Grown-Ass Adults
January 5, 2019 8:49 AM   Subscribe

Anne Helen Peterson writes for Buzzfeed on How Millenials Became the Burnout Generation: The more I tried to figure out my errand paralysis, the more the actual parameters of burnout began to reveal themselves. Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives. That realization recast my recent struggles: Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done? Because I’m burned out. Why am I burned out? Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time. Why have I internalized that idea? Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it — explicitly and implicitly — since I was young. Life has always been hard, but many millennials are unequipped to deal with the particular ways in which it’s become hard for us.
posted by ChuraChura (136 comments total) 119 users marked this as a favorite
 
Reading through this article, I recognize most of the stresses and "burnout" problems she talks about because I have experienced--or continue to experience--most of them. Apart from social pressures that make you feel less successful being online instead of on old-school TV and in magazines (and Christmas letters and alumni magazines) it sounds a lot like the lives I and most of my friends have had. And on the flip side, most of the upwardly mobile people buying million dollar condos in my neighborhood are twenty years younger than me. I'm a late baby boomer, so I wonder if it's more an individual experience than a generational experience.
posted by pangolin party at 9:11 AM on January 5 [11 favorites]


Unsurprisingly, this resonated with me. I’m not American, but the dynamic is similar everywhere. I’m an old Millennial, and grew up with Gen-X slacker comedies and so on, so I’ve always veered between the need for achievement and head-pats and validation, versus the desire to drop out, get a Kevin-Spacey-In-American-Beauty type job flipping burgers, or go and live in an ashram in the Himalayas or whatever. The problem is that there’s no safety net for those life choices any more. The 2008 crisis, which a lot of us graduated straight into, stole those options as part of a more general fucking-over of the middle classes. Now, you hustle or you go under. For me personally, swinging between legitimate achievements and being... kind of a bum has worked out better than expected so far, but I’m always only doing as well as my next job, and I never know if my next career or country switch is where I abruptly run out of road.

Thanks for posting the piece, ChuraChura - it was a lot meatier than I’d expected, and really got to the heart of how the Millennial experience is one of collapsed labour protections, zero boundaries between personal and professional life, and really gross cultural pressures through the twin plagues of social media and the wellness industry. I also felt like it had a pretty solid ending: first recognise the swindle that’s being perpetrated on you, and second, join a union. Amen to both.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:24 AM on January 5 [46 favorites]


It’s called alienation and it’s been a thing since the start of industrialization.
posted by The Toad at 9:25 AM on January 5 [26 favorites]


I found the article interesting and thought provoking. I fall into Gen X, I believe, but like most people my life trajectory doesn't fit neatly into one framework and there are aspects of the typical millenial description and timeline that resonate personally. But even so, I see what she is describing really clearly in younger family members and coworkers compared to people my own age or older. The combined financial and social pressures are intense and people are pretty much left hanging to try and muddle through without much support or safety net.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:36 AM on January 5 [6 favorites]


These individual and social miseries, however great and innumerable they may be, however eternal they appear, will vanish like hyenas and jackals at the approach of the lion, when the proletariat shall say “I will”. But to arrive at the realization of its strength the proletariat must trample under foot the prejudices of Christian ethics, economic ethics and free-thought ethics. It must return to its natural instincts, it must proclaim the Rights of Laziness, a thousand times more noble and more sacred than the anaemic Rights of Man concocted by the metaphysical lawyers of the bourgeois revolution. It must accustom itself to working but three hours a day, reserving the rest of the day and night for leisure and feasting. - Paul Lafargue, The Right To Be Lazy, 1883.
posted by Richard Saunders at 9:37 AM on January 5 [57 favorites]


As an old GenXr, with a kid in high school, most of the other parents I interact with for school activities are Millenials, and I amazed at the differences just a few years can make. College wasn’t unregulated when I went, and tuition was $4.00 a credit hour. Classes were taught by tenured professors. Millenials were charged 500% more, after deregulation and mostly had classes taught by grad students.

All of us took a hit after 2008, and for my cohort it was hard to find a gig because we were old, but Millenials were being offered unpaid internships and were supposed to feel grateful for those crumbs.

My son’s school has been focused on university as a goal since third grade. They don’t present any other choice as viable. And I’m like, well...mechanics and welders and contractors have to come from somewhere, and shouldn’t we offer kids who want to work with their hands opportunities to learn a trade, and business math, and how to read and execute a contract?

My son wants to build a forge and learn blacksmithing. So, he called around and found a blacksmith relatively nearby, for a given Texas value of nearby, and talked to him about apprenticeship, and so now his goal is to finish getting his drivers license, and bring his grades up enough that he can drive out there every weekend and learn.

I think if we as a culture valued blue collar jobs as the backbone of culture and civilization, and parents weren’t disappointed if Sally wants to be a general contractor instead of a doctor, and all jobs were seen as inherently services to the whole, well, we’d solve burnout. Also unicorns would appear and rainbows would taste like candy.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 9:41 AM on January 5 [122 favorites]


I cannot describe how exactly this article explains my life. From grad school, to anxiety over my place in life and my peers' place in life, to constantly working and feeling ashamed for either not working more efficiently or taking time for leisure, to intense anxiety over completing a stupid menial task... it made me feel incredibly seen and understood and not like I'm failing in a broad way.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:48 AM on January 5 [33 favorites]


It’s called alienation and it’s been a thing since the start of industrialization.

I mean, the piece doesn’t go all the way to a Marxist analysis, but it does recognise that the phenomenon isn’t something new:
In his writing about burnout, Cohen is careful to note that it has antecedents; “melancholic world-weariness,” as he puts it, is noted in the book of Ecclesiastes, diagnosed by Hippocrates, and endemic to the Renaissance, a symptom of bewilderment with the feeling of “relentless change.” In the late 1800s, “neurasthenia,” or nervous exhaustion, afflicted patients run down by the “pace and strain of modern industrial life.” Burnout differs in its intensity and its prevalence: It isn’t an affliction experienced by relatively few that evidences the darker qualities of change but, increasingly, and particularly among millennials, the contemporary condition.
The point is that it now applies to everyone, labour standards have been dramatically weakened, living standards are hurtling backwards and the middle classes are being increasingly proletarianised. It may be tempting for some to say “fuck the middle classes, now they get to understand what real work feels like” or whatever, but that’s the same nihilistic crabs-in-a-bucket shit that allows the few winners to keep winning, and to keep tilting the board so that the rest of us slide further and further towards the other edge. Everyone should live comfortably and have access to healthcare and education. Everyone should have the scope to make mistakes and explore. Our parents’ generation, overall, got a pretty good deal on that stuff, and as recently as a decade or so ago, you could be forgiven for believing that the Whig version of history had something to it. No longer. How and why that happened, what it feels like to experience a far shitty standard of living than your parents, and what we can do about it (if anything), is still worth exploring.

Alienation may have existed since the dawn of industrialisation, but I’ll bet you a 19th century mill worker and a social media influencer today have pretty different experiences, priorities and worries - even if they’re both being oppressed by capitalism when you dig all the way down.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:54 AM on January 5 [33 favorites]


In addition to the baseline level of alienation it’s often pretty hard to keep going when you know, for a fact, the planet is dying and there’s no future or reward for you coming it’s just going to be hard work, low pay, no savings, and constant debt until you get a medical condition you need godfundme to pay for.
posted by The Whelk at 10:28 AM on January 5 [105 favorites]


I’ll bet you a 19th century mill worker and a social media influencer today have pretty different experiences, priorities and worries

Yup, I don’t doubt this at all, although personally I’ve found it helps me more to focus on the experiences that unite us with other classes and generations because it counteracts the individualization that is precisely what’s behind the process of alienation. YMMV
posted by The Toad at 10:51 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


That’s one of the most ineffable and frustrating expressions of burnout: It takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks.

The whole piece is good, but this line really resonated with me. I often feel like my whole life has been reduced to my todo list. Activities that used to make me reliably happy — reading a good book, playing a game of my sport, taking a bath — are reduced to checkboxes next to doing the laundry, running a meeting at work, and buying eggs.

Basic items of self care like eating lunch or getting enough sleep are just Things To Do, and often feel like more trouble than they’re worth. I would be able to get so much more done if I didn’t have to spend so much damn time keeping my body running.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 10:53 AM on January 5 [54 favorites]


That list of undone tasks is literally a subset of my own. This hit very close to home. I was glad to see the author get in-depth on feminism and family dynamics in the latter half of the article; for me this has been the biggest contributor- we have the social expectation that everyone works and the accompanying denigration of household labor, and yet no roadmap for living a life under these conditions save outsourcing the ‘nonwork’ tasks. Negotiating this with my spouse has been the most difficult thing in my adult life, and it still routinely goes off the rails as our kids age and we have to rethink roles yet again.
posted by q*ben at 11:01 AM on January 5 [11 favorites]


Post office-related tasks comprise a significant number of what was mentioned in the article. There are clear reasons why you'd avoid those. The post office has become horrible. It is like going to the DMV.

Where I am located in the USA
- Many post offices have been shut down due to lack of funding. The one remaining one is out in the sticks. Requires a car
- Hours of operation are not very conducive to you having a job you can't get away from
- Still horrible once you get there. Line goes out the door, 30-40 minute expected wait time average. Like on some random Wednesday in June, not say the first Saturday in December.
- People at the counter appear to legitimately hate their jobs.
- Sometimes you will go there for a mundane task and they can't help you because they haven't restocked the product. For example, international stamps. When I tried, you couldn't buy them from the automated kiosk. So wait the 30min for the counter. Only to have it explained to you that they are out of international stamps.
- Same as the above for money orders

Common factor is lack of funding and the fact that mailing things has become a less prominent part of "what people do" so the post office gets less investment. The cost is passed on to any of the remaining times we need to mail things.

Although this article is about the author feeling burnout and it prevents these tasks from getting done, I think the degraded service at least doesn't help.

Full disclosure I'm living now in a different place from where I grew up, but growing up it wasn't like this even in other cities I visited and mailed things there.

Sometimes I will use Fedex or UPS which is throwing money at the problem purely to avoid the hassle. This only works if you can afford it.
posted by GladysKnight at 11:02 AM on January 5 [14 favorites]


Also, if you’ve been paying attention you’ve seen the fortunes of everyone slightly older than you get wiped out every ten years. And it’s about to happen again. Why would anyone do anything in this situation when it’s clear there is no future in it.
posted by The Whelk at 11:03 AM on January 5 [41 favorites]


Four years post-graduation, alumni would complain that the school had filled with nerds: No one even parties on a Tuesday! I laughed at the eternal refrain — These younger kids, what dorks, we were way cooler — but not until I returned to campus years later as a professor did I realize just how fundamentally different those students’ orientation to school was.
I have absolutely heard this kind of thing from Gen X and older people about my university, and it's always annoyed the shit out of me. "Oh, you went to UC Berkeley? Great school, great school...but terrible social life/everyone's always studying/no one has any fun!" No shit! Do you know what it takes to get into UC Berkeley? Do you know how much it costs? You don't spend all of our K-12 education pushing and molding us into the kind of students who can get into a college like this and then expect us to, what, take our foot off the gas and coast through the four years of our expensive, exclusive college with wildly competitive programs because you think we should have fun. Fuck no. If we're going to be in debt for a significant portion of our adult lives because of this, we're going to make damn sure it's worth it.

And I'm saying all that as someone who did, in fact, find college relatively easy after the full speed ahead, all engines running demands of a high school experience meant to get me into a school like Cal. Because, yeah, sure I was juggling a full-time course load and a double major and a part time job and a couple extracurriculars, plus whatever was left over for a social life, but at least all the classes I was taking were things I was genuinely interested in, with no homework other than reading and writing.

