Existentialism and Millennials
How many times in the past month, week, or even day have you heard someone say “I’m having an existential crisis!” and throw their hands up?
Apparently, for Millennials, existentialism is more than just a twentieth century philosophical movement. In layman’s terms, existentialism in its purest form is the idea that a person’s life has no relative purpose or meaning aside from what they shape it up to be.
So what are the shifts in thoughts all the way from Baby Boomers to Millennials?
For starters, 56% of 18–31 year olds were married and living in their households in 1958. Most recently, only 23% of 18–31 year olds are married and living in their own households.
Why the sudden drop? Was it the housing market crash? Their socioeconomic upbringings? Or was it the fact that in 1985 (a prime time for Millennials to be brought up), 50% of marriages ended in divorce? And in 1980, the starting year for a baby to be considered a Millennial, the divorce rate was at 52%? With the divorce rates presented, how many of the 77% of unmarried 18–31 year olds grew up with divorced parents and an overall dare I say — dismal, pessimistic, and cold view of marriage?
Before Generation X came along and raised the divorce rates, there were Baby Boomers — products of World War 2 and newfound economic growth in a postwar United States of America. Staunch social conservatives and believers in their faith and country, they stuck to the societal norms such that the generations before, and their churches, instilled in them. The man was ‘stronger’ than the woman, the woman belonged in the house, and divorce was a sin in the eyes of their Almighty God. Many Baby Boomers most likely wanted to get divorced, but didn’t, in fears of judgement and women not finding spaces in the workforce. Let’s not forget that the fact that marriage was pushed then — it was wrong to live with a boyfriend, girlfriend, or life partner. Let’s also not forget that many repressed homosexuals most likely entered paper marriages to avoid embarrassment for themselves.
And so, the 80’s came rocking on along with Ronald Reagan in the White House, MTV, Madonna, and Michael Jackson. People became more open minded, no matter how conservative the president was. The 80’s were also a time of increased female presence in the workforce, a stronger economy, and over all social liberalism working its way into America, before it would carry on and embarrass itself in 2016 with safe spaces and ‘triggers.’ Fewer women felt the need to stay with their husbands, because they realized that they did indeed have a place in society aside from submitting to the daily activities of popping out children and cooking dinners for their unfaithful men. The divorce rate went up high, and that was what caused millennials born from 1982–1985 to grow up with two Christmases, two houses, and two different places to run when the pressures of choosing a good state school came onto them. They didn’t see the world through rose colored goggles — they saw something different. They realized that people were getting divorced left and right, mom and dad weren’t meant for each other (they could’ve been a product of a Madonna concert with one too many pills) and that marriage wasn’t the sacred institution that it was built up to be. Shows like Full House and Double Trouble came out, not daring to take on the topic of divorce, but showed America that a child in a single parent household could still be raised in a wholesome environment. This caused Millennials to see that their Generation-X parents were happily unmarried, and most likely brought the thought of ‘why even bother?’ into their heads. That is why, 56% went to 23%. Millennials can be whiny, entitled, brats that see the government as their savior, but they’re right about one thing. Why get married if it won’t end well? They don’t look at God — they look at science. They believe less in the divine, and more in the wine. Millennials are also now the most populated generation — taking the spot of the Baby Boomers. Generation Z, which is the product of Millennials, is developing, but developing slowly. With less marriage and more focus on work and a decent state of mind, Millennials tend to have kids later or not at all.
After 2008, the economy changed significantly. Since then, and more Millennials have been opting to live at home because they simply can’t afford to move out. They have student loans (only three dollars for every five dollars of student loans is being paid so far), expensive cars that have been bought with zero down that they’ll eventually have to pay off, and the biggest safe space of all, their parents’ houses, where they can never do any wrong, and come back when they realize that their jobs simply don’t cover everything. 32% of Millennials lived at home in 2007, and the number went up since President Obama came into office. The last time it was recorded was 2012, and the percentage was 36%. So yes, the Great Recession stunted economic expediency for millennials, who opposed to their parents, are renting properties more than ever. They saw their parents go through hell and back when their properties were foreclosed and short sold in 2008, and they realized that buying a house in the conditions that the American economy is in now, isn’t worth it, even if they can afford it.
And finally, the shift in mental health is one that needs to be addressed. As someone that suffers from depression and anxiety, I can confirm that most of the people I talk to suffer from some sort of similar mental illness as well. 44% of college students report suffering from depression, and 1 in 5 Millennials say that they have it. For the Baby Boomers and Generation-X, depression was only at 16%. Why the increase? Why are so many people in therapy? Why do Millennials have higher anxiety levels than those of mental patients in the 1950's? Was it the sheltering? Was it the extensive social scrutiny? The parents that ran off to work instead of bothering to stay at home with their children twice a week and asking them how they were? Or is being depressed a new way to ‘fit in’? The ‘fit in’ people happen to be the people that this writer personally despises the most — the ‘fit in’ crowd on Twitter that gets people like Milo Yiannopolous banned from Twitter, the ‘fit in’ crowd that has pointless safe spaces on college campuses because their parents gave them too much shelter when they were children, and they want that shelter in the real world. They are the social justice warriors that scream misogyny when you say that you don’t like the woman running for president very much (she’s a woman, just not the right one.) They are the social justice warriors that scream at you when you let a murmur of discontent slip on accident.
The point of this article is not bigotry. The point of this article is not politics. The point of this article is definitely not to get myself attacked by Twitter cry babies. The point of this article is to show that Millennials are by far the most different generation. They don’t move out, they don’t get married, and they sure as hell aren’t as tough as their parents were. They are crying out for help — hoping that a random revolution will change it, when really they need to take the initiative to do it themselves. They are the generation that was coddled and sheltered, and now they are struggling to get themselves shown in a good light. America has went from mom and pop households to ‘mommy can handle three kids on her own’, from ‘we are strong as a nation’ to ‘I will not stand up for the national anthem’, from ‘let’s get married!’ to ‘we just can’t afford it right now.’ Something needs to change. Let’s get the optimism back, move out of our parents’ houses, and put ourselves to work. It’s the least we could do for the up and coming generation.