"Generation Me"

In today's AZ Republic, Jean M. Twenge laments about today's high school graduates having unrealistic expections for their careers and futures.
"This generation was raised hearing, "You can be anything you want to be," and, "Believe in yourself and anything is possible." They watched TV shows in which everyone was rich, and they dreamed about becoming famous, or at the least having a fulfilling job, a nice car and a large house."

She lists statistics saying that less than a third of all high school graduates go on to achieve a 4-year degree, that they expect to make considerably more money by the time they're 30 than is likely, and that they'll spend "the entire decade of their 20s trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to break into show business."

I'm sorry, Jean, but how is that any different from how things were 10 years ago? Even 20 years ago? How many 18-year-olds of any generation have a realistic concept of how the world works? How many know what a realistic salary is, or even what would be a living wage? How many understand that their first role-models, school teachers, are paid barely over minimum wage? How many even know how much money their own parents make?

"In 1999, teens predicted that they would be earning, on average, $75,000 a year by the time they were 30. The average income of a 30-year-old that
year? $27,000."

When I was 18, a mere 11 years ago, I had big dreams. I was going to be a rock star (this was pre-American Idol), I was newly accepted into the Classical Guitar Performance program at ASU, and I was ready to make it. I didn't have any real plan of how I would be a rock star - after all, I wasn't in a band, I'd never performed outside of a school talent show, and actually hadn't ever had a single guitar lesson. In many ways, I was less sophisticated of the ways of the world than today's teenagers are. I didn't have the Internet, the source of all knowledge, to inform me.

Little did I know that the real defining moment of my future career was walking into the Music Library the summer before my Freshman year and interviewing for a student work-study position.

I definitely know that I was one of the first handful in my extended family to achieve a Bachelor's degree. I might actually be the first to gain a post-baccalaureate degree. My dreams of rock-stardom didn't really seem to hold me back much. I've achieved more than I'd ever truly believed I would. I have a wonderful husband. I have a house. I have a great job. All before the age of 30.

"Young people need to understand that most people do not grow up to be rich and famous. They need to realize that it is difficult to get into a good college or graduate school, difficult to find a good job and difficult to buy a house."

I think that young people figure that out soon enough. The majority of the people I know, of a variety of ages, are not what they thought they would be when they were 18. We all had unrealistic expectations. We all thought the world would be different. It doesn't have anything to do with this being the "Me Generation". It has everything to do with being 18, and taking your first steps into the adult world. Some people figure it out before others, but dreaming is all part of everyone's individual journey.


  1. Or even 17 years ago, when I was 18. Eep. I had no realistic clue what I wanted to be when I "grew up." I knew that I wanted to be elsewhere than Pennsylvania and that's about it. I wanted to be a writer, a successful writer, though had no sense about how to go about that.

    We all had big dreams. It's a part of being young and believing that anything's possible. It's needed for a time.

    I don't think that part's changed. What I think has changed was their knowledge of the outside world. Have been skimming through my old journals and realized how sheltered we were and how repressed we were. We had no clue. Maybe that had something to do with where I was growing up or my parents.

    But I remember being floored by a discussion of oral sex when I was say 17. It didn't dawn on me that the boys I was hanging out with probably had their own problems. I now have an inkling of what they were in retrospect. I couldn't really cope with them at the time. All I knew was that I thought one of them was a major pain in my side and we kept getting paired off together. (And no, I don't mean that romantically. He kept popping up in my life) Looking back at it now, it seems vastly more amusing and am curious what was up with the boy.

    His name, unfortunately, was Raphael Cheli. His sister was named Rachel. Clearly, their parents were evil as far as names go. Maybe I should google the boy to see where he landed up.

    Well, that's probably in the realm of too long of a response. Need to go.


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