I feel burnout most keenly when someone points out all the "fun" things I could or should be doing. Like, thanks, I'll be sure to get to that when I feel sufficiently secure in easing my foot off the gas for a bit, which will be, oh approximately never given the current socioeconomic climate and my position in it.
posted by yasaman at 11:03 AM on January 5 [22 favorites]


For millennials it's almost like their Facebook profiles, Google accounts, debt/credit rating, work history, and etc. have somehow combined into a real person; a real person who owns them as a slave and for whom they must work for the rest of their lives with no hope of escape -- an involuntary self-enslavement of a peculiarly malignant kind.
posted by jamjam at 11:06 AM on January 5 [55 favorites]


I’ve been thinking this a lot ever since I read Tevis Thompson’s essay on the absurdly beautiful little game Desert Golfing. Here is a game with no rewards, no escalating challenges, no acknowledgement when you do well, no barriers when you do poorly, barely any scorekeeping at all. It just goes along letting you do a simple task and you deciding what you enjoy.

It really helped me see how over-engineered our play is. We are continuously over-incentivized, always on an upward ramp of achievement, always told exactly what we ought to accomplish and improve. To be praised by a game for doing what we are supposed to do the way we are supposed to do it also means we mostly do it wrong. Just let me fucking play and take pleasure in what I’m doing.

I see this leaking into education and social media and, by extension, our relations. We are to be engineered and rewarded and kept at a distance from the real achievers — the speed runners or top-ranking professionals, or the perfect vacationeers on Instagram, or the ideal commenters here. It’s just gross. And we are getting so much more efficient at it. We’ve always had to work and find our place, but the engineering, ugh.

Drop out.
posted by argybarg at 11:10 AM on January 5 [26 favorites]


I’ll bet you a 19th century mill worker and a social media influencer today have pretty different experiences, priorities and worries

I agree. However, I suspect that a 19th century mill worker and a worker at a say, a poultry processing plant today have pretty similar experiences, priorities and worries.
posted by pangolin party at 11:45 AM on January 5 [19 favorites]


Something that this article touches on but doesn't really dive into is how the process of self-optimization is driven from the outside. The relentless manner we have to weigh, divvy, decide, and parcel our time, attention, and money is not an endogenous process, it's being forced on us by the economic system we live under.

If you want to make a big purchase like a car, refrigerator, or a digital camera you face a endless array of choices in a market segmented by MBAs looking to optimize the dollars earned for every feature released, looking to maximize the income by bundling features, by restricting distribution channels, and coordinated multiplatform marketing efforts. The places we turn to discover and compare anything from doctors to doorbells are machines optimized to extract the maximum time, money, and attention from us. Even picking a cell-phone plan is a pain in the ass; they are all corporatized with bewildering pricing schemes made to deceive us, but not enough so that we would take our business elsewhere. And as soon as you get a handle on any of it, all the options will change.

So a lot of the time when I hear "millennials are like this," what's actually being said is "the world millennials inherited forces them to live like this."
posted by peeedro at 11:46 AM on January 5 [68 favorites]


Right, I think there's levels of awareness and since the article asserts the narrative of "millenials are unequipped"... that restricts the article's explanatory ability. Like, let's ask the metaquestion of, why are millenials perceived as unequipped?
posted by polymodus at 12:04 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I have to echo ChuraChura's comment that this article makes me feel seen in a way I can't really describe.

When the author says, "Burnout isn’t a place to visit and come back from; it’s our permanent residence," I feel the truth of that statement, and it's simultaneously comforting to know that someone else GETS IT, but also terrifying, because it's like realizing you're a fish living in a tank and the reason you feel so bad all the time is because the pump's broken and the water you're swimming in is cloudy and full of shit that's poisoning you, and that's not normal or natural or the way things are supposed to be - but it's what you're used to. And how do you even change? Can you fix the pump? Escape the tank? Except you're a goddamn fish and you don't even have hands and you've learned to live in the filthy water anyway, at least you know you can survive here, and who the hell knows what'll happen if you manage to fling yourself out of the tank.

There are a lot of eminently quotable lines in the article, but this one:

“The modern Millennial, for the most part, views adulthood as a series of actions, as opposed to a state of being,” an article in Elite Daily explains. “Adulting therefore becomes a verb.” “To adult” is to complete your to-do list — but everything goes on the list, and the list never ends.

God, does this ever explain why I'm so. damned. tired. all the time. and avoidant. and beating myself up for not doing more, being more. She really nails the anxiety and paralysis, the boredom and avoidance and decision fatigue. The way you can't ever just relax and veg out because you should be using that time to be more productive, to enhance your life, to get ahead. And when you give in and just veg out, out comes the self-recrimination.

Coincidentally, this morning I was just reading Heather Havrilesky's How to Be a Person in the World, and she writes about negative self-talk, and how when you try something, you shouldn't beat yourself up, but rather think, "I am here, trying. I am a person who tries. I do what I fucking can. It's okay to just try." And that made me almost cry. I still feel frustrated not knowing what "the answer" is, or exactly how to move forward with my life so that I can at least lessen the burnout and feel like I am not choking and stifling in the toxic fish tank all the damn time, but at least, after reading the article and these comments, I feel a little bit less alone. And that's meaningful.
posted by the thought-fox at 12:21 PM on January 5 [88 favorites]


why are millenials perceived as unequipped?

Because “there is nothing new under the sun” was pretty much covered by Solomon 2k+ years ago in the Book of Ecclesiastes. So gotta come up with alternative ideas to get those thought pieces published.
posted by sideshow at 12:22 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


I am also echoing Chura and trying not to cry in the middle of this conference lobby. My hands are shaking. I keep trying and trying and trying and I keep getting these highly stressful events and no support and I, um, I think I might have finally made a mistake I think we can't survive--thought you needed new plates on your purchased car before your insurance wanted to hear about it, insurance gives us 30 days grace to notify them about the new car we bought, plates didn't get here in time and the new car got badly hit by someone else in an accident on day 31. I can't get hold of a human.

There's no room for error. There's no room to be anything but perfect. There's no room to try and fail. There's just endless tasks, endless work, endless demands to try harder, to push through it, work a little harder, a little smarter, a little more likeable; endless demands and no room to fail. What is failure? We're supposed to be better than that. We have to be, because--what is a safety net, anyway? It's such a pretty term in theory, but in practice it doesn't exist. Where is our future? Where is the promised fucking land? What are we striving for?

I've struggled through two separate periods of serious burnout and I'm not even thirty. But I don't have the luxury of lying fallow for any length of time. I took five days of vacation this year and I felt bad about three of them. How do I recover from stress fractures? How do you heal when you are never allowed to rest, when resting means being swallowed up by the next hungry disaster?
posted by sciatrix at 12:30 PM on January 5 [62 favorites]


Like, let's ask the metaquestion of, why are millennials perceived as unequipped?

That's an interesting angle. I trained my young replacement when I left my permatemp receptionist job and there were a few things I noticed that she had trouble with, which included understanding how to address things for the courier oddly enough. I also had the same work student for two summers and mentored another, plus I was a Big Sister for a few years. I could be wrong, but it seemed like these young folks just had a lack of trusting their gut or a lack of permission/freedom to make mistakes. It's difficult to gauge because it's hard for me to remember what skills and confidence I lacked as a young person. I don't think millennials are unequipped, just differently equipped. It's also so rare to be provided on the job training now, which doesn't help grow skills for young people either.
posted by Calzephyr at 12:32 PM on January 5 [18 favorites]


The places we turn to discover and compare anything from doctors to doorbells are machines optimized to extract the maximum time, money, and attention from us. Even picking a cell-phone plan is a pain in the ass; they are all corporatized with bewildering pricing schemes made to deceive us, but not enough so that we would take our business elsewhere. And as soon as you get a handle on any of it, all the options will change.

Extremely this. Cable and telecom companies instill dread like nothing else, because there's absolutely no winning with them. If you spend a couple of hours researching your options...you will probably find that coverage means that you really only have one (maybe two) options. The companies will give you the option of: hermit-in-the-woods plan, with little data at slow speeds for $; moderate data plan at regular speed for $$$; unlimited data at regular speed for $$$. They know most people will use a moderate amount of data but pay for unlimited, because they're almost the same price. If you're a heavy data user and you pay for the third option, the company will declare that you're using too much unlimited data and introduce a special cap, just for you.

And you have to pay attention constantly with large corporations. I remember that I used to rent my modem from Comcast. It was $6 a month, and I didn't feel like researching other options. Cool! A couple years later, I noticed that the rental fee had increased to $13 a month. I'd paid it for three months without noticing. (I finally spent an hour doing research and haven't rented a modem since.) This has happened with banking after college -- I didn't overdraft, but most of my money was in the main account instead of the checking account, and I guess Bank of America has Rules About That and started charging a $10 a month fee until I moved more money into the checking side. This happens all the time. And if you use autopay (because that's the only way to keep your sanity), it's a lot harder to notice nonsense charges before you've spent a few months paying for them.

It's exhausting and it compounds. Sometimes I see the "life hack" tricks (the ones that aren't obviously ridiculous), and I just think...ugh. Who has the energy to do these things? There are things I NEED to do that I've let go for 1-2 years because, after that initial wave of guilt, nothing especially bad happens. And then those things get really easy to ignore.
posted by grandiloquiet at 12:33 PM on January 5 [45 favorites]


Don't blame this on Millenials. Blame it on where it belongs. Capitalist demand for ever increasing productivity. Millenials aren't the only ones who suffer from this. Maybe they suffer more than previous generations, but that's because they live NOW. And we all suffer from this bullshit.
posted by symbioid at 12:47 PM on January 5 [24 favorites]


The biggest lie fed to kids in the 1980s and 1990s, when we were growing up, was that if you work hard at school or sports, you'll succeed in life. I don't think it was a malicious lie; I think the people telling it believed it themselves, just as British public school headmasters a hundred-odd years ago really did believe that dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Even though the feeling of being overwhelmed at all the things is nothing new (e.g. neurasthenia, which AHP references in the article), the ease of spewing vitriol via Facebook or Twitter takes the damage to another level. It's the modern equivalent of stoning someone to death because they didn't change their bedsheets often enough to suit you.
posted by basalganglia at 12:52 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


(this article isn't blaming things on millenials, but offering a systemic explanation for many common experiences, challenges, and fears shared by folks of our generation)
posted by ChuraChura at 12:54 PM on January 5 [17 favorites]


Yeah blame was wrong phrase here. Mostly - we are all suffering it was my point, we just happen to live in the era of "Millenial" generation. I'm Gen X, and I suffer burnout at my current job, I live in fear nobody will ever hire me. My job burns my brain so much, by the end of the day I can no longer engage in my programming hobby ever since starting here. Because of the "nobody hiring me" aspect, I feel trapped in this situation.

I guess my point is, it's capitalism, it's the demand for "productivity"/profits, and while millienials def suffer things like college debt more than us older folks, we are not immune from sufferings (perhaps in some ways more acute - that is - we don't have neuroplasticity the way we did when we were younger). NOT trying to make a pissing match. We are in a bad weird sad horrible time and we ALL have to suffer this bullshit and it sucks and ok, i'm going back to the fuck fuck fuckity fuck thread number whatever it is now in MeTa.
posted by symbioid at 1:11 PM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Coincidentally, this morning I was just reading Heather Havrilesky's How to Be a Person in the World, and she writes about negative self-talk, and how when you try something, you shouldn't beat yourself up, but rather think, "I am here, trying. I am a person who tries. I do what I fucking can. It's okay to just try." And that made me almost cry.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my work/life balance, and how it's gotten unbalanced; I had to push it into making the Day Job a priority for a while, after suffering from 10 years of underemployment, but that trained me to be risk-averse and hermitlike and ascetic in my down time, which in turn made me kick myself for not trying to do something to satisfy my soul with my downtime - like, I'm a creative person, but I"m doing nothing with my talents, but on the other hand when I did try I didn't make enough money to live on, but maybe I would have if I'd just hustled more, but how do I know I wasn't trying as hard as I could, etc., etc.....

And so for the past year I was just sort of going to work and coming home and vegging out, and feeling downtrodden because my day job is boring as fuck and is in a field I don't care about, but I need the money and really don't want to look for another one because I've been pingponging around jobs for way too long and stability is what I really need, but it's not feeding my soul, and the thought of people asking me what I did for a living made me cringe because it's a boring as fuck job...but what was my calling, what am I here for?....

