Unattainable Unicorns and Generation Y’s Reality Check

I’m sure some of you have already read this article from Wait but Why about Generation Y, but if not I strongly suggest you take a gander. In a nutshell the article dissects why Millennials not only have inflated opinions about themselves and their worth, but why most of them are also incredibly unhappy.

When I grew up I was taught to believe that I could be whatever I wanted if I worked hard enough, and I was special. I believed this with my whole heart, which is the main reason I strived to be a filmmaker for so long. The thing that I didn’t realize was that all of my peers were taught the exact same thing. So here I am in a generation where everyone thinks they are special and believe they will go on to become CEOs or Oscar winners, but in reality most of us will be lucky to afford retirement. This may sound pessimistic, but that could just be the Generation Y disappointment coming out in me.

As silly as the stick-figure cartoons might be, after reading this article it was as if a lightbulb switched on in my head. Since the beginning of 2013 I’ve been hopping from one incredible experience (Thailand) to another (getting hitched), and I thought that moving to Toronto would be the next amazing lily pad for me to jump onto. So far, it hasn’t been. Truthfully, it’s been full of disappointment and frustration. I know I haven’t been here long, but let’s just say my expectations for coming here were incredibly inflated and I’m now having to come to terms with my reality.

What did I expect to happen when I got here? In all honesty, I hoped to get a mid-level position at a big arts organization or entertainment/media company in my first or second month of being here. There are a ton of jobs in Toronto, and being the ambitious and hard-working person that I am, I didn’t think that I would have too much trouble finding employment. The reality is that I’m entering my third month here and although I have gotten about 6 interviews since I started my job hunt, I’ve applied to over 80 job postings. I was expecting to be on my flowery patch of grass with my unicorn by now, but instead I’m standing on a pile of dirt asking myself “WTF?”

If this wasn’t bad enough, just like the article mentions, every day when I log onto Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram I’m bombared with information telling me how everyone I know is having a way better time than I am. I know everyone just uses social media to tell the world how awesome they are, I do it too, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck. I know I would be way happier in my situation if I wasn’t constantly made aware that so-and-so was going to Jamaica for some fun in the sun or what’s-his-face just bought an $800,000 house. But alas, that’s the world I live in, and the world my kids will live in, so I guess I better just get used to it.

So what does all this mean? It means that I, and most Millenials for that matter, need a big ol’ reality check. I don’t necessarily want to lower my expectations or settle, but I do think it’s important for me to take a moment and question what I really want in life, why I want it, and then be more realistic about how and when I can achieve it. Just like the article suggested, I’m going to stay wildly ambitious, but I’m also going to try and ignore everyone else’s flowery green grass, I’m going to stop thinking I’m a special and unique snowflake until I have something to show for it, and I’m going to enjoy the journey goddamnit! To hell with the destination; I’m throwing the map out of the car window!

(Image: Wait but Why)


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    • That’s something I’m starting to realize, and even when I was reading the article then writing my post last night I started to feel better about everything. I know I put too much pressure on myself and I need to just stop and smell the roses and enjoy life for what it actually is!

  • I agree that our generation has an inflated opinion of ourselves and our worth but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Why settle when you know you can do more? I do think though that it’s important to stop comparing ourselves to others. Especially on social media, it’s so easy to look at someone and say that so and so has such a great life but let’s face it, most of the time, people over-exaggerate.
    Connie @ Savvy With Saving recently posted…5 Things I Live WithoutMy Profile

    • That’s very true, everyone exaggerates about their lives on social media which is so frustrating because who really does it benefit? If you’re exclaiming that your life is so amazing on Facebook, I can’t help but wonder why you would need to tell everyone besides to make yourself feel better and make other people envy you? I kind of wish there was a day each week that social media just didn’t exist so people could recharge and reflect.

  • I’m sorry your move hasn’t gone as smoothly as you’d hoped. I experienced a similar disillusionment as a generation Y-er. Immediately after college graduation I got lucky and landed a dream job- I got to understudy one of my idols on an international tour of a musical for 7 months.

    It’s been five years since then and while I’ve had some career highlights it’s been a really tough road. In some ways I worry that my experience fresh out of college will be the greatest thing I ever do, and in other ways, I’m grateful for my struggle as an actress. I’ve learned A LOT about managing my expectations. Now I work hard and when something good happens, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. I don’t expect too much and it makes me happier in every facet of my life.

