Wait a minute. In all seriousness, our generation talks to our parents more than any other. (We also, according to a story I read a few months back, consider our parents our heroes.) But in general, we're the epitome of "good kids." The CDC just released a report showing that pregnancies for women under 25 (including teenagers) are at a historic low. And an article I read at the dentist's office a few months ago (yes, I even go to the dentist! Look what a good kid I am!) said a member of our generation does fewer drugs, is less likely to drink underage, and in general doesn't screw up. Go us, right?
Maybe not so much. We might not get in regular trouble, but it looks like we're about to get into trouble of a more insidious kind. All that clean living seems to have given us unrealistic expectations about our future, which our parents are left dealing with. Yesterday's New York Times had a story on Preparing Your Child For The Cold Cruel World.
"What I want most for my children is for them to find themselves in their work," said Elizabeth Lluch, the editor in chief of the WS Publishing Group in San Diego. "I want them to find work that makes them feel good about themselves, helps them define who they are, and helps them find peace within themselves." Work, she added, "is not about making a bunch of money, but finding a little niche for oneself in a world that is very fast-paced, busy and impersonal."
Molly Bingham, who lectures and writes about choosing a career, advises parents to "ask their kids ‘What do you do that you love so much that you lose track of time?’ " That passion (the word comes up constantly in conversations about children and work nowadays) should form the core of any future career search, Ms. Bingham said.
"Do you have any advice for me?" one reader asked in an e-mail message. She described her daughter, who will be graduating from college next month, as paralyzed by the fear that whatever job she takes would not be her passion and would therefore be wrong. "How can I help her find her life’s calling?" the mother wondered.
I'm graduating from college in a month, and I can categorically state that I am not worried that whatever job I take will not "be my passion." I'm more worried about a job for me existing in the first place. Yes, the plan is for me to go back home, but that's not what I want to do. And you know what? That's not what my parents want me to do either. "Have you thought about the Peace Corps?" my dad asked, unintentionally echoing Basil's post. "Everyone I know who's done it has found it really life-changing."
That's great. And I know there are people who find things like that really rewarding -- hell, I find helping others really rewarding. But I also find other things rewarding. Like having enough money to buy groceries. And not living with my parents. Yes, ideally I'd like a job that's fun and rewarding and helps me save the universe. But right now, I'll take the most boring, soul-crushing job imaginable, provided that it pays and I can do it. No, it won't be fun. It probably won't be fair, either. But it's not about paying your dues to The Man or selling out. It's about being a mature adult.
This problem of young people looking for jobs that are emotionally fulfilling rather than fiscally responsible is nothing new, of course. What's new is our parents' willingness to put up with it. In that spirit, here's a song from a soon-to-be-closing musical, about how you shouldn't care about any of that stuff, man, just do what makes you happy! Who cares if you're starving and can't pay for hot water? You're making a statement! (Katie Couric shuts up and the singing starts at about 2:05 in.)
And hey, there's always taking down the system from the inside.