Katrina, I appreciate your zealous defense of your generation, and I certainly acknowledge that my original post had more than a whiff of “kids these days” grumpiness. I think this is a conversation worth having, so let me back up a bit. I’m a Gen-Xer, one of those guys who grew up listening to hair bands until Nirvana ruined all our fun and taught us that our lives of world-historical prosperity were really prisons for our souls, or something. We’re the folks who burst on the work scene right after the Cold War and Desert Storm, at the “end of history” with tech bubble 1.0 staring us in the face.
And good lord were we a bunch of entitled brats. By “we” I mean people like me, graduates of top-tier educational institutions. The universe hated us if we had less than five job offers, and the very idea that choosing to work less should mean less pay or less advancement was a virtual civil-rights issue. I exaggerate, but only slightly.
Here’s the problem: Many of us never really grow up. When we read the tweets in Susannah Breslin’s article, we’re not reading “Dead Poet’s Society” rebellion against stern and responsibility-minded parents; we’re reading the regurgitated and updated sentiments of my own “bubble” generation, just like my generation received similar words from Baby Boom parents. So we spin off into self-indulgent career paths with ever-more superficial ideas of “meaningful” work and sacrifice-free notions of “change.”
I regret spending much time in my late twenties and early thirties dragging my family from job to job, searching for the appropriately fulfilling career. One job had great money and too many hours. Another job had great hours and not enough money. A third job was amazing in every way except that it was cold all the time in upstate New York. Then — by God’s grace — I began to realize that jobs don’t fulfill us and that our purpose is found in knowing and doing the will of God, no matter where that takes us. I walked out of the bubble and never looked back.
I wish that someone had thrown a glass of cold water in my smug law-student face, told me that I was not God’s special little snowflake, and that my life was truly not my own. Then again, I probably wouldn’t have listened. So when I make fun of Breslin’s tweeters (and they were just too silly to leave alone), I’m really mocking my younger self.
Of course there are many millions of bedrock, salt-of-the-earth families who never traveled such frivolous paths. Unfortunately — and here’s where we circle back once again to Murray’s book — increasing physical and cultural separation between social classes can deprive Breslin’s tweeters of the reality check they so desperately need.