    • I know exactly what you mean. My first job out of university was totally a dream job, especially for someone fresh out of film school. It only lasted four months but it was the best four months ever. Ever since then it’s been a tougher road full of disappointment and a lot of hardwork, but just like you I’m trying to learn to manage my expectations and just be happy with what I do have in my life.

  • I think the only difference between Gen Y/Millennials versus Gen X is we weren’t told we were special. Awe sad! ha ha! But we did still strive to do whatever we wanted to be happy. I loved that article because I think it’s so true, especially about FB. BTW did you read their post about image crafting? It’s fucking brilliant IMO and now when I read FB I giggle because I diagnose every single status update. “I’m in Hawaii with the best hubs in the entire world and I’m so blessed to have such a perfect life and perfect job!!!” Barf! But now I read through the words and think, hmmm, probably insecure about their life…well it makes me feel better anyway. Or I stay off FB a lot more and/or hide people who keep posting stuff like that. Hey, whatever makes me happier! I’m sorry things haven’t been easy for you in Toronto quite yet. I’m hoping that changes for you!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted…Saving for a Big GoalMy Profile

    • I’m sure things will turn around, or maybe I just need to start thinking differently, be more open, and be happy for what I have. It’s just hard because I’ve never been one of those people to live in the now, I’m always looking towards the future, and this is the first time I really have no idea what’s going to happen next.

  • I completely understand. I have the exact same thoughts. Life is not what I expected it to be after college. It’s less stressful in some ways but a little disappointing in others. I feel so lost sometimes. I know what I’m doing is not what I want to be doing but it’s hard to walk away when you have so many responsibilities.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted…Don’t Go Into Debt For CollegeMy Profile

    • Totally. I think a lot of people in our generation find themselves disappointed but it really does have to do with expectations and maybe we all need to learn to have more realistic expectations? It’s easy enough to say follow your passion but at the end of the day we all need to pay rent and take care of all of our adult responsibilities too.

  • Love the last paragraph of your post, thanks for being so honest. Truthfully, I am worried that I am getting too excited about the possibility of moving next year and that I may end up disappointed. I need to work on enjoying what I have – situations may change, but the general feelings you have about your life and progress don’t always change with it. I am excited about other opportunities, but I have to realize those may not become a reality for a while. Thanks for sharing that article, too, it definitely has a lot of truth to it.
    E.M. recently posted…August Budget ReviewMy Profile

    • I don’t think you shouldn’t be excited about moving next year, but it’s definitely important to not be so hardon yourself, and remember it takes time (a lot of it) to start a life somewhere new. I have to remind myself of this everyday but I really do believe that in the future I’ll look back and be glad I took this risk and moved.

  • This is why I don´t like facebook anymore! It´s just filled with various announcements concerning travels, babies, marriage and buying houses… something which feels so far off for me at this time of life.

    I also grew up with parents encouraging me to do well in school, and believing in me, saying I could do what I wanted to do, but within reason. What they wished for me was to get an education so that I could have a stable job and economy to live a decent life.

    I have noticed some unattainable unicorns however, at my workplace where I´m the oldest, many of the other co-workers, are just out of high school, and well, you should hear the way they talk. Soooo naive!
    The Norwegian Girl recently posted…The Secret behind Higher Education in NorwayMy Profile

    • I can imagine, and I’m sure I was similar to those high school kids when I was in high school. I was so naive until I graduated university and got my first full-time job in the real world.

  • Brilliant post that hits the nail on the head. Our generation is full of wannabe special snowflakes – how could we not be, when that’s all we heard growing up? It’s a hard mentality to shift out of, too, but I think it’s necessary because as you’ve pointed out, it’s just not realistic. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Even though I quit believing the whole “if you can dream it you can do it!” idea when I graduated college, I still find myself from time to time getting caught up feeling like I’ve somehow failed because I don’t constantly live this exotic, whirlwind life or I wasn’t able to get my dream job or something else equally silly. It’s nice to have a reminder I have way too much stuff to be happy about to let some skewed ideas about failure and success get me down :)

