My generation is the problem not the solution

How many times have you heard or said, “Children are our future”? How many times have you stopped to realize that children grow up? I’m reading Peter Pan right now and while it had nothing to do with this idea from a conscious level, I know it influenced this thought. Children cannot stay children forever, just as at some point something you once viewed as the future is now the present or maybe, even the past. This thought is probably the scariest thing to me when I think about time. Time never stops but our time will run out.
The idea of time running out is a huge driving force for the thinking that children are the future. If they’re blessed, children will be here long after you and I are gone. Therefore, they are the future extension of us. Children are like little bundles of clay, soft and malleable and easily influenced by powerful hands. They can be shaped, and molded, and reshaped, but once they are fired, they stay the same. This is adulthood. Adults can still be painted over and changed, but at their core, they are still those same pieces of clay that were molded and shaped in childhood. So now I must ask you: what are you doing to shape the future? What is your mark on your extension into the future?
When I look at my peers in my generation, I am constantly texting somebody to tell them how happy I am they’re a part of my life. This didn’t start becoming commonplace until I graduated and left Pitt. Why did it take me so long to appreciate what I had? The easy answer, as the saying goes, is you never know what you have until it’s gone. However, I don’t think this is the whole story. I believe that I needed to see what it’s like to be part of a community that doesn’t share my values and beliefs. A community of people who don’t have similar experiences to mine. A community of people who have their own sets of expertise, different from those I am accustomed to.
It was this community that made me start to think about what my generation is doing in this world. There was a point in time that we were the children and we were the future. Now, all of a sudden, we are adults and we are the present. If we’re not careful, we will become the seasoned adults and our legacy will be in the past before we’ve had a chance to lay it. There are things I see day after day that show me my generation is not ready for this challenge. There are also things I see day after day that restore my faith in my generation’s ability to lead. When I look at people who are exiting college around the same time I  am and see that there are so many of them that cannot do simple tasks and navigate situations that are necessary to go into the world, work full time, leave your parents, I fear for our ability to leave a meaningful impact on our children. When I look at people who are entering college around the same time I am leaving and see how little they care about everything, I fear for their ability to even succeed in college let alone life after college. The misconception we let ourselves believe is that college teaches you everything. College doesn’t teach you anything. College does not give you practical work experience, unless you take a job in your field during that time. College does not teach you how to go grocery shopping or change the oil in your car, especially when you’re close enough to home to take it to mom and dad. Parents teach this and/or you teach yourself. When I look at my generation, I look at parents who don’t teach, they do. I look at students who allow themselves to be coddled. I know this isn’t everybody, and I will admit that my view on this has changed recently and I pray it changes again, for the better.
We are now the present we are no longer the future. Unlike the future, the present is not infinite. We have a limited amount of time to do all the good we can possibly do. How can we do good if we don’t do anything at all? I feel like everybody is getting lazier. As a side by side example let’s look at the obesity problem and the food shortage problem. How can both of these be in existence? Because people are lazy—not that people are too lazy to grow food but people are too dependent on other things to help deliver food, and those that have it, eat their fill, or more than their fill, and sit on their butts doing nothing. This is an oversimplification that could quickly turn into a tangent, but think about why I bring the issue up. There are 24 hours in a day, a recommended 2/3 of these 24 hours are spent at work or asleep. What are you doing with the other third of your days? Are you sitting around watching TV by yourself? Are you exercising however you can? Are you spreading your talents to whoever will accept them? If my generation is going to be the solution TV needs to be the last of these priorities rather than the first. But are they?
Let’s flip the switch and think about our attitudes in the workplace. How much do we value our jobs? I’m sure it isn’t as much as the people who have been in their jobs and/or companies for 20+ years; obviously you have to really believe in something to be there for that long (or be an idiot as a wise man told me earlier this week). I asked this same person how we invest people in a job or a role and he told me that sometimes you can’t. Now, duh. But, think about that. Why are we taking jobs we don’t give two s**ts about? Do not tell me it’s because it was the only offer and you tried to go other places, no. It’s because you cannot find value in your work. We are not a self-motivated generation. For many things, this is great; a group mentality gets a lot of jobs done. For bettering ourselves, it’s horrible. I will admit that when I was hired there was one of two places I was going to go, and I was placed in the one that I would not have chosen for myself. I’m still a little bitter but I found value in my job and that is what gets me up every morning and that is why I produce quality work. It’s true that I don’t want my name on anything that I’m not proud of; but my standards for being proud would be a lot lower if I didn’t invest in it. When people ask me how I like my job, I never start with, “well it’s not what I would have chosen for myself.” I’m still a student, why on earth would I close my mind to something I can learn from? Learning is my full time job. Learning should always be a full time job throughout every point in life.
Okay, so, my generation is the problem not the solution. It’s a drastic statement, it’s a stretch, and it’s a generalization. However, the points I brought up are very true. I can’t speak to what parents of young children are doing because I am not close to enough to see it. I can’t speak to what high school students feel because I am no longer in that place in my life and I know they have different values than I did in high school. I can tell you that the people I interact with on a daily basis in all situations from all walks of life need some redirection. In order to be the solution of the present (formerly the future), we must focus on the problems facing our world, from a generational perspective because it is unique to each generation. We must also focus on the problems from the perspective that we are here now and today’s children will be here tomorrow. We must give them the tools to be better than us, and the best way to do this is to reach our maximum potential. Reaching our maximum potential is impossible without opening our minds and expanding our lives.

Published by She Got The PhD

A web-based soapbox of an Assistant Professor of color in Chemical Engineering; sharing my feelings on books, academia, and current events. I hope you enjoy reading :)

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