Opinion: The plight of the young

The plight of the young

An open letter to the Class of 2020:

Greetings. While I’m well aware that far more separates us at this point than could ever be properly catalogued, we do have something in common - coming of age in the midst of an economic catastrophe. And given that I am just half a generation older than you, having lived in the post Great Recession reality for over a decade, I have a few pieces of advice to offer you.

I was raised a son of privilege, making me over eager and under prepared for a world that was transforming at an incalculable rate. But my parents, as well as my faith, did furnish me with a character that if nothing else understood perseverance, fortitude, and how to suffer. That would be my first piece of advice - prepare to take up your cross, in a socio-economic sense, because unless you become part of the protected class, life will often be excruciatingly difficult.

My second piece of advice is do not join the protected class, who are all those still being paid as if nothing has happened. I mean no disrespect to essential employees (they know which of their managers aren’t worth a stack of beans). But we cannot run a country with the protected class as our breadwinners, and clingers in communications, consulting, or internships, which is where they put new hires. You deserve a real, primary wealth producing job - please fight for it.

The third piece of advice: stay out of debt at any cost. Nothing is worth going into debt for save the house where you will raise your family, and the financed asset you used beforehand to prove to the bank you deserved a mortgage. I’m only going to say this once - school is not worth it if it means going into debt. There are thousands skills you can pay for with cash that have a better return on investment than all post nominals below professional degrees.

I said what I said.

A fourth offering: travel is best done in concentric circles, not international zigzags. There is nothing wrong with seeing the world. But unless you have really drank the cosmopolitan Kool-Aid, where somehow we can have citizens with no countries, like people with no families, it is a great idea to spend time somewhere else but still in our borders. It will help you understand the realities of your country better and empathize with fellow citizens. Thailand can wait, honestly.

Five - golden rings. If I have a single regret about the last decade that is indissoluble, it is that I did not find a beloved to wed and start a family with. To be clear, the economic conditions necessary for such a venture did not materialize for me. But, using items listed above, when you find yourself not gasping for air is probably as good a moment as any to start your own kingdom with a willing other half - bonus points for starting young and having several children.

Final thoughts: these “once in a lifetime” economic events are getting more frequent – I have lived through three of them, each occurring about once every six years. In ‘08 I was still a student, but the lack of jobs after pushed me towards trades; in the middle of training for the oil field, it collapsed in ‘14; and, six months into my first real job as an adult, having just signed for a truck (remember, the asset before the house?) COVID happened and I was laid off. I’m only 30.

I do not say this so you will despair, nor for sympathy from your graduating class or the elder generation that often berates mine as entitled layabouts - some of us have earned these epithets. But if empathy is still a value we consider important, I state for the record that many of us in the our now very late twenties or early thirty-somethings are still walking around in a daze, trying to figure out when the normal course of life will resume, so we can live as our parents did.

I’m beginning to realize that may never be. And so, it is my duty to warn you who are just after me: it’s a struggle over here. But if you fight hard enough, you will have moments of peace.

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