They call us Generation Me: entitled, spoiled, self-centered wantit- alls and know-it-alls.
We’re told from an early age that if we dream it, we can be it. We expect accessible post-secondary education. We expect to be handed highly-paid, professional careers where we will quickly move up the corporate ladder. We expect that with a university degree in hand, we’ll never have to work a shitty retail or fast food job again. It’s all about us, our uninhibited ambitions, our incessant chant of me, me, me, me, me.
At least, that’s what the countless articles, columns and blog posts espousing disdain for people our age would suggest.
However, I wonder if we’re really asking for so much.
This is certainly the dream my parents had set out for me. Both born in the middle of the baby boom, they come from humble beginnings. My dad is the only child of Polish immigrants who came to Canada after being liberated from Nazi labour camps. My mom grew up in a village in New Brunswick as one of nine children. Her mother, who lost her WWII veteran husband and had many mouths to feed, at times had to turn to social assistance. Despite the disadvantages of their backgrounds, both my parents built very successful lives for themselves. My dad put himself through a business degree while living above a Chinese grocer in Kensington Market and my mom convinced an ad agency to not only hire her without a postsecondary degree, but pay for her to further her education. Good luck trying to do that these days.
As my mom put it, times were simpler then. No one was interning for free, even several years after graduating, and getting a professional job without a university degree was completely attainable. There was far less government assistance with tuition and moving up in your industry could be very difficult, but the middle class dream was still alive. My parents were able to start a family, purchase a home and keep a car up and running. They, like most parents, wanted to give me a better life with more advantages than their own.
And to their credit, they did. They encouraged me from middle school to attend university, paid my tuition and supported the industry I chose for myself.
The entitlement of my generation is also the hopes and dreams of our parents. But the economy doesn’t share their vision.
I do not expect that I’ll be able to own a home (or even a tiny condo) in this city for quite some time. If one day I choose to have a family, leaving my career for an extended period of time won’t be an option. And it turns out that our university degrees aren’t that valuable unless we’re willing to pair them with further education (and debt) or an eagerness to be used as free labour until someone gives us a shot.
Generation Me has some high expectations and we’re being told to stuff them away because the “real world” can’t support them. We’re not assholes, we were told over and over that the world was a different, more oyster-like place.
Perhaps this is why we take to the streets to protest fees. Expecting a free ride is ridiculous, but I don’t blame anyone for being furious that their ever more expensive education is meaning less and less.