And then it hit me a couple weeks ago - my ideal job is simply to be me. One of the things I have to do for that job just involves going to an office five days a week so I have money for the rest of the enterprise. And sometimes being me involves downtime watching Big Fat Quiz Of The Year on Youtube. There may be days when being me involves brunch up the street at Best Bar In The World, there may be days when it involves making dumplings from scratch, there may be days when it involves taking pictures at Coney Island. It is all part of the job of being me, and so it is all good.

I can't say that this mindset will work for everyone, but by GOD it's helped to snap me out of this sort of burnt-out funk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on January 5 [64 favorites]


I agree. However, I suspect that a 19th century mill worker and a worker at a say, a poultry processing plant today have pretty similar experiences, priorities and worries.

Yep, but I think that the article (and many of the responses, including mine) are talking about middle class expectations - instagrammed holidays, internships, helicopter parenting, grad school... and the middle class careers that are supposed to result from grad school.

Again, it’s easy to say “well fuck ‘em, they should come and work in the chicken plant and see who’s got it tough,” but that misses the point. It isn’t practical for the whole population of the earth to live like the 1% - there isn’t enough land, enough space at the marina, enough white tigers for private zoos. But the idea that everyone should live a middle class lifestyle does make sense as a goal. Given the way that the climate and population is going, I’m not holding up American consumption and lifestyle patterns when I say “middle class”. I mean financial security, healthcare, respect from your peers, heating/AC in a clean, spacious living area that you own yourself, time to dedicate to supporting children - time to do fucking anything beyond working and fretting. Trying to get people out of poverty traps and into a semblance of a middle-class existence is a worthy goal (and one enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which apply to all countries, including the US).

So the concern here is that, when a middle class existence starts to have more in common with a poultry processing plant worker (or a mill worker from 1840 for that matter) then something is going seriously awry. Something is going backwards from the direction that we want.

It’s my impression that Metafilter skews middle class, and many users, like myself, found that this article really speaks to them. But even if you’re only worried about a hypothetical person feeding chickens into a grinder, you should worry about the trends that the article is highlighting. Having STEM careers turned into precarious, low status work doesn’t mean that the chicken factory worker gets relatively better off: erosion of the social contract affects everybody, and it disproportionately affects those with less advantage to begin with. We should be pushing that person and people like them towards middle-class lifestyles, not bringing the current middle classes back to chicken processing standards of living.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 1:15 PM on January 5 [35 favorites]


Meh. On the one hand, there's lots to agree with. On the other hand, if one is seeking to find yet another reason to dump on Millenials, I have no doubt you could point to this article and have all your priors validated.

I'm an old Gen-xer, almost old enough to be a Boomer, and all this is pretty easy to recognize, not only in my younger Gen-xer past, but as a current Gen-xer. I have absolutely no doubt there were plenty in my cohort who could rhapsodize as eloquently about the woes of my generation. And did. Nor of the generation before me.

A few of the details have changed. One I'll mention: All the people I knew my age who went to college did so because it was a foregone conclusion. People didn't work into college. They were destined for it. One of the things I admire so much about younger Millenials is how many are willing to say "meh" to that path, among those who would have been destined in my generation, and how many are willing to say "hell yeah" among those for whom college would not have been destined. There's less drive to accomplish such things in 4 years (a point of shame or ridicule in my time to take longer), but to accomplish on their own terms. I don't know how this works out as statistics reflecting on the generation, but it seems to be far healthier, even wiser for the individual.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:27 PM on January 5 [4 favorites]


I thought I felt this way because of autism.
posted by bookman117 at 1:30 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


Were all in this together cause we’re all workers and we’re all getting fucked over.
posted by The Whelk at 1:32 PM on January 5 [35 favorites]


Seriously. Wait, it might not be that I’m really shitty at executive functioning and instead it’s that everything really does suck? That living in precarity takes such a goddamn toll you might as well call it...idk, trauma poisoning? Just the added background anxiety that, over time, is enough to make you actually for real sick?

That’s so. Much. Worse.

(Both? Fuck me if it’s both.)
posted by schadenfrau at 1:38 PM on January 5 [37 favorites]


Also, i realized some time ago that virtually all of my financial and professional ambition was the result of just wanting to feel safe. To be free of that toxic cloud of precarity, I guess. But it’s really, really fucked up that to be safe in this society you have to be rich. No. Fuck that. That is not how things should be.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:40 PM on January 5 [38 favorites]


It's probably both.
posted by bookman117 at 1:40 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


I relate a lot to the insecurity -- both material and social -- that the writer describes. The standards are impossibly high and impossibly vague and yet they're treated (by the zeitgeist in general, not you in particular!) as totally reasonable and not meeting them as a failure.

Dude, I am still trying to figure out what the standards for success even ARE. Can't even start with the idea of actually meeting them. And I'm 32 years old and up to date on all my shots, I'm not a total fuck up.

So, what are the standards for "success," anyway? Is that even a legitimate question?
posted by rue72 at 1:42 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


If one of the solutions involves having "so many millennials increasingly identify with democratic socialism and are embracing unions" -- do millennials in less nakedly market-oriented societies feel less burned out?

Can any millennial from, say, Scandinavia, weigh in?
posted by Borborygmus at 1:43 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


> I trained my young replacement when I left my permatemp receptionist job and there were a few things I noticed that she had trouble with, which included understanding how to address things for the courier oddly enough

I think there's a long tail of "adult" skills like this that are almost but not quite obsolete: mailing a package, filing an insurance claim, using a paper checkbook, etc. You seldom use them, you're never formally taught them but when you need them, you need them, and there's little room for error.

And people and institutions are often more condescending to younger people that don't have these skills down pat than older people who struggle with online banking or Facebook or whatever the newer equivalents are.
posted by smelendez at 1:51 PM on January 5 [29 favorites]


Actually yeah, I think I just realized I want to treat capitalism as a public health problem. Some amount is good, too much is fucking poison. Regulate the shit out of it.

Anyway, makes me feel better to know you’re all burnt out too.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:57 PM on January 5 [12 favorites]


Normies gonna have to ramp up the nervous tics to deal with this. Nail baiting ain't gonna cut it.
posted by bookman117 at 2:00 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Thank you for posting this, ChuraChura! And thank you for this comment, chappell, ambrose:

The 2008 crisis, which a lot of us graduated straight into, stole those options as part of a more general fucking-over of the middle classes. Now, you hustle or you go under.

I've been unemployed for a total of roughly 3 months since I was 13. I'm 33. Yes, I wasn't working full time until I was out of college, but that's 20 years of having been earning an income, and having to pay for nearly everything myself means that I don't have a lot in savings (I'm working on it!). I look back on all of the things I couldn't do because I had to work, and I look into my future at all of the things I won't be able to do because I have to work, burnt out is exactly how I feel. With the erosion of the social safety net and worker protection, with costs rising faster than wages, I will be working until I die. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my job and my field, because I spend so much time doing it. And when I'm not at work, I'm using my free time to build my skills and my network and, like she mentions in the article, my *~brand.~* Do I have to do that? No. But employer loyalty isn't a thing anymore, and my next job will likely come from someone who encounters my work that way. It's all about work. It's always about work. It will always be about work. There is never a break.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:01 PM on January 5 [14 favorites]


I recomend the book Kids These Days for a more in-depth explanation of why everything is so awful all the time
posted by The Whelk at 2:05 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


And people and institutions are often more condescending to younger people that don't have these skills down pat

Oh YES, like using a fax machine when I was in my first professional job. Used that fucking thing maybe 3 times in 10 years but if you couldn't do it you were obviously the most enormously cosseted youth.

I think that the article (and many of the responses, including mine) are talking about middle class expectations -

At this point, millenials are quite frequently derided for aspiring to such unreasonable things as our own homes to live in, never mind anything even mildly above that.
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:17 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]




"Pundits spend a lot of time saying “This is not normal,” but the only way for us to survive, day to day, is to normalize the events, the threats, the barrage of information, the costs, the expectations of us. Burnout isn’t a place to visit and come back from; it’s our permanent residence."

YUP. I've been burned out for going on over six years now and there's nothing I can do about it. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, there is no way off this train track, etc. I am privileged and special compared to a lot of people and just because my job fries my soul (the drama quotient has gone up HIGH in the last three years), well, it could be worse. I can still have a car and home and maintain my life as is for the time being. I won't be able to get another job if/when I lose this one and then it all goes to hell, but for right now I'm surviving. I just have to put up with whatever is dished out at me and do what I can for myself at home. But I do not have the energy to fight with people, for example, the issues I am having with apartment management. It's easier to put up with chronic shit than have to get into arguments with people who aren't willing to do what I need/want and then still not get it anyway.

One of the things I have to do for that job just involves going to an office five days a week so I have money for the rest of the enterprise. And sometimes being me involves downtime watching Big Fat Quiz Of The Year on Youtube."

Yup, this as well. It is supposed to be pouring this weekend so my plans for the day were (a) go to the gym before the rain kicks in and (b) watch the rest of Runaways and maybe (c) do some crochet. Never mind the rest.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:25 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Again, it’s easy to say “well fuck ‘em, they should come and work in the chicken plant and see who’s got it tough,”

Wow! I didn't mean that at all. I just didn't understand your analogy. It's true my first job out of grad school was dishwashing, but I don't think ANYONE should HAVE to do that whether they went to grad school or not. That's why my original comment (the first one) was that the article resonated with me--not that I thought people should suck it up!
posted by pangolin party at 2:25 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


addition to the baseline level of alienation it’s often pretty hard to keep going when you know, for a fact, the planet is dying and there’s no future or reward for you coming

I think this is why - and I know this isn’t an option for anyone - having religion is really comforting right about now, and why I think it lets you avoid at least some of this. Because believing that if you try hard enough and do good enough you will indeed receive a reward is remarkably comforting, and it lets you back down a little. I know there are critiques of that as an opiate, but I also am doing pretty serious labor organizing, you really don’t have to choose.

Like I think it can be the system we live under and /also/ that a lot of people don’t have a comforting large family who is committed to making sure the worst things don’t happen.
posted by corb at 2:28 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


As with previous generations, there was an expectation that the next one would be better off — both in terms of health and finances — than the one that had come before. But as millennials enter into mid-adulthood, that prognosis has been proven false.

And then the author links to a chart that demonstrates exactly the opposite. The millennial generation is the richest and highest income in history. Almost 60% more disposable income than boomers -- adjusted for inflation. And that includes housing and healthcare. That chart is for the UK, but you can see similar data for the U.S. here.

This notion that millennials are the poorest generation simply isn't true. They live much better than boomers of the same age. I won't deny that some people have difficult lives, but that has been true of every generation. But the idea that millennials have it worst, as a whole, doesn't seem to be supported by the facts.
posted by JackFlash at 2:30 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


I gotta say, the situation I'm living in is--it's really playing hell with my relationship with my extended family because the place I'm in is that I need to be certain that family will catch me if I'm in trouble to the best of their ability, and in the fallout from my grandmother leaving me on the side of the road--and my mother asking me, immediately, what I did to deserve it--and no one in my family being willing to condemn either action or take consequences or--

I can't do it. Church is the same. Having a family who loves you and supports you must be nice, but that's something that is differentially inaccessible to an awful lot of us. And this economic strain and the associated need for tangible support means that familial relationships strain and twist, too.

And I associate so much as accepting offers of financial aid with being lectured about how I'm a freeloader from previous experience, so that is also great.
posted by sciatrix at 2:33 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


The most frustrating thing about all of this is that the "solutions" to burnout offered by what I call the "advice industry" always have an unstated prerequisite:

Accumulate a Big Pile of Money

Golly, thanks "I quit my day job and now make money by [insert something which sounds heavenly to us plebes]"! If I had a big pile of money, I wouldn't be looking at your stupid fucking advice blog.
posted by maxwelton at 3:01 PM on January 5 [15 favorites]


As an aging boomer, this is very reminiscent of the conditions which preceded the cultural shift of my generation that lead to the rejection of the the company man/marriage and kids/house in suburbs paradigm of the 50s.

