This is a real, unaltered, photograph of my face as I write this answer. What do you see?
I see the deep bags under my eyes - I haven't slept well in months, not since class started again. My face is pale, my skin dull. My hair, which I normally painstakingly take care of, is pulled back in low pony. I can’t remember if I brushed it today. My eyes do not radiate with life - in short, I look exhausted.
I'm in my third year of my degree, and I'm feeling the strain and pressure. My body is tired after nearly three straight years of gruelling coursework. My mind is slow, it's hard. I call my parents for support. I tell them how I'm feeling. My mom provides this sentiment:
“One day, you'll be able to have a house and a family and this will all be worth it! You won't have to worry anymore!”
I politely accept her answers, tell her I love her, and hang up. Then I throw my head in my hands and cry.
With my generation, there are no guarantees.
I would, honestly, love to be able to afford a little house. A car. Share it with someone I care about. Maybe have a dog, work at a job I can, at the very least, tolerate.
Put food on the table and clothes on my back. Maybe, once every two years or so, take a vacation to some place new, and when the time is right, start a family.
This is the life I'm supposed to earn in obtaining a STEM degree. A life of comfort - not an extravagant, jet-setting life - but a life where I don't have to worry about tomorrow.
I'm not even guaranteed to get a job when I'm done my degree.
It is one thing to push a boulder up a hill for four years, to be rewarded with it rolling down the far slope once you reach the peak. It is entirely another to push a boulder up a hill for four years only to have it roll back over you.
I try to explain this to my parents when I can, but they don't understand. I don't blame them. It's a horrible truth that too many people refuse to swallow.
That's why my generation is so unhappy. When I talk to my friends - other 20 something's, just struggling to survive - it's always the same.
“I think one day, I'd like to have an apartment to call my own. I'll rent it, obviously, because who the hell can afford to actually purchase a house? I'll take the bus to work, cars are too expensive. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll think about getting a dog, if I can afford it.”
That's what life is reduced to.
I have friends who, would, when they're older, love to have a family. My best friend would want two kids. You know what she told me?
“Of course I'd love a family one day. But I'll never be able to have it. Kids need food, time, and toys. They need to feel safe. But even with my income, and the income of my partner, we'd never be able to pay for school, and a car, and a house! A life of penny pinching is not what I want for my kids.”
It broke my heart.
We're sad because we will never be able to afford the lives of our parents. We're sad because we see what's coming - the planet is dying, rich assholes are being elected president, people are being murdered - the world is so hard.
And nothing is guaranteed.