“Perfect millennial” ideal sets not-so-great expectations


For students who are bending over backwards underneath mountains of debt and relentlessly toiling in minimum wage jobs, being painted with the “lazy millennial” brush is disheartening.

The Toronto Star recently published an article profiling a full-time undergraduate student who also manages to work a full-time job. The article’s tone seems to exemplify an 80-hour work week and $50,000-a-year salary as the standard to which all young people can aspire if only they work hard enough. 

However, articles like this perpetuate a harmful expectation that a majority of millennials just can’t meet. 

It fails to mention that for most of us, there aren’t enough hours in a day, money in our pockets or privilege to use as a springboard. It should have.

Some students are able to find a balance between work and school while also securing their financial independence, and that should be applauded on the rare occasion it happens. But it’s unfair to set the same standard for all students. 

Striking that delicate balance is a result of hundreds of hours of hard work, but also the right circumstances. Most youth are stuck in minimum wage jobs, paying expensive rent for student housing or are faced with differences in opportunity.

With students’ mental health already suffering, unhealthy levels of stress are only multiplied when these kinds of articles continuously set the bar higher and higher.  

By normalizing one individual’s out-of-the-ordinary achievements, articles like this end up implying the rest of us should be able to do it too, no matter what the cost. They paint the rest of us as falling short, being “lazy millennials,” whether they intend to or not. 

The only reason the one student’s work week is newsworthy is because it’s the exception and not the rule. Instead, newspapers should be investigating the barriers in place for most of the rest of us that make high savings impossible.

This kind of millennial-aimed journalism also makes assumptions about what we should define as stability. 

While for this one student, stability looks like a well-paying job, a postsecondary degree and a retirement savings plan, it’s unfair to assume that everyone else is looking for the same thing. 

It’s hard enough to meet our tuition payments — don’t make us meet unrealistic standards as well.

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