Turn on, tune in, drop out.
posted by sudogeek at 3:02 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]




Well, the mother jones article is just focused on millennials vs. Gen X in the federal reserve report. I think Gen X and millennials are in a fairly similar situation. Many Gen X people I know also graduated in bad economic moments (early 90s or early 00s) and struggled to maintain steady employment or savings. Some people were really smart/lucky and got jobs in good tech companies, but it’s a mixed bag.

The federal reserve report actually says this:
Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth. For debt, millennials hold levels similar to those of Generation X and more than those of the baby boomers. Conditional on their age and other factors, millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.
It goes on to talk about the details of millennial finances, and I think it’s fair to say millennials are poorer than other generations were at the same point. It’s particularly vs. boomers though. You can read the whole thing here.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:22 PM on January 5 [10 favorites]


They live much better than boomers of the same age. I won't deny that some people have difficult lives

We live in much shitter circumstances for shits and giggles? Nah.
posted by threetwentytwo at 3:41 PM on January 5 [3 favorites]


Do these numbers factor in debt cause uuuuh, factoring for debt the average family under 35 has *no* wealth to speak of.
posted by The Whelk at 3:44 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


The decreasing life expectancy is a major problem, even moreso than the economic. The last sustained drop in life expectancy was due to WW1 and the Spanish flu. This one is blamed on the opioid crisis and suicide, both of which disproportionately affect younger people and rural communities. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death between ages 15-35. So, Millennials.

To put it in perspective, the AIDS crisis, which killed and continues to kill millions, and disproportionately affected GenX and late Boomers prior to widespread HAART, did not even register on the life expectancy tables. Suffice it to say that younger people today are not living much better than previous generations.
posted by basalganglia at 3:46 PM on January 5 [12 favorites]


So, not Sweden, but as an older millenial in NZ, I can offer some comparison. The burnout, the endless to do list of life is roughly the same, the difference is mostly that the risk level is lower.

The most obvious thing is healthcare, my partner and I are getting old enough that we need to start sorting out the essential elective health stuff, fixing teeth, and vision, getting on top of persistent health issues. We worry about scraping together the money for the next big dental treatment, and research whether picking up health insurance would be a worthwhile option.
BUT - We don't stress about what would happen if one of us got injured at work, ACC covers that, significant long term sickness would go on the public tab. None of this would be great, a lot of it would worsen our living situation beyond the immediate health issues, but these would not be world ending events for us.

So much of the stress and the dangers, the climate change, the fucking global economy, the hollowing out of the job market, I think these are universal. At least for those of us in the global north, however at least in NZ I feel like there is a floor that it would be very unlikely for us to sink below. That floor isn't pleasant, but it is life sustaining, and offers a modicum of resources to rise above it again.
posted by fido~depravo at 3:51 PM on January 5 [19 favorites]


JackFlash: And then the author links to a chart that demonstrates exactly the opposite.

This is a pretty egregious mischaracterisation of what the article says. The link is here, for anyone who wasn’t curious enough to go back to the original article and look up what JackFlash was referring to.

Here are literally the first two paragraphs (my italics):
What does the chart show?
It shows that generational progress in the UK seems to be grinding to a halt. Historically, every generation has enjoyed higher living standards than the one before. But for millennials in their 20s and 30s, their incomes are barely any higher than “Gen X-ers” were at the same age.

In fact, this chart understates how badly things have gone for millennials, because it shows incomes before housing costs. If you look at how much people have left to live on after they have paid for housing, millennials are now slightly worse off than the previous generation were at the same age.
Note: that chart is just showing disposable income. Here’s something else that’s sorta kinda important, regarding house prices, debt and the complete absence of pensions for Millennials:
That has enriched older people who already owned their homes but made it very hard for young people to get on to the housing ladder. At the age of 27, people born in the late 1980s had a homeownership rate of 25 per cent, compared with 33 per cent for people born just five years earlier and 43 per cent for those born 10 years earlier.

These trends — together with student debt and meagre pensions — seem to be having a psychological impact on millennials.
...so yes, Millennials still have disposable incomes, and accounting for housing costs, those disposable incomes are almost as high as Gen X had! Avocado toast, woo! Shame about the lack of home ownership, crushing debt and inability to retire, which aren’t on that chart. And also the other main point of the article, which seems to have eluded JackFlash: Millennials need to work far harder for this far shittier situation.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 4:13 PM on January 5 [35 favorites]


Also, the least interesting but most predictable conversation we could be having in response to that article is "Does the data show that millennials are just big whiners?"
posted by peeedro at 4:28 PM on January 5 [15 favorites]


This is a pretty egregious mischaracterisation of what the article says.

Regardless of what the article says, I can read a chart with my own two eyes. You can too here.

It clearly shows Millennials as the highest on the chart. They are doing a little better than GenX but they are doing almost 60% better than boomers. So what is the article's complaint? Millennials are doing better than GenX but they aren't doing vastly better than GenX -- but why should they. Millennials are doing vastly better than Boomers, according to this chart.
posted by JackFlash at 4:32 PM on January 5


That chart shows income before housing costs.
posted by lauranesson at 4:40 PM on January 5 [29 favorites]


I agree, the economic system, exploitive and amoral and unrestrained by a viable geopolitical rival, has made the precariat and not by accident.

And the lead-laden, spoiled and under empathetic boomers are intent on taking everything nice down with them.

And we've polluted the food, air, water...
And we've non-recreationally drugged a lot of millenials...
And we've underfunded their public goods like education...
And the dread, stress and learned coping behaviors for a generation that is going to die in a change climate
And growing up addicted to mind-altering stimulating IT...

Whats shocking isn't that millenials are damaged goods.... what shocking is behavior of the people who committed and continue to commit this generational assault. What perverse satisfaction they get from screwing their and their neighbors children then marveling and wrynging their hands over how screwed up they turned out.

They can't write in script or in olde english, can't shoe a horse, can't read a paper map or an analog clock or a long paragraph you say? My gosh... how unexpected. They don't know geograpy or shakesperre or home economcis or anything else we cut from the schools? They are so affraid of mistakes, up there on the high wire with no safety net.

Ugh
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 4:52 PM on January 5 [9 favorites]


Can I comment after merely skimming the article and without reading the comments? Yes, I can, because I am a 66 year-old parent of a 26 year-old human, and have read many many articles of this sort.

My experience is that I floated through life until retirement (no, it wasn't always easy, but life in the 70s was easier). My daughter, though, is so incredibly organized and accomplished that I just can't read another article like this. Maybe she is this way because of my mother's genes. We have also entertained the hypothesis that high achievement is a great way of rebelling against hippie slacker parents. In any case, enough of Boomers writing (or in this case, reading) articles about how Millennials can't hack life. They can.
posted by kozad at 4:59 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


We can hack life but it leaves us exhausted and depressed. We can hack life because the only other option is dying in a ditch.

We shouldn't have to micromanage every aspect of our lives just to make ends meet while people who bought houses in the 80s for a relative pittance tell us how spoiled we are.
posted by Ferreous at 5:03 PM on January 5 [46 favorites]


I could be wrong, but it seemed like these young folks just had a lack of trusting their gut or a lack of permission/freedom to make mistakes.

My most serious flaw as an employee has always been my extreme aversion to risk, a mental habit my Gen-X supervisors have consistently found baffling and frustrating. I am nearing 30, have been in my current line of work going on 5 years, and only now am starting to be able to trust my own judgment to the extent that I can be effective as a mid-level corporate-y type person.

Growing up in the 90s, I was educated and socialized only to take action *if and when I was absolutely sure that action was correct or optimal*, because the stakes of those decisions were so incredibly high. Behavior (party or study? drink or head home? debate team or youth orchestra?) impacted grades impacted university impacted my long-term ability to build anything resembling a decent life. I'm sure the majority of people my age can relate. In my case this calculus was also constantly being made under the stress of the increasingly obvious unlikelihood of moving out of the working-class slog my mother inhabited.

All this to say, the same habits of mind which allowed me to navigate the pre-adulthood obstacle course, left me embarrassingly ill-equipped to be effective as an adult professional. The cognitive whiplash was immense, and destabilizing. Add that to the increasingly raw deal offered to modern workers relative to that enjoyed by previous generations and, well...I don't deny that people my age can seem to lack dedication and commitment in the workplace compared to our parents and grandparents, but when you look at the effort being demanded versus the return, one has to wonder whether we're lazy brats or just being sensible.

It's also so rare to be provided on the job training now, which doesn't help grow skills for young people either.
This too.
posted by TinyChicken at 5:05 PM on January 5 [17 favorites]


I'm baffled by the read that this article is shitting on millennials. Because the jist of the one I read was "holy shit the society we have to try to function in now is genuinely destructive to people's mental health and general wellbeing, signed, a millennial", not so much the "lol millennials are a pack of coddled babies who are also to blame for the destruction of our cozy and comfortable way of life, amirite?" that others seem to have seen instead.
posted by palomar at 5:06 PM on January 5 [20 favorites]


If we're "damaged goods", what generation is supposed to be the standard bearer of mental health and ability to function in comparison?
posted by Selena777 at 5:07 PM on January 5 [5 favorites]


Can I comment after merely skimming the article and without reading the comments? Yes, I can, because I am a 66 year-old parent of a 26 year-old human, and have read many many articles of this sort...

I mean, you can, but you end up looking kind of foolish.

In any case, enough of Boomers writing (or in this case, reading) articles about how Millennials can't hack life. They can.

The author describes herself - many times - in the article as a millenial writing about her own experiences and that of her peers. And the gist of the article is not that millenials can't hack life.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:09 PM on January 5 [33 favorites]


I'm a Gen-xer, but just barely. I never had any grand expectations for my career and haven't taken on any of the risks associated with a more challenging career path, so happily I don't have any debt. I do have some savings. Some. A good chunk has been wiped out by a string of expenses - all of which are the kind of reason I had an emergency savings fund - car repairs, medical expenses, etc.

Anyway, I live with an undercurrent of existential dread. I must keep my job, I must be careful with money, I can't avoid any major life mistakes because of what's at stake: my health and financial future and possibly my parents'.

I don't know if this is really why I am struggling to get crap done that should be basic. But it feels a lot better to look at the internet than to be alone with my thoughts.
posted by bunderful at 6:45 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]




I mean, if you want a solution to all this burnout and lack of security, I’ve got some pamphlets for you *red flags drop behind me*
posted by The Whelk at 6:50 PM on January 5 [32 favorites]


Holy shit this is close to home. I’ve been burned out for 8-9 years, after graduating Dean’s list from a top program and finding that jobs in my field were both limited and paid poorer than the BLS data indicated. Since then it’s been a series of upward sideways hustles to try to gain some financial stability and circumvent the generational glass ceiling that keeps so many of my peers stuck at associate or adjunct or contract or assistant.

I often explain my unwavering habit of backing into parking spaces as “I never know when I need to leave in a hurry”. In our lives, we always need an escape plan on deck, vetted and ready, because the building could burn at any time and if you have to back out of that space, you’ll get clustered with 20 other people who assumed there would be time. The schema that capitalist Boomers built are functioning exactly as intended, further consolidating wealth to the aging rich, and ‘optimizing’ labor conditions at the expense of Millennials’ careers and well-being.

Every damn day I feel stuck. Every day I worry that although I have a small emergency fund and some investments I could access, that it won’t be enough, or that the imminent bear market will devalue my stocks like they did ten years ago, this time taking my house with it. I’m actively denying my wonderful partner a child because I don’t trust the trajectory of the economy and the world, and I’m not confident we’ll be solvent for the next 18 years, and if so I want to be able to opt out and not be a dead parent, just a dead adult.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:49 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]


Regardless of what the article says, I can read a chart with my own two eyes.

You say that, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

I can't avoid any major life mistakes because of what's at stake: my health and financial future and possibly my parents'.