    • I want to second Anne’s comment – it’s the same in a lot of big cities. Yes, sure, there are entitlement issues among generation Y, just as there was entitlement among older generations (especially from the perspective of THEIR older generations). More importantly, I think we should be talking and examining the structural issues that make it so difficult for young people to gain a solid economic foothold: the rise of higher education cost and debt, a shaky economy that is moving increasingly to freelance jobs, etc.
      Well Heeled Blog recently posted…Hello to London in 30 Days!My Profile

  • Great article! You said it: “take a moment and question what I really want in life, why I want it, and then be more realistic about how and when I can achieve it” and I could not agree more. I hope you find the job you want soon. Good luck on your interviews!
    Eva @ Girl Counting Pennies recently posted…Sunday Special: My Week in Review #5My Profile

  • I personally think the Gen Y hate is blown out of proportion. Maybe it’s the people I hang out with, but I know far fewer entitled types than humble and realistic types.

    That said, one thing I do hate is the notion that we all have to love our jobs and should settle for nothing less. The fact is, most of the jobs we need to make the world go around are not exactly passion jobs, but they need to be done.

    And I totally agree with the online bubble that only reflects the positive and creates unrealistic expectations and depression!

    Here’s hoping month three in Toronto is THE month for you :)
    eemusings recently posted…How to spend three weeks in Italy for free (or close to it)My Profile

  • Whoa, that article is dead on. Although I’m currently employed, I’m also on the job hunt. In typical Gen Y fashion, I thought I would find a “better job” fairly quickly because I’m so damn special. Life, on the other hand, is giving me a good ol’ reality check. This is going to be a lot harder than I thought…

    I hope you find a job soon, too!
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans recently posted…Links Lisa Likes – 9/15/13My Profile

  • Ah yes, guilty as charged. This post is spot on. I think in a lot of ways my generation (and younger) have been sold a false bill of goods. We’ve been told that we can be anything we want and the reality is most of us can’t (or can’t have it immediately). My nephew (5 years old) is on a soccer team, at the end of the year everyone was given a trophy for “winning”. I’m not saying it’s bad to tell kids they are winners, but let’s be real, no everybody “wins” in life. You have to work for it, and even with hard work you don’t always get exactly what you want or what you feel you “deserve”.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted…$130 Saved My RelationshipMy Profile

  • Hmm, I’m kind of glad that no one told me I was special when I was a kid. I’d be even more frustrated than I am already ( haha). Moving sucks. I’m 2.5 months in and I finally feel like I don’t need to have a moving truck on speed-dial but I would still seriously consider moving home if I had an opportunity that wouldn’t take me back to my old job (career purgatory). I hate that the writer didn’t touch on the economic inequalities a bit more.

    • Moving does suck, but there are also great things about it. I mean even though I really miss home I know if in a few years I move back I’ll have grown that much more because I did live somewhere else. Hopefully anyway.

  • I love this post and can relate to it! I’ve worked very hard and have had some special moments in my life. I had a similar experience to you when I first moved to Portland and struggled to find full time work for a year and a half!! I thought coming from grad school and my professional experiences that it would be easy for me. Waiting all that time made me feel like the best moment of my life was when I was 22 and it was all down hill from there, which is a really depressing thought….especially after going to grad school, getting into tons of debt, because “you are amazing and can do anything!” (so of course you’ll find the dream job and pay it off soon). I have a love/hate relationship with social media, but it definitely affects my emotions.

    I say give Toronto 6 months and re-evaluate where you are at. Think of this is a test, a big ol’ life test, and you will pass and move on to better things at some point. I don’t know when, or how, or why, but it will happen, because life is cyclical.
    Dear Debt recently posted…I hate you, debtMy Profile

    • Thanks for the comment! Well we’re giving it a year here since we have a lease, but I’m sure things will turn around, but the hard part is just never knowing when. It could be this month, it could be two months from now, who knows!

  • When I read this, I thought how totally spot on it was for one group of our generation. I’ve started to realize that me and my friends belong to the other group in that we had our little piece of land with flowers and unicorns (tons of unicorns) and were ready to work super hard for it (and have to some extent with college) but are stuck trying to find our way in. Blame it on whatever, but we have been really humbled and we hope to be able to follow our passions in some way or another. But we’ve also have learned to appreciate the journey to that plot of land with flowers. Hopefully those who expected things right out because of their ‘specialness’ can learn to do the same.
    Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life recently posted…End of the Year Goals…My Profile

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