university, and graduated then we can be anything we want. Unfortunately, a post-secondary degree doesn’t get you very far when you’re competing with other university graduates for the same real job.
  5. Youth- It’s another label for us millennials but there are many meanings behind that term.

I have never really understood the judgmental practice of labeling anyone, especially myself. If I had to give myself a label, it would be “highly educated/skilled but underemployed.” I have a degree and the experience everyone seems to desire. But now that I am approaching my thirties, I realize that I may have been duped. Our generation has been duped.

This is where my story officially starts. Remember this may be a work of fiction. Maybe.

I have spent the last six or seven years studying and working in a field that brings me a lot of cathartic joy. I am a writer, a journalist, a storyteller. I stumbled upon the realization when I was young watching late night television and listening to my journalist uncle talk about his job. I loved hearing him talk about the “newspaper business” and seeing my Granny’s face light up with pride whenever she listened. I craved that.

After high school I went to university to get a degree in English Literature with a minor in Professional Writing. It was this experience that cemented that this is what I am good at. It was during my third year I even convinced some people that I am good enough to get paid to do it. Sounds great, right? Sounds like I am living that dream. But there’s a problem because I quickly discovered that the new world I live in no longer provides permanent full time positions for new graduates. Which is hard when you have rent, hydro, and other necessities to pay for. I did what most millennials are reduced to do in order to survive. I went to work in the service industry, specifically the retail industry.

I won’t give away where I work, because I need the job but I spend 40+ hours a week selling people products at a highly inflated price. Want to hear the best part? I make minimum wage, which means I barely make enough to pay for all the things that I need to pay. Side note: I’m not implying that because I have an education that I am entitled to something that so many young Canadians are also fighting for. I am merely pointing out this paradox that many of us are currently facing. There are future astronauts that are making your coffees right now. We do what we need to do in order to survive.

It’s an absolute paradox because, besides sex work, it’s one of the oldest ways of maintaining sustenance. Sure we may no longer trade fur for boxes of tea anymore, but it’s an industry that’s been around since the dawn of humanity. I’ll be honest, I don’t hate my job. Sure I dislike the company and their policies, but it’s so brain-numbingly easy that I can tolerate it for now. It’s merely the idea that others are forming their opinion of me based on this real job. And it certainly doesn’t bring any privilege and I didn’t need to graduate from anywhere to get it. Which is the perfect segue to telling the story of how I acquired this position.

I’ve maintained a low level of comfort for several years by doing freelance ghostwriting work, which was then followed by a fabulous stint of writing a few government reports. It wasn’t much but I was relatively content. For a while, I was excited by this job because the money was actually coming in and I had (and still have) massive student loans to pay off. But they were all contract gigs. After they ended, I had to defer my student loans. Maybe the privilege is that I don’t have credit cards and my expenses aren’t too high. For now.

Around 6 months ago, I realized that I needed to start thinking more about my future and how I want to run it. I supplemented my income(s) by getting a part time job. Easy right? This process of finding a part time job became more daunting than any university application process. I got rejected left, right, and centre. I was dumbfounded to think that if I have a certain BA in something that I would be a shoo-in for certain entry level positions. Wrong. Dead wrong.

Unfortunately this fact was proven by having three different career counselors (agencies who serve youth aged 19-31) tell me that I needed to remove my education from my resume. I tried it and I got a phone call quicker than it takes for Rob Ford to blame the media for misinterpreting his quotes. I dare anyone to tell me that my post-graduate degree made me a part of any privileged group.

In fact, maybe I am a little privileged. I am a writer, journalist, storyteller. I have made a life for myself and I am the kind of person who always seeks to achieve their goals. I concluded that I needed to go rogue in order to survive the economic uncertainty. Rogues make a life for themselves. Rogues aren’t concerned with annoying terms such as youth or graduate. I am a lot like a shark, I swim or I die”

To be continued.

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