This is something that really weighs on me. I'm fighting constantly just to keep my own head above water. I certainly couldn't have kids. Hell, I doubt I could afford to have a dog. If my mother needs help after she's no longer able to work, the way my grandmother and my great grandmother did, how am I going to be able to manage that? What is going to happen then?
posted by IAmUnaware at 7:50 PM on January 5 [11 favorites]


I know that feeling, iAmUnaware. My mother is 1000 miles away, and she’s asking me to come to her for two weeks every six weeks or so, to help her and my dad after her surgeries. She seems to think I’m still in my twenties and a gymnast in peak condition, and not a menopausal woman with lupus, children, animals, jobs, and bills. There are some days when I can’t walk without two canes, how am I supposed to do the heavy lifting? And even if I can figure a way to juggle all that, airlines are expensive, and I’m not sure I can still do a 14 hour drive. So, I’ve just been freaking out about it all day, trying to find a solution.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:26 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


> My most serious flaw as an employee has always been my extreme aversion to risk...

Is it? You're still employed and, it sounds like, getting trusted with more critical work.
posted by smelendez at 9:52 PM on January 5


Metafilter: I thought I felt this way because of autism.
posted by philip-random at 9:56 PM on January 5 [7 favorites]


Thank you for posting. Feeling completely depleted by basic life tasks which in and of themselves are not taxing is exactly the life I’ve been feeling. I’ve had this undercurrent of exhaustion / dissatisfaction / mild depression / burnout for a while now and only lately been seeing my ways out. A poster above said it - to be radically yourself is liberating. Fuck this nonsense of Protestant work ethic + capitalist constant self improvement. Embody who and what I am, for all its blend of skill, potential and mediocrity. We were taught work hard you can be president but seriously most of us can’t and so what. It’s. It a failing not to grow up to be Einstein or Beethoven. Instead, a dynamic balance of being myself, acknowledging my flaws and limits, and still trying to be my higher self; of completely abandoning attachment to an outcome (home ownership, successful children, picture life) while still putting in effort. It helps that I have a kondo-Marie husband, who likes to systemize simplicity, and also the example of my sister, who coldly refuses to emotional labor for anyone, which at first is off putting till you realize the world doesn’t crash if you don’t do things outside of what you generally want to do, for the sake of “being nice.” People bitch and complain behind your back but they figure it out for themselves so why get worked up about it? From there I’ve been just saying what I need and moving with it - honey I need a couple hours this weekend to reflect and meditate - with no guilt because I work hard the rest of the week, has taken a weight off too. Oh, dad fed the kids butter noodles for dinner? They can eat broccoli tomorrow. Not every moment has to be Instagram-able. I also recently started managing a team, and going through that mental transition (how the hell do i value add here?) helped me to value my own judgment and see what I do bring to the table just by being myself. You don’t have to use it or like it or need it but this is who and what I am and it’s just fine.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:18 PM on January 5 [18 favorites]


Gah typo above... should say it’s not a failing not to grow up to be Einstein or Beethoven.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:27 PM on January 5


Thanks for posting this Chura, I follow the author on Facebook and her newsletter so have been waiting eagerly/depressedly for this article.

When she described the cognitive load of financial insecurity, I felt seen in a way I hadn’t before and then immediately saddened. This hits home, and I live outside the US with some form of socialised healthcare.

Add a chronic illness - burnout was suggested at diagnosis but I didn’t agree at the time - and increase difficulty tenfold.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:23 AM on January 6 [5 favorites]


"We live in a country filled with energetic, talented, creative people, many of whom are forced to spend their days doing tedious busywork." --@JWMason1 (via)

"One of the many many failings of economics over the last decades is to accept purely quantitative measures that hide underlying quality differentials and assume away the problems therein." --@oliverbeige

"This. Economics (free market variants) are portrayed as self-optimising, but the question of 'optimising around what' has been shuffled into the background." --@Metatone2

the answer (of course ;) is leisure!

The work bonus that is way more important than money - "So why are working moms and dads still having to decide between taking care of their children and earning an income? Why are we dealing with crazy commutes and 9-to-5 jobs and needing to live where the jobs are? There's a better way—and more companies are starting to realize they need to jump on board or admit defeat... more free time is linked to greater life satisfaction." (previously)
posted by kliuless at 7:19 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]




"We live in a country filled with energetic, talented, creative people, many of whom are forced to spend their days doing tedious busywork."

Yeah, because the only thing that makes you money to live on is tedious busywork, because the world needs that far more than it does your art.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:22 AM on January 6 [6 favorites]


One of my exes was tail-end Gen X, so within a few years of 1980, which supposedly is when the "millennial" label (or epithet, depending who you ask) starts. He was very bitter about the fact that his grandfather bought a house and supported a family on a factory worker's salary, while he had a college degree and held a middle-class job (salary fell well within the middle class range) and yet he couldn't afford the same standard of living. Would rant and rave about it. Also about how his family did not help him financially in any way after high school. Yet, he managed, on his own, to get together the down payment for a house, and to keep it. He owned a car when we met and bought himself another a few years later. He had debts like everyone else, yet still managed to put money in the bank every month. It always boggled me how bitter he was when really he was managing his life very well on his own, admirably so given other hardships I do not describe here. I think his anger really came from the fact that he had to work harder to get the same things his grandfather acquired with comparative ease. And perhaps, in a way, it is the same anger that people experience when they are promised something and when it is not delivered, they are much more angry and frustrated than if it had never been promised in the first place. As a millennial myself, I remember the promises too - some of them insidiously presented, particularly from around middle school years, pre-9-11 - the way we were all showered with images in movies showing rich bored teenagers in expensive cars all going to ridiculously beautiful and improbable high schools, every one of them destined for Harvard. I remember the way kids in my school all were raised to believe the (relative) ease of the Clinton years would go on forever. It sure was a shock when they didn't, and really, were we mentally prepared for it? Not at all. At all.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 8:28 AM on January 6 [11 favorites]


Salesforce's Marc Benioff unplugged for two weeks, and had a revelation that

ctrf-f "slack" gets zero hits in that piece, and likewise this thread (though slacker does show up a couple of times). So maybe it's time to bring Slack into the discussion, not to be confused with Slack, or slacker for that matter, though Slacker gets much closer to the is of it.
posted by philip-random at 8:36 AM on January 6 [2 favorites]


"Yet the more work we do, the more efficient we’ve proven ourselves to be, the worse our jobs become: lower pay, worse benefits, less job security. Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation; our steadfastness hasn’t made us more valuable. If anything, our commitment to work, no matter how exploitative, has simply encouraged and facilitated our exploitation."
This spoke to me so much. I took over a role at work at the end of 2017 from a colleague who was retiring. I'm now doing the work that used to take them two days a week in one day and for less than half the hourly rate (admittedly, I do not have the decades of experience they have). We'll have salary reviews at the end of March, and I'm already trying to strategise how to convince my boss that I deserve to be paid for my efficiency rather than the actual person-hours the job takes.
posted by featherboa at 8:38 AM on January 6 [15 favorites]


So maybe it's time to bring Slack yt into the discussion,

but seriously (except that was serious, sort of), suffering is suffering, misery is misery, worry is worry, frustration is frustration, pain is always real, and this thread feels full of all of these.

I'm of a sort of lost generation myself, technically a boomer but never really caught any of the bonuses because I was born at the end of it all, overcrowded everything my whole life, graduated university into a prolonged recession, nobody hiring in anything close to my chosen field, ended up driving cab, and it's probably the best thing that ever happened to me toward getting a grasp on the fact that the world didn't just stop at the outer edges of my particular suburbia and its delusions. So yeah, by the time I hit age twenty-two, I was resigned to the fact that whatever dream of life-career-future I may have grown up with, it was a fallacy, a lie, a bill of goods I was finished with, and good riddance, no straight and normal for me.

And long story short, eventually I found myself here, call it the future, almost four decades down the line from all of that and all I can say with any authority is Who The Fuck Saw This Coming? A lot of people actually. Pieces of it anyway. Folks are talking about climate change and apocalypse in this thread. Well, we were too in 1984, my crowd anyway. It wasn't exactly making the papers but little did in those clamped down "old media" days. Also, we had a more or less permanent threat of global thermonuclear annihilation hanging over us, targets selected, missiles positioned, the end of the world never more than an episode of the Brady Bunch away.

Which, if you stand at the right angle, view with the right kind of eyes, is pretty fucking liberating. "No, Dad, I don't need to go look for a job. The fucking world ends on Good Friday, I have it on good authority. And if it doesn't then yeah, I guess. Maybe. Because it's also supposed to end on Labor Day."

Also poisoned oceans, vanishing rain forests, more species going extinct every hour than there are angels on the head of a pin (or whatever), genocidal wars of annihilation here there everywhere, and the music sucked, the stuff on the radio anyway. And so did TV, the movies, everything really. The single most tiresome thing people of my age do is look back on previous decades and remember how everything was better, it wasn't, because even when it was, good luck actually finding that good stuff, because you really had to go digging for it, and not just with a search engine …

My point being … well, that's the problem. We already have enough points. This thread is full of them. I'm with Corb strangely …

I think this is why - and I know this isn’t an option for anyone - having religion is really comforting right about now, and why I think it lets you avoid at least some of this. Because believing that if you try hard enough and do good enough you will indeed receive a reward is remarkably comforting,

Not advocating for any particular gods or goddesses (or vast living intelligence systems), just suggesting that there might be something to the notion of trusting that there is some kind of rhyme to everything, and thus a powerful positive in purposefully shrugging off to some grand organizing principle all the ponderous sufferings and miseries and worries that come with pretty much every existential moment (and always have) -- not so you can go listen to Nickelback, drink shitty corporate beer, binge watch back episodes of Survivor or whatever, but so you can focus on doing what you can do with the means you do have toward reconciling all the world's problems …

Also Nina Simone, and David Lynch for that matter, and Laura Dern. Seriously, it took an internet to make something like this as accessible as a word-search and a couple of mouse-clicks. And that ain't bad.
posted by philip-random at 9:00 AM on January 6 [9 favorites]


Our efficiency hasn’t bucked wage stagnation

Isn't "productivity" the ratio of economic output to production cost? By definition, increasing it depends on throttling increasing wages.
posted by thelonius at 9:11 AM on January 6


Isn't "productivity" the ratio of economic output to production cost? By definition, increasing it depends on throttling increasing wages.

Productivity is not measured in terms of wages. It is measured in terms of hours worked, regardless of wages. Higher wages can go along with productivity increases and they should, but they haven't much for the last 30 years. What this means is that the extra production value for hous is going to the owners of capital and the 1% instead of the majority of workers.
posted by JackFlash at 9:23 AM on January 6 [4 favorites]


There’s also this tendency (although not in this thread very much) to treat this burnout like it’s a new condition and not the default state for the majority of the working class since the 70s, it’s just that the ravages of late stage capitalism and the war of all against all is creeping up the class ladder.

And the solution for this is, well, Solidarity. We are all in this together.
posted by The Whelk at 10:41 AM on January 6 [13 favorites]


I thought I felt this way because of autism.

Young-ish Gen X here, perhaps even very old Millennial by whatever nebulous metrics being employed:

Yeah, I think it's been normal to feel like this for a couple of decades now at least, and it's just getting worse. No, it's not just you. Yes, things are fucked, almost everything is designed to penalize you in your adult and why are we even doing everything we do like this?

This is a bit simplistic, but I really don't know if it's a sign of good mental health to be well adjusted in a sick society and culture.

I don't and won't claim to have a solution, much less an easy one, but for some time "Drop Out" seems like a logical adaptation. But in reality this isn't an Instagram fairy story of suddenly being free to travel, but much more of a prolonged personal strike and boycott of continuing to do things the way you've been told to do them.

In reality it takes a lot of very stoic downward adjustments of ones expectations. About income, about housing, about food security. Relationships and families, too, including both raising one of your own or keeping your existing family if they won't understand. Even with health and life expectancy.

