Looking back to the history behind the “American Dream,” I can only wonder if this term can be a reality for my generation. As defined by Reference Answers, the American Dream is “an American ideal of a happy and successful life to which all may aspire: ‘In the deepening gloom of the Depression, the American Dream represented a reaffirmation of traditional American hopes’ (Anthony Brandt).”
But these days, looking into prospective jobs feels as if the ground is crumbling from right under the “Millennials,” or the children of the Baby Boomers born between 1982 and 2000. When and how can we reaffirm the “traditional American hope” for a happy and successful future?
In a recent CNN.com article, My life as a Boomeranger, former student Cassie Owens says, “My generation has been called the ‘boomerangers,’ meaning that young people like me and my friends are nesting with our folks again when we are expected to be independent.” According to Owens’ Pew Poll research, “Thirty-nine percent of 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents or have moved back in with their parents temporarily because of the sluggish economy. Sixty-three percent of 18- to 34-year-olds know someone who has moved back home.”
Talking with some students at Miami University has shed light on this statistic. Some seniors I’ve conversed with still remain in the job-hunt limbo. And it isn’t easy when parents keep fueling the, “what-are-you-doing-after-school” question. There is never an easy way to answer, “I don’t know” without feeling hopeless.
The Baby Boomer generation, or, “individuals born in the postwar years between 1946 and 1964” as defined by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, need to understand there is a divide between how they used to get jobs and how we are fighting our way to simply lock down an interview.
In the article, Millennials And Baby Boomers Millennial Rage: Have Our Parents Ruined Our Chances At Success? the author Ian Lang opens with this harsh, but interesting statement:
“There’s a quiet but growing rift in America that’s affecting us all. I’m talking about the divide between Baby Boomers and Millennials, specifically the Boomers’ ability (and apparent desire) to use their influence to continue to tip societal scales in their favor despite their ever-eroding relevance. In a world with decidedly finite resources, the Boomers steadfastly (and selfishly) exploit laws and societal norms to their advantage, and when they can’t, they use their power to create new ones. As members of my generation continue to struggle to reach ‘real’ adulthood (bill-paying, job-holding adulthood), the issue is only going to grow in significance.”
But later Lang concludes his article saying, “We might not have financial control yet, but if history as viewed by Strauss and Howe is any indication, the next 10-20 years are going to be very good to us. Our parents exploited every advantage they had to make a prosperous life for themselves and their children. It’s only natural that we find a way to do the same.”
I can only say that even with Lang’s argument, the road isn’t paved to guarantee our successes, regardless of our parents’ advantages. Our generation is ready to move on, but we cannot rely on what happened in the past to dictate our specific futures.
Is the “American Dream” attainable for the Millennials? Well, in order to answer that we must question the ambiguity of the term “American Dream”… what does this even mean for us? How will we, “find a way to do the same?”
Well, we must remember we are still strong, culturally and academically enriched individuals that will not settle for less. Otherwise we might as well throw in the towel now and say, “I guess that’s that.” Never find yourself settling. Because in 20 years or so you will sit there and ask yourself, “Where has my life gone?”
Find your own American Dream, as it is defined on your own terms.