OPINION: I applaud the way under-30s have dealt with life-changing pandemic
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“Typical Millennials and Generation Z-ers. Me, me, me, the centre of their own world, take no responsibility, challenge any authority, no respect with not a thought for anyone else.”
Ouch. This woman cut young people no slack.
“All the same,” she snarled, lingering on her soapbox to pontificate more about young people having the audacity to get out and enjoy themselves when clubs opened, and restrictions were lifted.
Selfish, thoughtless, entitled, reckless, super-spreaders…she had no time for “young people and their stinking attitude” she raged.
Just how many people under 30 did she know? Not many, if this was her ill-informed ignorant view.
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For the last 18 months, Millennials and, especially, Generations Zs have displayed remarkable self-control, restraint, resilience, maturity, and selflessness well beyond their years, and have taken Covid restrictions on the chin to sacrifice time they will never get back.
Seeing young people out enjoying themselves this week, laughing with friends, and doing what young people should be doing after 18 months of missing out, made my heart sing, and I know I’m not alone. It’s what they should be doing.
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To see photos of my sons out with their friends, arms round each other, delighted to be together after what has seemed like an age in solitary confinement has brought such joy.
This generation has sacrificed for the greater good when it had never needed to know the meaning of the word.
These were generation that raced to get vaccinations as soon as they could to get back to normal for everyone and were more informed and opened minded than the (much older) anti-vaccers. Remember the queues of over-18s who dropped everything on May bank holiday to race to Twickenham for a jab?
They’ve accepted living in a social blackout, deprived of experience or human capital at an age when both are crucial to their development.
They are the ones now desperate to get back to work, school and college – or find their first jobs – to learn make up for lost time learning from older colleagues. But they have accepted times will be tough and are looking for a different way to plan.
They continue to wear masks out of courtesy to others.
Speaking to one of my older son’s friends on the cricket boundary in London, he described 18 months of working in his first job trying to make his mark crammed with three others, also trying to learn, work hard and impress, on lap-tops balanced on stacks of books, on tiny desks or even in bed in tiny apartments.
Some had never met colleagues or managers face-to-face, having ‘onboarded’ during the pandemic and never setting foot in their workplace.
Others holed up with their parents, in their childhood bedrooms, have worked at kitchen tables alongside their parents when they should have living their own lives.
“I understand why older people want to continue working from home for a work/family/life balance, but, for us, we need to be in work to learn from them. It’s what being in a team is all about,” the 24-year-old said.
Every day, they have been deprived of learning about work culture and behaviour.
My younger son has just completed his final year of a Russian and Spanish degree never setting foot on the university campus in the last year, all his seminars, lectures and exams online, with four friends in a cell-like student flat.
His compulsory year abroad was cut short and his final year has been far from the fun-filled partying experience of his older brother, but at the same financial cost and even harder work to get a result he needed.
So, it prompted tears this week to see him in cap and gown in a mock graduation celebration event surrounded by friends and enjoying himself as the university did its best until it can stage a proper graduation.
The least likely group to be ill from coronavirus, Generation Z has been hit disproportionately by the biggest educational disruption in modern history, a surge in unemployment and the psychological effects of lockdown isolation. Young workers are also the least likely group to have received financial support for lost jobs
Older people have mainly borne the physical health risks of Covid, the young have borne the mental health risks putting their lives on hold to protect a generation that had already lived theirs.
Yet, they are the most considerate, community-minded, volunteering and caring with the biggest social consciences.
The pandemic has shown them what is important in life.
They have borne isolation stoically, knowing that only more difficult times are ahead for them and need to work out how to make life work for them.
Yet they are sneered at as “snowflakes” and “wokes” for being open to talk about their mental health and awareness of warning signs
They embrace uncertainty to live their lives, aware there’s no such thing as a job for life, security or predictable. They surprise me with a total lack of materialism compared with my generation, who had to be house and car owners to ‘count,’
This generation don’t want stuff, they want to live life, have experiences in the here and now, not waiting for what might happen.
We can learn a lot from the under-30s about how to approach life.