This article is part of a series known as #30DaysOfThanks


Not thankful

Blah blah blah “Entitlement Generation”, blah blah blah “Generation Me”, blah blah blah “Complaint Generation.” We have all heard it before and it’s not remotely interesting anymore.

We’re often slapped with the stereotype that we are a generation of complainers who believe everything we want should fall into our laps, as though we think an Amazon drone can fly by and drop off the newest gadgets, a sense of self-worth, and a dream job all in one afternoon.

Although I don’t believe we are quite as narcissistic and lazy as we are believed to be, I’ll admit that there is a lot of unrest happening among twenty-somethings. We’re feeling unfulfilled at work, frustrated by skyrocketing student debt, and constantly pressured to be more social, stylish, and adventurous than we can afford to be. This results in ranting and occasional complaining, which I am not entirely innocent of. But have you ever thought to be thankful for the frustrations and struggles you experience?

First, of course, is that constantly growing balance sitting in your Sallie Mae account: your student loan debt. Logging in to see the five or even six digits you owe can be a hair-raising experience when you think about how many hours of work it will take for you to reach the zero balance mark. Trying to pay down student debt can feel like running down a hallway that is only getting longer with each step.

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But think about this: that debt represents the fact that you had access to and got an education. All of the learning experiences, the good times with your friends, and that trip abroad (if you were lucky enough to take one) are all wrapped up in that loan balance. If it wasn’t for those loans, there would be so much you hadn’t learned and so many opportunities you wouldn’t have.

Twenty-somethings also get a bad rap for being lazy employees who are unwilling to settle for anything less a dream job. We all know that’s a gross exaggeration, though, because many of us are toiling away forty-plus hours each week in jobs that do not require a degree. It’s frustrating to not only get slapped with the generalization of being lazy while working like crazy for puny paychecks, but I’m here to tell you that something good is coming out of this.

You shouldn’t discount the experience that your job offers, even if you’re certain an ape could do it with minimal effort. It might seem like all you’re learning to do is to juggle six skinny caramel grande lattes in an elevator or how to be an expert envelope stuffer, but you are also taking home a lot more than those experiences. You’re learning how to snag and keep a job, how to dress and act in a professional setting, and how to maintain relationships with coworkers. That’s experience you don’t get in most student jobs or in the classroom, but these are skills that will be important for the rest of your career. Pay attention so and don’t miss those lessons.

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Along the same lines, it’s also frustrating to be in career purgatory –or, the time between getting our diplomas and finally getting to where we (think we) want to be. It’s different for everyone, but this period can last several years if your ideal career requires a couple years of work experience before a few more years of school before another few years of entry-level work in that field. Many of us will be well into our thirties before we will have solid footing in our careers, which is frustrating since many of us used to believe a bachelor’s degree was an Admit One ticket into a great career right out of college.

It’s hard for us to be thankful for this limbo period lasting years or even more than a decade between college graduation and our dream jobs, but it’s worth a try. You see, this period isn’t all wasted time. During this time, you’ll be learning valuable skills that will ensure you are a success in your career. It is also a period of time when you are free to make mistakes and try out a few different paths. Enjoy the journey to the best of your ability.

This last one is the most difficult one for me to write because I struggle with this so much. I am a textbook example of the phenomenon Jenny Blake coined “obsessive comparison disorder;” I cannot stop comparing myself to others. There will always be people who are more attractive, more social, and more interesting than I am. These people are passionate about their jobs, travel three months out of the year, and manage to make me look like a sack of potatoes by comparison.

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I’m going about it all wrong, though, and deep down I know that. There is not a finite amount of happiness, success, or beauty to go around that they are taking more than their share of. It’s not a zero-sum game.

Instead of wallowing in our own supposed mediocrity, we should be thankful and happy for other peoples’ successes. It can serve as inspiration to us and also, being associated with successful people might also bring some success our way. Also, practice a little bit of selflessness and just be happy for them for the sake of being happy for them. It feels so much better than being jealous, I promise.

Older generations can generalize us all they want, but we know we aren’t simply a generation of complainers. Sure, there is a lot to be frustrated about, but we are able to appreciate even the setbacks and annoyances that come with being a twenty-something in the 2010s.