From Generation Why Not to Generation Why Bother
In a recent article in The New York Times entitled, “The Go-Nowhere Generation,” writers Todd and Victoria Buchholz comment on the lack of motivation that seems to have pervaded today’s youth in America. We teenagers of Generation Y are said to be less motivated to get driver’s licenses, less motivated to actively pursue employment, and less motivated to take risks in a work environment, which are all complete reversals of the restless and “born to run” image of American youth in the past.
When I first started reading the article, I was in agreement with the argument that the authors were making. I even felt a bit guilty, as I am part of the generation being criticized and am therefore a potential contributor to this trend. But it isn’t true. Every experience I’ve had at Wash. U. so far has proven a point that is in direct opposition to the one being made.
Wash. U. students radiate motivation. Pre-meds have their hearts set on medical school, B-school students are itching to work their way up the ladder at Goldman Sachs, and even those with undecided majors are actively engaged in a constant search to find out which realm of study suits them best. Students speak passionately about their goals, devote much time to their schoolwork, and pursue their interests even further through extracurricular activities. This may not be the case for every student, but there is certainly an overwhelming majority of individuals with definite dedication to their education.
Despite this undergrad attitude, there may be some truth to The New York Times article in terms of life after the college environment. My older brother, for example, pursued his passion for screenwriting throughout his years as an undergraduate at Columbia University. He worked tirelessly in his classes and wrote an entire movie script in the first few months following his graduation. My parents urged him to pursue a more stable career path and apply to graduate school, but his perseverance was unrelenting. He would not give up, even in a particularly unforgiving industry, because of his drive to achieve success by doing what he loves.
Two years later, however, he is starting to reconsider his decisions. During the day, he helps distribute equipment at a medical office and at night he works as a stand-up comedian, neither of which is a career path he would like to stick with. He is a little lost in terms of which step to take next, and this uncertainty is what I believe is the source of what The New York Times article misconstrues as our generation’s lack of motivation.
Perhaps the overwhelming motivation that we act on through high school and college is what ultimately sets us up for the disenchanted and unmotivated period we experience when things don’t go as planned. Our generation is perhaps worthy of being called “Generation Why Not” as well as the opposite, “Generation Why Bother,” because our enthusiasm and idealism is sometimes the cause of our eventual lack of motivation.
By no means am I contending that we shouldn’t pursue our dreams. Instead, I would like to praise the amount of motivation that our generation does seem to possess, and point out that there are underlying problems, likely not solely within our generation itself, which must be solved in order to harness all this energy and creativity properly.