By Sehaj K Maini Dec. 26, 2019
Millennials started off their careers as bright-eyed optimists, excited over what the future held. But the past ten years have been an eye-opener. Most of us are burnt out, with visits to the counsellor lining up, debt mounting, and Sunday trips to the office.
My father has developed a pat response to all my attempts to explain what my plans for the future entail: “Canada kyon nahi chale jaate?” He feels Canada is now the only place left on Earth where his “not even a postgraduate” daughter might make something of her life. I’m annoyed by the notion that I can’t find success in my own country, but I let his comments slide.
As frustrating it is to explain over and over again to my service-class parents the functioning of the entertainment industry and why freelancing doesn’t mean I’ll starve to death, I know that deep down his comments irk me because they do have some truth to them. I’d like to think that I have in fact, sabotaged my own life comforts by choosing a field that has no structure and a surpassable level of idiocracy, but alas, I’m not the only one who’s suffering.
I don’t know whether you’re a student, a doctor-in-the-making, a start-up entrepreneur, an MBA graduate, or a nitwit like me trying to perpetually grasp a foothold, but here’s a newsflash: We’re all screwed.
Am I a pessimist? Perhaps. But as I maneuver through this jungle of adulting packed with jobs, loans, gaining assets, and leveling up, I find myself feeling So. Damn. Tired. It’s not just physical exertion; I’m mentally exhausted. I’m trying to keep up with ungodly working hours, house rentals that are costlier than my kidney on the black market, EMIs for phones that I don’t need but must have, and social obligations that are necessary for professional growth. If that isn’t enough, there’s always social media hitting my oversaturated brain. Most of my generation are floating around in the same space as me.
Millennials started off their careers as bright-eyed optimists, excited over what the future held.
Millennials started off their careers as bright-eyed optimists, excited over what the future held. There would be jobs that would give us career satisfaction, palatial houses overlooking the beaches, vacations to Finland, and a lovely family. But the past ten years have been an eye-opener. Most of us are burnt out, with visits to the counselor lining up, mounting debt, and Sunday trips to the office are our vacations. I’m not saying that everybody dreamed of this as the ideal scenario, but when I compare it to the generation of our parents, it doesn’t take a genius to see the grind intensified. Times were much simpler back then. Options were limited. The world was a smaller, not-so-scary place.
But if we’re discussing work culture in the present, how does it all tie up? Many, many years ago, when most millennials were toddlers or not even born, there came an explosion in the Indian markets in the form of advertising. Washing powder Nirma, Liril (starring Priety Zinta cavorting under a waterfall), “I’m a Complan boy!”, the Cadbury girl running onto a cricket pitch — the success of these commercials were all testaments to the impending rise of capitalist culture in Indian society. Then came a GAP-wearing SRK in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and boom! India was going global. And that, in under 100 words, is the story of the ’90s.
But as the youth population of our country grew up in the 2000s, our governments struggled with providing the jobs needed to support that aspirational mindset. Fast-forward to 2019, and our unemployment rate has hit 8.5 per cent in October. What does this mean? Whatever job you’re ready to do for a rate of “X”, there are five people standing behind you, ready to do it for “X minus 10”. In other words, competition has increased.
Our country’s GDP is the lowest it’s been in decades.
This brings me to another point. The generation of hustle. Since we were little, there’s always been a “Sharmaji ka beta” or “Chaddha aunty ki beti” whom we have encountered time and again. The flag-bearers of respect for the entire neighbourhood, with their double degrees and jobs in America; the reason our mothers were ashamed of us. The competition was always lurking in the shadows. Our parents warned us. There would always be someone doing better than you, so if you want to catch up, you have to work hard. Slog. Clear those exams. Get those damned admissions. Land those starting salaries. And it was fun and games until it became a reality some ten years ago.
Hard work became drilled into our heads. And not just hard work, but the kind that drives you insane. The kind that makes you want to throw up because of excessive labour. The kind that inspires movies like 3 Idiots. A Healthline article suggests that one of the main reasons for millennial burnout is the desire to achieve at a young age. We have no patience. We want to get somewhere, and we want to get there fast. Is that particularly our fault? I’m not so sure. We’re merely glitching robots attempting to function in a broken system.
We have absolutely no line between work and home. We’re constantly in touch with our bosses and colleagues via WhatsApp, SMS, emails, Facebook, LinkedIn. When do we ever just switch off? I can tell you about a number of instances where I’m supposed to be enjoying my mother’s birthday, or a coffee with a friend, but I’m practically working by the side. I’m taking calls in between my retreat moments. There’s constant performance pressure that increases my anxiety levels. And I know that you feel that, too.
But I am part of the same broken system you are. And the economy, which is sliding at an alarming rate, is doing us no favours. Our country’s GDP is the lowest it’s been in decades. For millennials, that sucks because the worse India’s economy performs, the worse your chances of finding a full-time job with benefits get, especially if you’re working in the private sector. So forget about health care, tax benefits, and pensions. You’ll scrounge and save every paisa you have, while trying to lead a comfortable life filled with amazing experiences, because that’s how you’ve been programmed. How will that happen?
You will work. You will work like a dog until you just can’t do it anymore.
And when that happens, there’s always Canada.
Sehaj K. Maini is a young filmmaker and writer. The K in her name stands for Kaur. She likes movies, travelling and butter chicken. When she is not working, she is mostly going through an existential crisis.