I used to have really good career strength jobs. More than once I've had an actual office. With a door. And a window. Not just a desk or a cubicle. And wearing clean shirts and ties and everything. I had plenty of money, but found it all so pointless and miserable. At one point I found myself unwittingly working for the same engineering company that built a toll road through an ecologically sensitive coastal area - the same project I protested as a youth with my whole family. When I figured that one out something in me kind of snapped and asked myself what the hell I was doing, why I needed that particular job, and to take note of how dirty and used I felt knowing these facts after working there for almost a year. (Narrator: They got stupid drunk and didn't process this well at all and didn't show up to work for a month.)

I do know that there's a lot of us out here who have already dropped out and are trying to figure some things out. We're trying to get places ready for people like you because we can feel you coming and that things are going to get much worse. That we're already in a perpetual state of cultural and economic crisis.

What we likely need from future dropouts is to learn how to adjust and to prepare for these things, to learn how to drastically reduce your footprint in all areas of infrastructure from energy and water to food and hygiene. To embrace and acknowledge this limited, finite nature of the land around us.

We also need to figure out how to keep the best of technology, and people are working on this, too. Think off grid solar for everyone, wind/solar powered water purification, computer controlled greenhouses, group living with microhousing. Many of these old/new tech combos can be deployed in big cities if ancient code books get left behind and a city culture looks more like Arcosanti and less industrial prison complex.

Consider dropping out. But plan for it, do some homework. Dropping out may be for you.
posted by loquacious at 11:38 AM on January 6 [18 favorites]


Also, if you’ve been paying attention you’ve seen the fortunes of everyone slightly older than you get wiped out every ten years. And it’s about to happen again.

It's the opposite of a jubilee. Everything gets wiped out but the debt.
posted by enn at 11:59 AM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Jesus Christ. I am a postdoc having just completed a PhD, with 2 kids, stuck in the academic hamster wheel having no clue what I will do with my life and this article resonated so hard I got tears in my eyes. I feel like this ALL THE DAMNED TIME, especially the constant need to do more and more work to make something of a career and inability to get around to most simple life tasks. I'm lucky to have a partner now who takes many of these on in addition to sharing some of the household organization, because otherwise I think I might literally drown in the swamp of burnout aka Artax in the swamp of sadness.
posted by DTMFA at 12:00 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Anne Helen Peterson wrote about how she wrote and approached the piece, and links to some critiques of the piece, in her newsletter this week.
The process of writing the piece was so therapeutic that I’d have been happy if a dozen people read it and found it useful. That millions have read it is truly just icing on the burnout cake. As for critiques, yes, my dudes, I know that this condition is not exclusive to millennials, but we are defined by the conditions that inform it in a way that is foundational. Yes, I know that Young Gen-Xers and Generation Z feel this too; generational boundaries are smudgy. No, I don’t think having kids fixes burnout; if anything (and this is addressed in the piece) it makes it worse, especially for women.

My essay is rooted in the parameters of my own admittedly white, middle-class, college-educated experience, and there’s so much more to be written about how burnout works differently for different identities
posted by ChuraChura at 12:12 PM on January 6 [13 favorites]


I cannot describe how exactly this article explains my life. From grad school, to anxiety over my place in life and my peers' place in life, to constantly working and feeling ashamed for either not working more efficiently or taking time for leisure, to intense anxiety over completing a stupid menial task... it made me feel incredibly seen and understood and not like I'm failing in a broad way.

Yeah, every word of that. Having read too many dumb screeds about Snake People, I really wasn't expecting to identify with this article quite so much. The paragraph about never feeling a feeling of accomplishment following an exhausting task... yeah. I was objectively pretty successful, and liked my lab, PI, and project, but finishing up my PhD just left me numb and exhausted, and dully terrified and resentful of having to give away a project I loved, uproot myself from a city that had started to feel like home, and begin again in yet another lab for the next bit of my career. When I started typing this, I was putting off heading into lab to take care of some cultures, and feeling guilty I didn't make it in earlier (on a Saturday). I was also feeling guilty for not having accomplished a bunch of quotidian life tasks of the laundry/groceries sort - quelle surprise.

Also, i realized some time ago that virtually all of my financial and professional ambition was the result of just wanting to feel safe. To be free of that toxic cloud of precarity, I guess. But it’s really, really fucked up that to be safe in this society you have to be rich. No. Fuck that. That is not how things should be.

Also this. I said to a postdoc in my old lab recently that a primary career goal is to do well enough that I don't feel so stressed out about stuff like replacing my second, older pair of boots, which after a decade have several holes forming in the upper. I technically do have the money. But I've got such a sense of precariousness that I've found it hard to actually spend it on the boots (or similar expenses). My new postdoc PI might fire me, particularly if I try to ease up to actually address my burnout! My new landlord might raise the rent that I can already barely manage! The things this postdoc stint is supposed to achieve may not materialize, leaving me floundering 2-4 years from now when I fail to get an academic research job! And, of course, random stuff happens. At various points in grad school, I had an unexpected ER trip and multi-day hospital stay, got burgled, had my bike totaled/had more medical issues when a car hit me, etc., and every time it wiped my savings back out again, and I had to start over. Spending money on stuff that isn't an emergency feels like a luxury, since I don't know when the next real emergency will hit.

In many ways, I would have loved to have taken a break before starting in my current lab; I didn't, partly because I'm bad at finishing up old projects, but also because I didn't want to eat into my meager savings while paying for an almost thousand-mile move. I ended up taking a day off (while moving) between leaving my doctoral lab and starting at my postdoctoral lab. I was pretty ill at the time but didn't see a doctor for a month because my new health insurance had not kicked in. My move to grad school was pretty similar. Only some of this is the result of my own workaholism, or my desire to succeed in my scientific field. Some of it is absolutely the result of fear. I've experienced jobs and housing situations falling apart with almost no financial safety net before, and I'm scared shitless of having to deal with that again.
posted by ubersturm at 12:49 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


“However, we must oppose and combat the notion that self-improvement and self-care are, in the abstract, genuine means of overcoming the problems of capitalist society. Certainly, such methods should be employed by anyone who finds them useful as a way of temporarily coping with life under capitalism, but we should not be content with simply “coping” forever. A socialist society would provide everyone with adequate housing, quality nutrition, stable employment, and a vastly reduced workweek. This alone would transform societal health, not to mention vastly improved access to cultural activities and opportunities for self-development and expression. Self-improvement and self-care would no longer be means for advancing economically or recovering from societal ills but ends in themselves.” Survival Tactics of Late Capitalism
posted by The Whelk at 1:32 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


I'm at the tail-end of Gen X (born in 1980) and have a team full of millenials at work. I just had to determine the annual "merit" increases for all 13 of them with an overall average of 2%. I have no control over that number.

We are in NYC and everything is expensive, and I assume that everyone on my team has school loans.

3 people on my team are really over-the-top outstanding and really deserve to be promoted, but the company has flattened the hierarchy and refused to backfill so many senior positions that there's really no room to grow. I asked for 4% raises for the 3 top people, which meant that the other 10 pretty much got screwed. I hate it.

In the meantime, NY state increased the threshold for hourly vs. salaried employees, so 5 of my team members had their salaries increased to meet that number rather than switching them to hourly (which would mean they were eligible for overtime and would definitely make more). All of the people I want to promote were on the low end of salary so they ended up getting 1-6% raises. I'm terrified that HR will tell me they are not eligible for merit because of this.

In the meantime, the president of the company has several vacation homes and a private jet. I love my job so much but this part of it makes my head explode.
posted by elvissa at 1:52 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


This article isn’t perfect but some parts of it really hit home and it was just refreshing to read that maybe the reason I can’t return things or mail a damn package isn’t just because I’m a lazy jerk (I am but it’s nice to think there are other things going on). Because seriously sometimes I think my place is just going to fill up with stuff I need to mail or take somewhere until I die.

The feeling that I always need to be Doing Something!! resonated. It’s hard for me to find time to take off from work and then when I can, it’s because I need to do something like see a doctor. In no particular order, I need to see a periodontist, sleep doctor, gynecologist and dermatologist soon, plus find a therapist, ideally a psychiatrist, and get an MRI. I’ve been putting off a damn MRI because it’s not mission critical. You know what I’d like to do sometime but hasn’t risen to “need to do” status? Get new glasses. I only wear them at night but my prescription has changed a few times since I last got glasses and I feel like time to get glasses is a luxury.

Anyway. I try to cope by doing one thing at a time. This week, it’s sleep doctor and periodontist. Who knows what fun I’ll come up with for next week.
posted by kat518 at 2:36 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I really appreciated this article. The thing that I see that she didn't get into very much is the total lack of dependable structure in the workplace in general. A couple people in this thread talked about a lack of training - I've never had training at a professional job. For years I provided my own feedback because my managers didn't give me any, except to occasionally criticise work I submitted that they refused to answer questions about when it was assigned.

Once an organization I had previously worked for asked me to interview for a new position with them, which I did. They never followed up with me. After more than a month I followed up with them hoping to preserve the relationship, and they completely ignored me and I never heard from any of them again. THEY asked ME to apply - I wasn't even looking at the time. On their website I saw that they had hired a woman I knew who had less experience in that work than I did.

At a previous job I would feel the need to have something to strive for, so I set goals for myself and would get my work in amazing shape, set up new systems to improve efficiency and show my progress to my boss - I got no response. Other times I was worn out from being my own manager and couldn't convince myself to care, so I did only the bare minimum and hung out on metafilter for hours (I'm talking like 4-6 hours) a day, for weeks - no one noticed.

I have been unemployed and job searching recently - responses are all over the place. I applied for a job where I perfectly met their very straightforward qualifications, but within an hour I got an automatic rejection saying I did not meet the minimum qualifications. I applied for a different job at the same company that was a stretch position and they interviewed me for it (but then rejected me).

I'm about to start another job that is very loosely defined, has no predecessor in the role and no trainer. I am dreading it.

I don't want to play the game in the first place and then the game has no rules. Yet I still have to play and pretend I want to play and that I have goals for where I'll be in the game in 5 years. Exhausting.
posted by Emmy Rae at 3:07 PM on January 6 [21 favorites]




So what that graph shows, if I'm reading it right, is that people worked 2.2 million hours per thousand persons in the 1960s, and 1.7 million hours per thousand persons today. Which is a good fact, I suppose, but I don't think is particularly relevant to the broader societal factors that the original essay touches upon. Maybe I'm working fewer hours today than I would have been 60 years ago because I'm working two part time jobs instead of one full time job, and one of them is a side gig that doesn't get included in those statistics because I'm a self-employed freelancer. Maybe I'm working fewer hours today than I would have been 60 years ago because I'm chronically underemployed. Maybe I'm working but as an uber driver. Maybe I'm working but with a constant sense of precarity. Maybe I also have $40,000 in student loan debt. Maybe I've got work e-mail and slack on my phone and so even when I'm not at the office, my boss sends me things to do or follow up on. I just kind of feel like that statistic is orthogonal to the problem here?
posted by ChuraChura at 8:30 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I spent my 20s and, fuck, early 30s pretty much failing my way through life. ( I'm relatively sure that fix was starting a gender transition and 20 years of therapy and a divorce)

So I don't have "an adult job" or degree or much in the way of savings and retirement funds. I have no idea how I'm going to live at 50 or 60 or retirement at 85. I'm hoping to inherit enough from my parents, I guess? Or legitimately wishing for catastrophic climate failure to either die in flooding, plauge or being able to resort to cannibalism.

God help me if y'all are in the same boat
posted by Jacen at 9:29 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The "millenials" thing is complete garbage manufactured by billionaire-owned media channels.

I know people in the boomer, early X, late X, "original millenials," current millenials - and the stories are all kind of similar modulo the economy and luck and any blowups during critical periods of one's financial progression (or lack thereof).

I think that the apparent disparity is because there are so many more millenials, and that so many more of the marginalized millenials have platforms to pronounce their disappointment with end-stage capitalism? Exposure.

I've read many similar (a lot that were weaker, a few that were stronger) posted on BBSs in the early 90's by my highschool peers.

