There are a lot of things that define the millennials. As the most woke generation of them all, we crave attention & instant gratification, praise the hustle, yearn for authenticity & transparency, strive for happiness & fulfillment in the workplace, and desire human connection.
We are deeply curious and constantly push the boundaries to learn, gain, and achieve more. But the touchstone experience of our generation? Uncertainty.
If you’re anything like me, your days are jam packed with obligations, passions, and routines. Our day jobs, side hustles, social events, and a seemingly endless list of to-dos occupy our minds and schedules. It’s easy to get swept up in it all. But lately, the same revolving thoughts have stopped me in my tracks. An existential crisis that is not just my own. With the current state of the world, where do we go from here?
Our futures will undeniably be different than our parents. The difference is stark and jarring. When we picture the future, a looming uncertainty faces our generation. Given the direction the world is heading, the things that our parents were planning when they were our age might not be options for us. When we were children, we automatically believed that we would likely be on the other side of our childhood experiences when we reached adulthood. That we’d have the opportunity to be the parents, buy the house, retire in our 60s, and live out our years in comfort.
These once certain futures are now drifting further and further away. I find myself facing two uncertainties: “Do I even want these things?” and if I do, “Will the Earth still be around long enough for us to have it?” and it’s not just my own paranoid fear. According to the U.S. Census, millennials are about half as likely as to own a home as young adults in 1975.
I’m terrified for the future lives of my children and their grandchildren. What can I guarantee for them? A secure existence? Every factor of a comfortable life has increased in scarcity and price.
So, I’m scared. I’ve never been one to be pessimistic, but if you can’t be honest with yourself, who can you be honest with? I question whether we’ll be at war in the near future. I am unsettled by the drastic increase in natural disasters, temperature changes, melting ice caps, and extinct species of life.
I question whether this is a world that I can or want to bring children into.
I wonder if the Earth will fight back and reclaim itself.
I wonder how I will die.
I wonder if it’ll happen soon.
It forces me to constantly reevaluate what the fuck I’m doing every day.
What is the point of all this?
The time and energy I’m putting into my day-to-day.
Is it worth it?
Is it worth something?
Would my time and energy be better spent preparing for the darkness the future potentially holds?
I’m scared because all the information is there and it feels like no one cares enough to make the changes our world needs to stop (or even slow down) the impending doom of our planet.
We are the most educated generation in American history. We bought into the idea that as long as we go to college, everything will work out just fine for us. Youth is marked by idealism and the invincibility complex. But after living through that, I wholly disagree with the social contract that was fed to us ever since we were children. I have so many deeply talented friends who are in student loan debt because of college. And many of them don’t even feel like college was necessary. Sure, it educated us. But was college the only way to get this knowledge and information? Nah.
So of course, this has contributed to lowering our abilities to acquire assets. Our generation is buying fewer houses and cars. It doesn’t mean we don’t want them, we can’t afford them. Job security is increasingly difficult to find. Homes are rapidly rising in price. More and more people come into this world and flock to metropolitan cities every day.
So what then? Do I quit my job? Stop paying rent? Forget trying to save for my future? Adopt a hedonistic lifestyle? My ambition and passion won’t let me. I have to keep fighting for the life I want. Even if there’s no guarantee, I have to keep pushing.
We are the most woke generation of them all, and consequently, the most reflective and willing to take action. So even though I have more questions than answers, I have to keep on keeping on because of my family.
As a first generation Chinese-American, I am constantly humbled by the story of how my family came to America. My parents are Chinese but born and raised in Vietnam. They fled during the Vietnam War to escape communism. Uncertainty loomed over their day-to-day survival—not just their far off future. They secretly escaped the country by boat, leaving their parents behind to avoid suspicion. They evaded drowning in the tumultuous waters, hid their gold to keep it from being stolen, and beat the odds of survival. For a year, they had to persevere in the Pulau Bidong Refugee Camp on Bidong Island in Malaysia with other refugees until they could be sponsored to come to America. They overcame endless obstacles as children to make it to America, then surmounted even more challenges when they arrived—all to give their children a better life. I refuse to quit and let them down. As scared as I am, it is better to be prepared for a future I could have, than to anticipate the worst and end up with empty hands because I thought I’d be dead by then.
There is a stark difference between the futures our parents envisioned and the ones before us. I’m scared for my future. The idea that if I worked hard, planned, and saved, I’d have a comfortable, secure life went out the window years ago.
I don’t have the answers. I’m just reaching out… Wondering if anyone else feels the same.
Words & art direction by Jessica Wu
Photography by Andy Baptiste