by Jenna Harris
I have a pretty standard line that I say when explaining to people that, after completing a degree in Anthropology and International Development, I decided to pick-up and move to New York to study acting:
“It wasn’t like I was going to make money in Development anyways.”
I say this with an impish grin and a glint in my eyes.
I believe that I originally started framing my choice to go to acting school in this way – by essentially deflecting what appears to be a completely irrational decision with a joke – because of the tremendous guilt that I felt at being privileged enough to be able to go. But the sad reality of my joke is that there is truth to it. In the field of International Development, at the time that I graduated, there were very few jobs despite the overabundance of work that could be done world-wide. And the ones that existed were plagued by low wages, a high burn-out rate and almost insurmountable competition. The Development inner-disciplinary joke was:
“You need a Masters even to get a job photocopying.”
Said again with an impish grin and a glint in the eye. Again, because it was true.
But as we are all now well aware, it isn’t just the arts (fine and general) that are plagued by this inability to find work; like a virus, unemployment is spreading in ways that past generations would have thought impossible.
So the point then is what? That life sucks? That there’s no hope? That this is just the way things are right now, that a sizable number of us will not have job and financial security? That we should just throw our hands up and say “We surrender!”?.
We could. Or we could fight.
The thing is, is that it doesn’t feel like we are at the fighting point yet; as Millennials we haven’t hit our breaking point. Our point of action. We are great at talking about the issues, complaining about them, but not actually doing anything about them. I think that the reason for this is that although many of us live below the poverty line, we still have roofs over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, and Netflix. In short, we haven’t suffered enough. And although I’m not wishing that anyone ever suffers more, I do think that in times of suffering the world has seen great art and innovation spring forth because people were angry, fed-up and had nothing left to lose.
As Millennials, we are living in a kind of safe no man’s land where we are not yet angry enough or fed-up enough to risk big. In my mind then, in order for things to change – in order for us to bring about the change we want – and to find ways not just to survive but to thrive in the economy as it currently is, we have to push ourselves to our point of action. And this takes work. Canadian Millennials are not lazy, but we are used to living in a relatively peaceful country where we do not have to fight to exist on a daily basis.
Okay, so again Jenna, jeez, what then is the point? And the truth is that I am not 100% sure. I think that as Millennials we need to, to be honest, stop wallowing. We need to move past our feelings of loss over how we thought the world was going to be, and on to something that energizes us, empassions us and pushes us to act. We need to ask questions, like a child be inquisitive and see the world anew so that we can shed our jadedness and stop allowing ourselves to fall back on lines like: “I wasn’t going to make any money anyways.”