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This is my GenX Confession...(part 1)
A big word with a lot of promise.
I look back now and realize what influence growing up in the 80's really had on me. The increasing wealth, advancing technology, and booming commerce was normal. Most everyone I knew lived in a single family home and their parents worked at a local manufacturing plant or retail store...many owned their own business. Everyone treated their kids to happy meals on a regular basis, Nintendos at Christmas, and Keds for back to school. Of course a 10 year old doesn't understand Wall Street booms and trickle down economics. A kid has no context for what things like Nintendo, Walkmen, Wal-Mart super stores, and McDonald's franchises mean to their reality. To me, it was normal stuff. Those things had always been there. And, as far as I knew, they always would be. And, by the way, most everyone could afford that lifestyle (or so it seemed).
When I grew up, it was expected I would go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, and live the American dream. Just like my parents did. Only I was going to do it better. That's how America has worked for generations. Each one doing better than the previous.
In the Spring of 2000 I graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Business Communications. I had 4 different job offers to choose from, with salaries starting at 28K all the way up to over 40K. I took the job I thought was the best choice, and into the workforce I went. I was 22 years old, making more than 30 grand a year, working in television, and on top of the world. I had officially started my American dream.
Then reality hit...and it hit hard. Six months after graduation, in December of 2000, I received a lovely letter from the lovely student loan people that I had to begin repayment of my loan. The balance was over 32K. My credit card bills started adding up. They were nearing 20K...I mean, I really needed to buy a new wardrobe for work, a TV, some furniture...I was making money now, right? I was 23 years old and over 50 grand in debt, making just over 30K a year. But, I was young and had plenty of time to pay down the debt. Besides, my salary would continue to go up as moved up in my company, and I eventually would buy a house and build equity. So, it would be OK.
I kept this up for the next year. Living paycheck to paycheck, never budgeting, never saving, trying to make minimum payments on credit cards and pay rent/bills, but keep up the lifestyle to which I was accustomed (thanks to my parents).
I kept telling myself things would get better. I would get a better job, make more money, pay down debt, find the right guy, and get the American dream back on track. I still had hope. I was told all my life that if I went to college and got a good job, I would be OK. But, as the years started to pass, I started noticing my expectations and my reality were at odds with each other. My salary didn't increase more than 3% a year. I would get bored with a job, quit, and have to start over somewhere else. The bills kept piling up, but the salary still didn't rise much. In fact, it went the wrong way a few times....but, I thought, I won't work somewhere I hate just because the pay is higher than another job. It became harder and harder to meet someone. I couldn't figure out really where to meet someone after I was taken out of the automatic social setting of a college town.
Suddenly, I wake up and I'm 32. I am finally making more money than I was 10 years ago, but I still can't afford to buy a house. Not quite yet...but I'm getting closer. I'm still in debt. Yes, I still have those student loans. I am still struggling to get ahead. I know I am not alone. Many of my Gen X friends have the same problems. The world has changed so fast, and it feels like we got caught in the middle.
When my parents were my age, they owned a home and a business, 2 cars, and a vacation time share in Florida. I own a 46" flat screen and an Ikea couch and cabinet.
I get the feeling my expectations never gave reality a chance. But, I am still working for my American dream. It just may look a little bit different than I originally thought.