“Millennials” has become quite a buzzword over recent years. I’m sure you’ve heard the term thrown around often – accompanied with several misjudgments including, (but surely not limited to) entitlement, self-absorption, and laziness. As a millennial (also known as Generation Y), I find this generalization absolutely disheartening. Some of the best people in my life are millennials. They’re beautifully selfless, giving, and hard-working individuals. These are the same people working long hours for low wages – who work 2-3 jobs just to feed themselves. Some cannot even afford a roof. Consider the fact that I have more friends who have been homeless than have not. Most of my peers have been or are undereducated, underemployed, or living below the poverty line. Most of which is simply a direct consequence of the Great Recession of 2008 – which is, in fact, the year I, and my graduating class, turned 18 and became adults.
Luckily for me, I was able to get a quality education from a top-rated university in New York City. It opened doors for me that eventually lead to me publishing my first novel, along with many new and exciting experiences that followed. However, even with receiving college funding from loved ones, as well as through government financial assistance, I found myself in debt, underemployed, and living far under the poverty line shortly after graduation. The job market seems to become more and more rigorous each day as the cost of living continued to skyrocket. I found myself clipping coupons and washing clothes in the tub (because going to a laundromat was just too far out of our budget).
I remember being in college and not being able to afford textbooks. Today, I can gladly say that I know how to order international edition textbooks for a 1/10 of the price (now legal in the U.S.) – that’s after digging for a PDF copy online.
Perhaps it started earlier than that – when I accompanied my Grandpa – we sorted through public trash cans, picking up recyclables to trade in for cash. Because that’s $10.
In truth, it was my economic reality that truly drove me towards a minimalist lifestyle. And, sure, you could say it was not a choice. In fact, last time I checked, you needed money to participate in materialism and that we did not have.
Does the principle of minimalism bring me joy? Very much so. Not contributing thoughtlessly towards capitalism does bring me joy. Giving, borrowing, and sharing with peers gives me joy. Supporting ethical and sustainable businesses give me joy. Investing in experiences give me joy. And, I think this is also what gives many other Millenials joy.
The worst recession since the Great Depression
Well, we all know the economy is shit. I know. You know. Your Mom knows. How many times have I had a friend reach out to me, discouraged over the job market, at their wit’s end, and I, without a doubt, respond with, “I know it sucks – the economy is shit.” Well, it is. We don’t make enough to live – no one does. My best friend, a single Mom living alone with her daughter, lives in one of the most “affordable” states in the U.S. (Alabama) and she barely makes enough to survive. She is probably experiencing the best case scenario, and even the best case is kind of terrible. Why is that? Well, that’s because we’re still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Mental illness is incredibly common among Millenials with nearly 20% of them living with clinical depression and 12% with anxiety disorder. The cause? Stress. More specifically, financial stress and economic instability. After experiencing a late-term miscarriage in 2013, I found myself struggling with depression for several years. Thankfully, I was able to obtain the resources and healthcare I needed to take care of myself. Unfortunately, many millennials find themselves working for employers that do not provide healthcare and often end up going uninsured.
Many millennials feel strongly against corporate businesses and their capitalistic nature. They spend a lot less buying cheap and poorly made products from big box companies, and instead, opt in for local businesses. This leaves many retail businesses in worry as more and more millennials are not invested and severely uninterested in the experience of shopping.
One of the core principles of minimalism is the investment in experiences instead of possessions. Millenials are also postponing marriage and growing their family in exchange for experiences with travel. They’re also uninterested in settling down (in one spot), which directly affects their interest in home ownership.
I sympathize strongly with my peers, and at the same time, I praise their positive, selfless and hard-working nature. They’re dangerously smart, incredibly clever, so very loving, and they are paving the way towards our future. They’re engaged in social and political affairs with the largest voter turnout in history. They’re some of my best friends, and I root for them each and every day.