Generation of Play


We’re the generation of the future. Generation Y. The millenials. The kids who know how to work all the technology and don’t remember a life before the Internet.

Our generation has mountains of student debt and a difficult economy to navigate as we search for jobs, but we also have great expectations about our future. Most of us have grown up as children of the baby boomers, who have provided a luxurious life for us. Luxurious compared to what most of the world has experienced throughout history, anyway, even if our parents couldn’t afford a new car on our sixteenth birthday. So we expect that same lifestyle promptly upon graduation from college.

We don’t believe in work the same way our grandparents do. For them, work was what you did to pay the bills and provide for your family, and you worked anywhere and everywhere in order to do that. Our parents are the first generation to have a different viewpoint of work, because they are the generation growing up with prosperity and technology that never existed before. But their perspective is tempered with what they learned from their parents. It’s only when you get to our generation that our viewpoint changes entirely.

Generation Y believes, whether we realize it or not, that a person’s default state is play, not work. We’re always looking ahead to the next vacation, the next day off, the weekend plans. Our jobs are the necessary evil we attend to in order to keep playing. If you can find a fulfilling career, that’s the best way to go. It’s even better if it is well paying.

It’s a mindset, an attitude, and it’s not necessarily a healthy one.

For centuries, work has been humanity’s default state. It had to be for people to survive. There were no vacations for the average person. Sunday became a day of rest for most of the Western world, but it was the exception, a welcome break in the daily grind from which there was no escape. People worked from dawn to dusk, day in and day out, for most of their lives until they were physically unable. Retirement is a modern concept.

Modern technology has given us the ability to work less than ever before in history. Nothing about that is wrong or unhealthy. But how many of us are willing to pour our lives into work because that’s what it takes to achieve our expectations? And it’s not just our jobs that we see as work. Achieving our goals and dreams and keeping up with the realities of life is often too much work for us because we got off at 5 P.M. and should be able to come home and turn on the TV.

I’m as guilty of this as the rest of my generation. There are plenty of exceptions to this generalization, but I’m not one of them. Recognizing that in myself has been a learning process. Graduation is coming in only a few months, and I’ve had to ask myself: Am I ready to work hard? I have student debt to pay off, a career to establish, and I want to be a published writer. All of this will take more work than I’ve ever done in my life, but I find myself reluctant to commit to working as much as possible after graduation because that won’t leave much time to play.

That attitude won’t get me far, I can tell.

I won’t change overnight. I’m going to struggle with many, many days where I’d rather spend my time lazing around the house instead of searching for another job or writing another draft of a story. But I want to grow and become a hard worker. I doubt I’ll ever have to work as hard as my grandparents, who owned a farm for most of their lives and spent every day engaged in hard labor. Yes, even Christmas. Holidays mean nothing to cows.

But I can become a person ready to take on a job even if it means less time with my books or my horse, and by the grace of God, I will get there.