I’m never going to be able to afford a home. Should that make me a total failure at adulthood?
The grass is always greener on the other side, it’s true. We always want what we don’t have.
People with straight hair want curly hair, people with curly hair want straight hair. When we’re adults we yearn for our comparably carefree childhoods, but we often forget how when we were kids we wanted to be adults with a desperation typically reserved for pizza nights and trips to Disneyland.
When I was a child, being an adult meant stability. It meant you had a house, a partner, a job. You could eat cake and pizza whenever you wanted. If you wanted to stay up late eating ice-cream, then by god you, could. And sure, a lot of this comes through the rose-tinted glasses of childhood. Sure, I can stay up late eating ice-cream but then I get to drag my exhausted carcass into work the next morning while coming off of a sugar high.
I’m 32 years old. I have a roommate, I live paycheck-to-paycheck and I’m fairly certain that short of inheriting some magic beans or becoming the next J.K. Rowling, I’m never going to be able to afford a home. The ratio of how much we get paid to how much things cost has changed drastically in the last 20 to 30 years.
The Economist published a damning chart in 2016 showing wildly rising costs. Here in Los Angeles in 1980 I could buy a house for $100,000 USD. Now I’d need $642,000 for the same house. And income hasn’t risen to meet these prices. A position making $50,000 a year in 1980, adjusted for inflation so it reflects modern dollars, is only making $54,000 now.
And this isn’t just an American problem. A recent Huffington Post article shows while Sydney housing prices have gone up 70 per cent, salaries have only risen by 13 per cent. This is a global epidemic. We were sold a bill of goods and now it’s completely unattainable.
This is also why I hate it when older generations make fun of millennials for being too childish. Of course we’re childish. You stole adulthood from us. You raised prices, refused to pay us what we deserved, saddled us with student loans and offered us unpaid internships so we can get the experience necessary to qualify for your entry level jobs with two years experience listed as a requirement. Of course we’re working hard to dismantle everything you told us we needed to be or have before we can really call ourselves adults. We’re redefining what careers mean, removing the stigma of divorce and yes, we’re killing the napkin industry. Paper towels do the job just as well and if we can cut costs, we will. How fiscally responsible of us, right boomers?
So leave us with our action figures and comic book conventions and loft apartments. Stop nagging us about getting married in our late thirties and having children in our early forties. We’re going to do things in our own time because whether we know it or not, we’ve at least subconsciously caught on to the idea that the era of white picket fence adulthood is dead. This new generation is carving out new definitions of adulthood out of economic necessity, and if Baby Boomers don’t like it maybe they ought to stop hogging all the high salaries and remember they’re the ones who destroyed our futures.
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Comment: Do you agree – is traditional adulthood dead?