I remember how brightly the sun shone that day.
It wasn’t particularly warm outside, but it felt like it in my tiny Suzuki SX4. It was March break and I was driving home to Halifax in my first rented car. With a credit-card charge of more than $400, I felt like I could do anything.
I had about 20 CDs with me, most of which I knew I wouldn’t get around to listening to. But my options felt endless and I couldn’t wipe the brimming smile off my face.
As I mounded yet another steep hill on Highway 2, sun reflecting off my sunglasses, raising the hair on my arms, I wondered if this was what they called bliss.
That freedom, that feeling that I can go anywhere and do anything, comes and goes on the road. And now that I near graduation, I’m craving that invincibility.
But how many of us feel the same way?
With the accessibility of the internet and the seemingly hopeless economy, some deem Generation Y the “Go-Nowhere Generation.” We’re “risk-averse and sedentary;” lazy, pessimistic bums that live in our parents’ house too long, afraid to experience the “real world.”
But when did we get such a bad rap?
According to Pew Research Centre, the number of young people living at home doubled between 1980 and 2008. The U.S. Census Bureau calculations say the likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped over 40 per cent since the 1980s. Children raised during a recession are known to take fewer risks with investments and jobs. And to top it all off, we’re not even that excited to get our driver’s license anymore.
“Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother,” says Todd G. and Victoria Buccholz in a New York Times opinion piece titled “The Go-Nowhere Generation.” We’re no longer “shakers or movers;” we won’t even move where the jobs are.
“The Lost Generation chased Hemingway and Gertrude Stein to Paris. The Greatest Generation signed up to ship out to fight Nazis in Germany or the Japanese imperial forces in the Pacific. The ’60s kids joined the Peace Corps.”
But Generation Y? We’re stuck with the shitty name and the even shittier destiny. And apparently Facebook doesn’t help.
According to a study on 15 countries by Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, the more time young people spend on the internet, the longer they delay getting their license.
Talk about going nowhere.
As university students, it’s hard to see what the Buccholz’s are talking about. What do you mean we’re not ambitious? We’re going to university – a liberal arts university at that – knowing we’re not guaranteed a job at the end of our four-year degree. That’s pretty risky behaviour for a generation that “doesn’t bother.”
But then I step out of my Fredericton bubble and think of my trips back to my rural neighbourhood 30 minutes outside Halifax. My options are endless and I can do whatever I want, but what about those high school graduates who decided university wasn’t for them? What about the ones who choose to work at Sobey’s for the next five years because it’s safe and easy, because it’s stable and secure? And what about those people who still don’t have their license; where do they have to go, anyway?
It seems insulting to be grouped like this; when I first read the Buccholz’s article I could only come to defence of Generation Y. But don’t they have a point? Hasn’t the state of the economy and our dependence on the internet made us a bit apprehensive when it comes to our life goals? Are we ultimately afraid to fail?
My car renting days are over – at least for the time being.
For eight months now, I’ve been lucky enough to borrow a car I like to call my own. Her name is Clarice. She’s 15 years old and likes warm weather, a full tank of gas, and short drives around the city.
I’m not sure how much longer she’ll be with me, so I never take her for granted.
It’s nice to finally have the freedom to get as many groceries as possible in one trip or to try to pile as many long-legged people into her two-door hatchback backseat.
And sometimes, just sometimes, I like to take her on the highway for no particular reason. If nothing else, it’s a way for me to get reacquainted with her fifth gear.
I’m not sure if it’s the faster speed or the longer road, but the sun’s warmth reminds me again of those drives to Nova Scotia and the freedom I felt. As I get ready to graduate, I think of life and its possibilities and I realize how endless they really are.
We don’t have to live up to the (lack of) expectations for our supposed Generation Go Nowhere.
And don’t forget that.