Yes, "middle class" living hasn't only been made harder to achieve, but the goalposts have moved far upfield. The cost of housing has been another pillar that transfers wealth to the top and prevents the rest from acquiring it. Healthcare is certainly a plague in the US; it's not so bad up here in Canada and proper reform in the US would do a lot of good - similar with Education. Canada isn't perfect, and we need to do a lot better in a lot of areas including making sure federal politics can't devolve into a shitshow like now with dumbass45.

Holding off on children really strikes a nerve with me - I've held off on potential relationships because I didn't know if I needed to relocate within months, for the longest time. I know several people with STEM PhDs who have long term partners but never had kids because... it wouldn't be fair to the kids if/when employment became elusive.

Of my guy friends who did have kids, they either divorced and (not) paying support on shit reported income [repeat... 3? times now], have great paying job and moved to a low COL area and have multiple ex-wives and several children and stepchildren or struck it rich as a tech startup and limited himself to two but facing a wife heading towards the endgame of divorcing him when she married him. (And then the guys who have a couple of kids and working them through public school and another through French immersion and all of my younger sister's friends' successful families.)
posted by porpoise at 10:51 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I’ve started randomly sobbing lately. I just don’t have a future. My girlfriend, concerned for me, showed me this article and we talked about it a little. I don’t know, this article doesn’t feel so cathartic, it makes me feel worse — I think I’d been hoping that there was a way out. It’s worse knowing that everyone is suffering, including people who can hold it together better than me.

Up until recently, the only thing keeping me going has been the idea that I’ll stumble into something that will wipe out my debt. Like, I’ll write a book and that will magically erase my problems. I knew it was a fantasy, but even the fantasy falls apart when confronted with the reality that even a magic bullet won’t rescue me. Wipe out my debt, and then what? Be like any other burnout. I realized I was fantasizing about getting up to the same awful baseline everyone else is on. That’s a downer. I’d rather be a fuckup than live in a fucked up world I can’t escape.

The outlook for a retail worker like me is pretty lousy. Yeah, talk about factory workers. I make minimum wage too. Here’s what I can hope for, that I’ll find a white collar career and... be as miserable everyone else. I’ve been wondering if my best option is to just quit my job and let my money run out. Dropping out, if you will. Easier said than done.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:12 AM on January 7 [12 favorites]


Which is a good fact, I suppose, but I don't think is particularly relevant to the broader societal factors that the original essay touches upon.

Somewhat enraging that it was posted by Matt Yglesias. Remember all those bloggers who came of age around the same time? IIRC the ones who are now actual pundits — Yglesias, Ezra Klein — are the ones who had enough family “support” to be bloggers until they could graduate to pundits. The others — Jesse something, I don’t even remember his name — didn’t.

So. Fuck that dude.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:39 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


This article has led me to think about the ways I've been striving for optimization and productivity and hopefully I can let some of that go. The right to be lazy, as mentioned above.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:57 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I've felt this way really profoundly up to about two years. Notably, that's when a fourth wage-earning adult entered our household. We all have middle-class jobs (mine is the least middle-class-ish, I guess, since I'm a pink-collar worker - I'm a secretary at a hospital - but my health benefits are really good and that makes up for having a lower wage). The highest-paid one of us is a teacher at a private school. We'd all be drowning in debt if we lived alone. We're really happy together, but it's really messed up that a standard of living that used to require one wage-earning adult now requires four.

I was researching minimum wage this weekend for my news website, and I discovered that if minimum wage had just kept up with inflation, it would be around $10/hour (instead of $7.25). I know I'm not the first to notice that, but doing the calculations really drove it home.
posted by joannemerriam at 10:31 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


I really appreciate her including the critiques in her newsletter, including Tiana Clarks' thread, which I think is really helpful in understanding the piece more once it clarifies its lack of universality.
The truth is, for me, I don’t feel like I am allowed to be tired. Every black woman I know is exhausted has been exhausted. I was born from tired, black women who did not have the luxury to ghost on their responsibilities or people DIED.
posted by corb at 10:37 AM on January 7 [11 favorites]


Do I cry? Can I cry? It never ends. I was born in 90, so I'm am dead in the middle of being a millennial. I graduated at the very beginning of the 08 crisis. This is all I've known. And it's been rough. For about 4 out of the last 9 months I've had to make due with broken glasses. I'm 2 months behind on rent. Last month I had 2 separate utilities turned off. My license is suspended because I couldn't pay a ticket and now that's idk like $500 or some shit to get it back. Not that I have a car, it got repossessed when I was laid off.
I feel better reading some of the responses here. I'm just so damn tired all the time. Things fall through the cracks. I forgot to send in paperwork to prove I'm underpaid so I defaulted on my student loans. I've consolidated them, and am getting back on track. But it's a pain.
And I don't have anyone to fall back on. My only family consists of a sister about the same age as me, who is currently doing the grueling work of climbing the ladder in the restaurant/hotel industry. She makes maybe $9 and hour and is in a high enough position that she gets calls nearly every day when she's not working. My oldest sister is Gen X, and a single mom. She looks at my time being and adult and just shakes her head. She's one of the ones that get it. How on earth could anyone rise up out of this? I grew up in various levels of poverty and pretend safety. People rarely make it out of poverty. The highest-earning people who started in poverty still make less than the lowest earners of those that started in upper class. The best you can hope for is still worse than some rich kid's failure.

There was a good twitter thread, here, about how millennials are in a temporal crisis. Our timelines don't and can't match any previous barometer and so we're all kind of lost. I want to kind of merge the two ideas - the neverending to do list, and the fact that millennial timelines are skewed, and just comment on how long things take now. Saving, graduating, getting good jobs. If you can achieve these things at all, it just takes so much more time than it did for past generations. It's utter drudgery.
When I was 21 I was working fulltime, going to community college full time, to get a degree in a field that had good potential (specific design thing). I graduated with an associates, with presidential honors 3 out of 4 semesters. I was accepted into one of the top 4 schools for the field, which had an exceedingly high job-placement rate. I couldn't afford to go. A year or two was spend working to make that happen, and it just was never going to. So, I've moved on. And I've been working on this 2nd plan for 5 years now. I got a customer service job and worked there, moving up into a supervisory position. Then entire time there (no benefits, maybe 8.25 an hour, working 6 days a week), I was applying for jobs. I'd climbed to the top of the ladder at the company I was at, and needed to laterally move. I finally found a position, where I work now, but that was 2 years of job searching. February marks my 3rd anniversary, and also marks when I'll begin receiving tuition assistance from the company. I'll be going to school part time for the next 5-6 years to get a degree to move up in this company, or even laterally somewhere that has a higher ladder.
But that's what, 10 years to graduate, for the hope of making more than $40,000? (i make a little over half that now). My student debt will, thankfully, be smaller than a lot of my peers due to the pause I took to get this job, and because I'll only be taking as many classes a year as is covered by tuition assistance and grants. Not everyone can do that. I'll be 35, entering that work force for the first time, meanwhile there's articles being written all the time that workers over 50 are getting the shaft. I have 15 years of relatively stable income to get my shit together. Like sciatrix said, there's no room for error. There is only perfect. I can't afford to be set back any more time. I already regret taking a year or so trying to find a way to make plan A work.
And there's still no guarantee I will ever get out of living paycheck to paycheck while slowly accumulating more debt. Add in global warming and I could not relate to sisyphus more. But you can't stop, no matter how burned out you are. There's no room for error.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:04 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


I did some napkin math a couple months ago when I hit my current round of constant panic attacks, comparing how many hours I've worked in my life so far to OECD data. I'm 31, and I’ve worked as much as an OECD-average 39 year old, or a 45 year old German or Dane. I literally worked my entire twenties, every waking hour (and far too many hours that should have been sleep). Of course I'm a broken human being by now.

How do you fix this kind of thing at a societal level? I can't conceive of a policy that would give me or my cohort even a fraction of the life experiences that we've missed out on back. I imagine that'll play out in public health statistics in the coming years. Maybe it already is, given the rapid increase in depression, mental health problems, and suicide among my generation.

The only way to heal burnout, I'm told, is to get ample time and space. Years of it. How do you do that without a social safety net? Even if you're lucky enough to save years of living expenses, a single ER visit will ruin you. (Even with a safety net, how the hell do you save years of living expenses?)

Anyway, one of the weirdest things I've learned about burnout is that it affects your emotions funny. I can't remember the last time I experienced having fun, but what's odd is that I remember experiences as being fun after the fact. It feels like being robbed every time you try to be positive, and that feeling of being robbed only makes you feel even worse. And, of course, you still experience pain and misery and sadness and anger normally.

Can't channel that anger if you're exhausted all the time, though. I wish older generations would remember that when they whine about Millennials not voting or whatever we're being blamed for now.
posted by ragtag at 5:37 PM on January 7 [15 favorites]


I've been thinking about this essay a lot since Saturday. I'm just a few years younger than the author, and my parents have been retired for a decade - something they planned and saved rigorously for, but also got lucky with, both generationally and otherwise. We're on good terms, but the combination of them having huge amounts of leisure time at the same time that I decided to return to graduate school has created a widening interpersonal rift in my relationship with them. My work is intellectually rewarding, but doing it is time intensive and relentless and there's always more to do for very little pay, and even more for those who want to continue in academic research as a career, which I do. In contrast, my folks both were scrupulous work to live types - my mom notably refused a corporate Blackberry repeatedly in the mid-2000s so that no one could call her on weekends.

I consider myself fairly work-life balanced for a 30-something in 2018, but the one thing I really suck at is staying in touch with family, because every conversation inevitably involves awkward Q&A about whether I've been working a lot lately (yes! most weekends! that is how my life works!), why I don't call more often, or like, when I'll have time to travel for leisure and/or to visit them next. It's an interpersonal pattern I can't seem to find a way out of, because the busier I am the more they zero in on that as a topic of conversation. Maybe it's just the boomer inclination to Drop Out-itude, but it's very frustrating.

when it came to the mundane, the medium priority, the stuff that wouldn’t make my job easier or my work better, I avoided it

This, unfortunately, I feel very much.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:07 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


One extra layer I'd add to this is the immigrant/expat experience for GenXers and millenials who have moved abroad to pursue careers in volatile and precarious job markets. I'm thinking, for example, of all of the non-EU citizens working in the Berlin tech and music industries; there's a 'social safety net' in place in Germany, but it is very explicitly not there for foreigners, and even EU citizens only get grudging inclusion. In the UK, it seems very likely that being an EU citizen will no longer protect you, thanks to Brexit and Theresa May's longtime obsession with driving away immigrants. The NHS is supposed to be available to anybody who has a residence permit and pays taxes, but beyond that you're on your own. And so, there are lots of folks who live and work in countries that have 'social safety nets', but nonetheless toil under far more precarious circumstances.
posted by LMGM at 3:01 AM on January 8 [5 favorites]



As an old GenXr, with a kid in high school, most of the other parents I interact with for school activities are Millenials, and I amazed at the differences just a few years can make. College wasn’t unregulated when I went, and tuition was $4.00 a credit hour. Classes were taught by tenured professors. Millenials were charged 500% more, after deregulation and mostly had classes taught by grad students.


I was talking with friends about saving for university for your children, and none of our parents did save up for it as when we were kids, university was free (no fees, and a non-repayable grant to live off) and always had been. Why would anyone believe it might change?

I was one of the first years to pay for fees, which would have been £1000 per year if not heavily means-tested (various circumstances meant I paid a total of £312). But the abolition of the grant meant I was £12k in debt when I left in 2003. I finally paid that off last year. My then-boyfriend, who was three years older, paid no fees and left with only an overdraft to pay off. There's a sharp divide, it feels, between people my age (older millennial) and people a few years older who a) never had to pay back a chunk of their wages every month to the Student Loans Company b) started work in the mid-90s when house prices were less insane and banks were offerinbg 110% mortgages.

