Brett and Kate McKay at the Art of Manliness write (emphasis added).
Millennials’ high and hopeful expectations are thus on a collision course with a more depressing reality. Indeed, it was recently found that while in times past, people typically got happier as they aged, the happiness of adults over the age of 30 has been declining for the last several decades, and the trend has accelerated since 2000. In fact, in 2010, teenagers became happier than those over 30 for the first time. One of the factors behind this reversal in adult happiness is likely that young people’s soaring optimism — an optimism fed on the glowing, carefully curated imagery that continually emanated from their screens growing up — eventually runs into a wall once they leave their 20s. The realization slowly sets in that the dream life they imagined for themselves isn’t going to happen. It’s a crushing status defeat that few recognize for what it is.
I can speak from personal experience on this one. Growing up, I was constantly assured that if I went to college, studied hard, got good grades, didn’t do drugs, and obeyed the rules, I would be rewarded with a loving wife, a good-paying job, a house, and a bunch of kids.
It’s been a few years since I graduated from college, and those “rewards” have not occurred (some of them I am glad they haven’t). What has made it so difficult isn’t their absence in my life but the hype and the expectations society implied and encouraged. It created a whole lot of confusion for me when things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to. It was and remains difficult to deal with at times, particular when conversing with those for whom the American Dream is a reality. It can be very hard not to be bitter, not because I don’t have those things, but because I was deceived and occasionally someone will even try to convince me I’m the one who’s got it wrong and everything is fine. I would go so far as to argue that had if millennials were mentally prepared in advance for what to expect, they would be handling it fairly well.
Had someone simply told me the truth, I would have been thankful. But misery truly does love company.
Trying to coerce someone into believing something that contradicts reality is not only cruel but ruins their capacity for happiness; they are again being told that they are not “complete” or a “true adult” until they obtain or achieve these status-signaling things.
As I wrote about the New Lost Generation, we are the product of a failed social, cultural, and economic experiment resulting from state intervention and meddling, and while my generation is truly lost, the blame cannot be laid solely at their feet. They are, like I said, a product. Someone created them. If society wants millennials to be happier, stop lying to them about the way things are. Tell them the truth.