In 1970, the price of a stamp was about 6 cents, a gallon of milk was $1.15, and gallon of regular gas was 36 cents. Today, the United States Postal Service is near extinction and a gallon of milk is typically $3.49. And that’s regular milk, not oat or soy or almond. While the price of crude oil is currently so low, it’s negative.
This tiny lesson in economics is another way of saying that I’m only 30 years old and I’m about to live through my second economic collapse. Oh, and this one is paired with a global pandemic. So all you Boomers out there who love to complain about my generation need to all calm yourselves down and chill because we’re a little busy right now.
I understand that Boomers are annoyed with Millennials for many reasons. One of them is that we are you guys, but with Internet. And although you created it, we figured out how to play it like a piano. We have more opportunity and access and you watch us from afar, low-key jealous and frustrated and maybe thinking that if you had started out with everything we had you would have accomplished so much more than we have.
The second reason is that you think we’re kind of lazy and unfocused. Well, redirect yourself to the beginning of this article because it’s not that we are lazy; we’re exhausted. You want us to pull ourselves by our boot straps and we wish we could, but those boot straps cost way more than we can afford.
The third reason that I see at the heart of most of the disagreements between us is that we remind you of your parents, The Silent Generation. And really, who wants to be around people who remind them of their parents?
The Silent Generation or the We Did The Best We Could Generation was born in The Great Depression and World War II. Our grandparents had Pearl Harbor; we had 9/11. I graduated from Garfield High School facing two choices: try to enter the work force now or take on college debt and hope for the best during the 2008 economic crisis. My beloved grandfathers—one born in Montana, the other born in Ireland—both joked about “walking to school in the snow, uphill both ways.” My closest friends now find themselves wading uphill to work through the crushing weight of their student loans. The Silent Generation fought German Nazis, and now my generation is fighting American Nazis.
I understand that not all Boomers are guilty of all this, so if you’re getting hot and bothered by this article, 1) Make sure it’s not a fever from COVID, and 2) Yes, I’m probably talking about you. The way I see it, too many Boomers are feeling a little guilty and self-righteous right now about the world being in a mess that they have created but can’t figure out how to fix. Like that dude who parades around pretending to be the President of The United States. He is suffering from some serious Boomer Blues.
My parents are Boomers, but they are what you might call “sympathetic” to my plight. I graduated high school in 2008. I didn’t have the best grades but I was passionate about life and learning. My parents were supportive of my taking a gap year because college was too expensive anyway. They thought maybe if I got some life experience and focused on what I really wanted, I could apply for scholarships. But my gap year turned into the grand canyon and I skipped college completely.
Four years later, in 2012, most of my high-school friends had graduated college but they were in the same situation I was: living back home with their parents and working at low-paying entry-level jobs. The only difference between them and me was that I wasn’t in debt. I had taken a job as a production assistant at a commercial film company making a little over minimum wage and I was also working as a teaching artist in the public schools, making about $11.50 an hour.
At that rate I couldn’t begin to afford living on my own in my own hometown, so I left Seattle and set out to make my way as a writer in Los Angeles. That project that has met with mixed success. Some big ups and some disappointing downs. But, so far, so good.
So Boomers, I sympathize that you are bookended by two generations that were steeped in turmoil, trauma, and economic hardship and can’t seem to shut up about it. But honestly, where is this animosity coming from? I’m going to take one more shot in the dark and say that it’s money.
My mother talks about how, towards the end of the Vietnam War, the world was changing rapidly. It was a stressful but a beautiful time when her generation was upset and angry at the establishment. People were more politically active, the women’s movement was gaining momentum, Shirley Chisholm ran for president, and there was a fire in everyone’s belly. But then the ’80s came and people starting making money. The peace-seekers became the money-makers and they gradually became quiet or complacent about the things they once cared about. It’s not as easy to stay fired-up about the unsolved problems of society when you’ve got cash in your pocket.
I know that this idea goes against the “more money, more problems” philosophy. But I’m broke enough to believe that’s just the lie rich people tell themselves to hide their guilt. It’s a tough topic to talk about because it makes people with money feel uncomfortable and it makes the people without money feel angry. Which is the perfect formula for an argument between two sides who are both feeling defensive about their positions. Just like you and us, Boomers.
I’m not expecting a come-to-Jesus moment any time soon between Boomers and Millennials. In fact, I’m expecting a lot of angry people will have a lot of angry thoughts about what I’m saying. What I am hoping for is a simple acknowledgment that we Millennials are taking a page from our grandparent’s book and just doing the best we can in a world that seems ruled by greed, corruption, and chaos. And if you find us wondering out loud how you let all this happen on your watch, you shouldn’t be too surprised.
And Boomers, at this strange moment in time, I’m hoping you see the problems that I see and realize you can’t blame the next generation for the mess we’re in now. Because if you do, you’ll begin to sound like your parents. And who wants that?