A new book delves into why so many millennials in America are having such a hard time dealing. In Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, author Anne Helen reports not only greater levels of dissatisfaction (there are overarching themes of sadness and regret, despair and anger), but the millennials she surveyed also describe feeling pressing precarity and a sense of burnout in the process; akin to ‘trying to build a solid foundation on quicksand.’
Petersen delves deeper into the circumstances that birthed a perfect storm for this condition; while every generation has had its share of challenges, this is also a unique time facing millennials, who she describes, are having a harder time obtaining the stability and the standard of living their parents had.
Millennials graduated from high school or college in the midst of the 2008 recession and its aftermath, and are now hit with yet another global crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic, with all its implications – economic and otherwise.
Those situations only amplified the feelings that a person is just one major “gust” away from ruin. And this pressing need to keep going and to just survive is fueling widespread burnout.
While those experiencing poverty have always felt burnout, Petersen says the collapse of the “American Dream” affecting the middle class has meant this experience is now more mainstream.
This was the generation that was assured that the path to success was college, that taking on debt to pay for it would be worthwhile, only to discover that on the other end awaited debt and an underpaid, underresourced job. The baseline condition is basically no peace of mind, amplified by the pressures emergent tech and social media bring.
Still, she notes that at the end, understanding that there is some level of choice in what you participate in can be helpful.