What ended up happening with all this positivity and encouragement of mediocrity? Once a child reached an age where they recognized that, in fact, they were not as special as they were led to believe by the people they loved and trusted most in the world, a tremendous sense of fear overcame them: the number of teens and early 20-somethings with depression has risen dramatically in the last 20 years. And so has the number of teen suicides.
What have we done?
Now, it's true that not every individual classified as "Gen Me" is depressed or suicidal--that's not the point. The point is that the fear of personal failure is so great that many of these young people are paralyzed by it, manifesting in a multitude of ways--not the least of which is depression. Many more languish in college, trying to "figure out" what to do with their lives...but really, they're trying to figure out how not to fail. Today, the average four-year college degree is accomplished in five-to-seven years. A student who takes seven years to acheive a Bachelors could have completed a Bachelors and Masters or Bachelors and Juris Doctorate in that time; they could have also completed a Bachelors and be one year from completeing a VDM, DMD, MD, or PhD. The time, money, energy, and effort is collosal. And if it resulted in better-prepared, productive people--that would be great. But Bloomberg recently reported that the government is looking to shift the focus from "liberal arts" in colleges to "technical arts" because college graduates with four-year degrees are finding themselves unemployable, and with anywhere from $40k-$200k in debt. Part of the current administration's focus has been holding colleges accountable for the employability of their students. It's like taking advantage of the psychology of an entire generation: "You want to be special, so here's a special niche degree to make you feel better about you but, uh, you may have limited employment opportunities later...just a minor detail...."
Bankruptcy has become a social norm. Repossession of cars, short sales on homes--these are all things that are now typical instead of atypical. And while the economy is certainly struggling, we can't blame the government for everything....
It all comes down to psychology. Yours, mine, and ours. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that failure is necessary for success. "Necessity is the mother of invention," remember that one? You never hear it anymore. Too bad, too. Because history is doomed to repeat itself when forgotten--and we've forgotten. We've forgotten that things are less important than people. We've forgotten that it's okay to let our children fall, and get back up again...without our help. As parents, it's a challenge to watch your child suffer in any way. But one day, we won't be there to catch them.
What happens to "Gen Me" in the next 40-50 years?
What happens to us?