And, of course, now it's £9k per year and the interest on the loans kicks in whilst you are still a student. That's a terrifying thing to start your adult life with. It's only going to get worse. And *beyond that* - they might arguably even have it good compared with students in the US.
posted by mippy at 9:54 AM on January 8 [6 favorites]


Since we've also had a FPP about Marie Kondo in the last few days, I thought Dawn Foster's response in The Guardian may be of interest:
But the essay hit a nerve because work has filled all corners of millennial life, and there is no hope for your own life outside of work because social media has become another arm of the surveillance state. Any job you apply for, your employer will look at your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook presence if they can, and anything they can trawl through on Google. Even if you do get hired, you’ll be monitored outside work too...

What’s the outcome? A generation that absolutely detests the status quo and fails to see how the financial industry works for more than a small handful. Solutions tend to focus on individual wellbeing: therapy through nutrition, diet, “sleep hygiene” and organisation. The success of Jordan Peterson and Marie Kondo speaks to this: theirs are self-help books essentially, that promise greater happiness by focusing inwards rather than accepting that widespread unhappiness is down to a society which prizes economic success and consumerism. You can fold your clothes however you like, but that won’t spark as much joy as knowing you have a pension and can afford your rent.
posted by devrim at 10:42 AM on January 8 [7 favorites]


Also, previously on MF.
posted by devrim at 11:47 AM on January 8


Not a Millenial but I've been putting off renewing my cats' licenses for I don't know how many months. The combination of it being a small amount of money, of no real purpose, and that I have to log into a city website to do it means that at any given time there is something else that is more important to do. Reading this thread reminded me of it and I just renewed them.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:03 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


Related to putting things off... Finished grad school w/ a cool 60k debt into a 50k job in a field that still has advancement prospects for the next 5-10 years (honestly who can judge beyond that? Even my estimate has a wide margin of error). My cash flows aren't that much worse than before grad school due to increased wages offsetting debt repayments (still came out behind though). The holidays really kicked my ass with flying back home after having moved for this job. The kicker was my clutch going out and requiring an additional $700 the week leading up to christmas. There I was floating my way through the holidays on credit card debt as the cherry atop my consolidated credit card debt and nelnet debt.

Ok I'm gonna stop rambling. I still (maybe?) have a small retirement pay-in from a previous job I could request to help have a savings and cushion, a few thousand at most but it requires a notary sign off on it before mailing it. I think(?) the local UPS has a notary I can use? I still bank back home, and the credit unions here are supposed to have some sort of network deal, but I'm reluctant to take off work to get this all done as so much of my time is billable and... ugh. This errand's sitting at 4 months now I think. Nose, article.
posted by avalonian at 2:17 PM on January 8


Burnout Isn’t Just a Millennial Affliction: Anne Helen Petersen’s BuzzFeed essay correctly captures a very real condition, but in limiting it to a single generation, she precludes the most promising solutions.

This one argues that you CAN work on your burnout, rather than AHP saying you can't cure it.

"This is the true nature of self-care—not overnight oats, not massages, not vacations, not the Pomodoro technique, which Petersen cites. Some of these things may work for you, but none of them should be held forth as a one-size-should-fit-all prescription, which is how Petersen evaluates and rejects them, and most other things that could help her burnout. It is figuring out what makes you, personally, reinvigorated and better able to manage stress.

The true problem with grappling with burnout, with fighting it, is not that it can’t be done, but that doing it can be costly."


I dunno. I do plenty of self-care (my therapist said I'm one of the few clients who does this) but overall it's only managing symptoms and self-care doesn't really cure the fact that oh, I'm sick of putting up with the same incurable shit every day. The only thing that can really cure burnout is getting something new, but that isn't really doable a lot of the time, which is the problem. I can't uproot my entire life and start fresh and start my own business and still survive, really.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:49 PM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Burned-Out Millennials Need Careers, Not Just Jobs: Mapping out a professional path has never been harder as old-line work vanishes. (Bloomberg, limits your articles.)
"Meanwhile, other formerly reliable career options for those with humanities degrees are drying up. The demand for lawyers, journalists, teachers and government workers is anemic and shows no signs of recovering.

In addition to the many years spent in classrooms rather than earning money, young people are forced to spend years navigating a bewildering jungle of jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago — social media marketer, growth hacker, data technician. Other than hapless university career counselors, stripped-down job websites and online forums full of unreliable chatter, there is no one to help educated young people through the maze.

In other words, what educated millennials need isn’t just jobs; they need help plotting a course that will reliably lead them to upward mobility and justify the expense of their education.

But how can career paths be charted in a world where work changes rapidly? New technologies and tools must be brought to bear. Job-search sites and government researchers could team up to outline promising careers. They could then team up with university career counselors to help students at both the undergrad and graduate levels visualize possible directions they might go. This wouldn’t guarantee upward mobility or a set professional track, but it would give students more of an idea of what their careers might look like, helping them plan accordingly. It would be especially useful for Ph.D. students who would otherwise be fixated on academia.

In addition, new institutions could be created to give smart young people the option to trade mobility for security. Top companies could establish lifetime employment systems, like those traditionally used in Japan, for those workers who don’t mind sacrificing pay and mobility for security. For those who do prefer to hop between jobs, the government and job search services could team up to create something like Denmark’s flexicurity system, which helps workers smoothly move from job to job.

Finally, the government could cancel some portion of millennials’ student loan debt, which at this point is mostly owned by the government. Lifting that burden would cause the national debt to rise, but the increase in both economic dynamism and workers’ well-being will be worth it. In the future, government should focus on supporting education via grants for low-income students rather than on encouraging students to go into debt.

So there are things that can be done to help the burned-out millennials. The alternative — a disaffected army of smart, educated, angry young people — doesn’t bode well for the country."
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:47 PM on January 9 [6 favorites]




So, I've seen this article linked a couple times on my FB feed, and I have to say that it may take the record for "most frequently willfully misunderstood article." There's always going to be some degree of people who don't RTFA, but the unwillingness to engage with it and/or dismiss it entirely feels almost like a systemic gaslighting, especially given the whole section of the essay on accurately describing the problem and the emotional power of doing so.
posted by DebetEsse at 10:12 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


In addition, new institutions could be created to give smart young people the option to trade mobility for security. Top companies could establish lifetime employment systems, like those traditionally used in Japan, for those workers who don’t mind sacrificing pay and mobility for security.

This is like MAGA for college-educated workers: nostalgia for an economy that is never coming back.

Companies can't guarantee workers' security because they can't guarantee their own anymore. The average age of an S&P 500 company is under 20 years, down from 60 years in the 1950s. Whatever the solution is, it can't involve tying people's economic security to a corporation.
posted by fuzz at 4:09 AM on January 10 [3 favorites]


i made a comment recently that i've been waiting to retire since i was 16 (currently 38). whoever i was talking to thought i was joking.

no. i am 38, have heart failure, live paycheck to paycheck, have many maxed out credit cards, and until i was diagnosed with heart failure was still working 2 jobs. i simply cannot do it anymore due to my health, and i feel like a big failure that i'm not pushing as hard as i used to.

i've been angry since my early 20s about the lie we were fed of "work hard and be rewarded." i worked SO HARD from my tween years to my mid 20s and got absolutely nothing. the only time working hard "paid off" was when i was self employed and set my own hours and own rates. but i can't do that anymore because reasons.

i am so angry and so tired.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 9:11 AM on January 10 [5 favorites]




This is the true nature of self-care—not overnight oats, not massages, not vacations, not the Pomodoro technique, which Petersen cites.

This is relatively minor, but I think at this point all I’m asking is that people stop recommending the fucking pomodoro technique as a solution for my existential crises. Just please stop.

If necessary, people can break their time into 20 minute chunks during which they refrain from talking about the pomodoro technique. This way, a person could go a whole day without bringing it up!
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:46 AM on January 12 [9 favorites]


Burnout is not a new concept; we just have a new way of describing, or rather marketing, the particular anxiety of our age.

[...]

Yet, for millennials of color, not only do we have to combat endless emails and Slack notifications, but we also get strapped with having to prove our humanity.
posted by tilde at 2:40 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


I came here to link the piece tilde linked. It's not very long and worth a read. I felt that besides information, it delivered the feeling of the problem it described.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:26 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Another burnout article here.

What I like about this one is that it essentially points out that we can't solve burnout on our own, it comes from our institutions/workplaces, who have no motivation to make anything better for us. Unless you do what the author did and give up 75% of your income and your entire career path just to make a change.

However, if you're burned out, do you HAVE the energy, caring, and money to make drastic changes in your life? If all of your energy is going towards just maintaining your life, how can you come up with MORE to move cross country for some other job or lose all of your benefits or whatever just to change it?

I do agree with this though: "The question can’t just be how I can prevent my burnout; it has to be how I can prevent yours." If people could be just...less awful when it comes to getting help from others? Don't abuse your waitress just because you have all the power over her and you CAN and it makes you high and happy to do so, don't go psychotic on someone because they can't give you what you want instantly due to rules beyond their control or because they have to wait on someone else to help or whatever.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:37 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


And now the topic is covered on vlogbrothers.

"If you take anything away from it, it should only be that burnout isn't one thing, and that you can learn more about what you're experiencing by asking yourself if it's a fuel problem or an opportunity problem. Fuels can be addressed by finding a new story to tell yourself. Opportunity is harder to address, it takes longer, and sometimes, because of the deep inequality in our societies, cannot be addressed. "
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:32 AM on January 15


Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work? - "From this point of view, not only does one never stop hustling — one never exits a kind of work rapture, in which the chief purpose of exercising or attending a concert is to get inspiration that leads back to the desk."
posted by kliuless at 9:28 PM on January 28 [3 favorites]


The Fleecing Of Millenials - “For Americans under the age of 40, the 21st century has resembled one long recession.

I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, given that the economy has now been growing for almost a decade. But the truth is that younger Americans have not benefited much.

Look at incomes, for starters. People between the ages of 25 and 34 were earning slightly less in 2017 than people in that same age group had been in 2000.”
posted by ellieBOA at 2:49 AM on January 29 [2 favorites]


However, if you're burned out, do you HAVE the energy, caring, and money to make drastic changes in your life? If all of your energy is going towards just maintaining your life, how can you come up with MORE to move cross country for some other job or lose all of your benefits or whatever just to change it?

This is what pisses me off about people who drop comments into posts about NYC or San Francisco rent and state that "well, the rent here in Topeka is way less than that, I guess you all just think living in a cool city is more important or something".

No, most of the time it's because we moved there for the work that we want to do because that's where the work we want to do actually is and then the industry we worked for changed and now we're stuck because even if we did have the energy to look for a job search and a new home in a completely foreign city it still costs money to actually rent a U-Haul and shit like that.

And I'm Gen-X and this has been the case since I've been around. This has been a problem from before it hit the Millennials, y'all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on January 29 [4 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, I live in London. If my work shifted to a cheaper part of the country (save the town I grew up in) I'd be packing right now. But if you complain about towering rents or that you basically have to be a merchant banker to buy a home and have some stability, you just get people 'helpfully' telling you 'other parts of the country exist, you know'. Yes, they do, but our economy is ridiculously skewed to the capital, especially the industry I've worked in since 2005.
posted by mippy at 8:25 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


That's the very thing I'm also complaining about, nippy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:01 AM on February 5


Fifteen years ago when I bought my off lease car from a national brand that “certifies” their used cars, in-house finance terms were 36, 48, or 60 months.

This year, same dealer, same type of car/age, same amount financed (smaller percentage because we put down half instead of 25%), same primary borrower (we earn a bit more now) in-house finance terms were 60, 72, or 84 months.

I imagine this means younger borrowers who can’t put more down are also spending more on gap insurance and total collision (or whatever high level of insurance finance companies require), etc. (I asked about gap insurance and was told since we were only financing half the cost it wasn’t needed or available).

I’m seeing the same thing with house buying. I refinanced (I’m old and we now have steady jobs and no student loans) my mortgage and cut our payment by 1/3 (yes, extending the term). A young soon to be single mom tried to buy a house that cost the same as our mortgage balance ... her monthly payment would have been nearly double ours once you factor in the payment on her (lack of) down payment, PMI and who knows what else through FHA.
posted by tilde at 7:51 AM on February 5


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