Dear Whiners: Shut Up.
Hey. Gen-X lawyer here. Could those of you whining about your law schools and sucky job market please shut up? Thanks.
There’s something about the gripes of new and rising JDs that’s not unlike the same bleats we’re hearing from many “Occupy Wall Street” types: It’s the complaint that they did everything they were supposed to, and now instead of getting a living they’re getting fucked. They went to school, took out loans to pay for it, in the expectation that the payoff would be worth it. That there would be a job out there — more than a job, a lifelong career path. A secure income. But that’s not what they’re finding in the real world. The dream jobs aren’t out there — at least not for them. They’re starting their adult lives with an insane amount of debt, and no conceivable way to pay it off. They feel betrayed. They were promised all this, they did their part, and now society isn’t doing it’s part. So they rant online, some take to the streets to complain, and a few have even sued to enforce the deal they thought they’d made.
This is nothing new to those of our generation. When we graduated from college, the job market sucked big time — only the engineering students seemed to be in high demand, much to the chagrin of those of us with History (cough), Art and Philosophy majors. It was pretty bad when we graduated from law school, too — we knew many bright, talented young JDs who had to work as bartenders, online marketers, and the like before landing a lawyer job (and the ones who persisted, by the way, did wind up getting cool law jobs and are doing quite well).
It sucked, but we knew it was coming. We had no illusions about the economy. We didn’t expect Social Security to even be around any more by the time we’d reach retirement. The Baby Boom generation had spent their lives focusing on how awesome they were, and fucking things up for the rest of us, and we knew it very well. A Washington Post article from 1991 began:
Now adulthood looms, like a cookie jar that somebody else already picked clean. Will the busters [the phrase "Generation X" had yet to be coined, we were called lots of things] ever be able to match their parents’ standard of living? The cost of starting out in life — college and a first house — has been racing ahead of inflation and wages ever since they were born. Meantime, adults have rung up nearly $3 trillion in national debt in the busters’ brief lifetimes, virtually all of it on consumption for themselves. The busters will get stuck with the tab.”
Another article from the Atlantic in 1992 (calling us the “thirteeners” — the 13th generation of U.S. history) described us thus:
After graduation they’re the ones with big loans who were supposed to graduate into jobs and move out of the house but didn’t, and who seem to get poorer the longer they’ve been away from home — unlike their parents at that age, who seemed to get richer. …
In them lies much of the doubt, distress and endangered dream of late twentieth-century America. As a group they aren’t what older people ever wanted but rather what they themselves know they need to be: pragmatic, quick, sharp-eyed, able to step outside themselves and understand how the world really works. From the Thirteener vantage point, America’s greatest need these days is to clear out the underbrush of name-calling and ideology so that simple things can work again. Others don’t yet see it, but today’s young people are beginning to realize that their upbringing has endowed them with a street sense and pragmatism their elders lack. Many admit they are a bad generation — but so, too, do they suspect that they are a necessary generation for a society in dire need of survival lessons.
When they look into the future, they see a much bleaker vision than any of today’s older generations ever saw in their own youth. Polls show that Thirteeners believe it will be much harder for them to get ahead than it was for their parents — and that they are overwhelmingly pessimistic about the long-term fate of their generation and nation. They sense that they’re the clean-up crew, that their role in history will be sacrificial — that whatever comeuppance America has to face, they’ll bear more than their share of the burden. It’s a new twist, and not a happy one, on the American Dream.”
And you know what we think when we hear Millenials whining? The children of those self-absorbed Boomers, who gave them awards just for showing up, who slathered them with praise and “self-esteem” without actually making them do anything to earn it? You can probably guess what we think.
Look. Nobody forced you to go to law school; it was your own choice. Nobody forced you to go to that particular school; it was your own choice. Nobody forced you to take on more debt than you could reasonably afford; it was your own choice. After your first year, and it became clear that someone with your grades from your school wasn’t likely to be making the big bucks, nobody forced you to keep going and to take on even more crippling debt. It was your own choice. You were a college graduate, an adult, presumably capable of making your own life decisions.
The school did not “saddle” you with debt. You did it to yourself. And now you regret it. Frantically trying to blame anybody besides yourself for your own foolish decisions only makes you look… well… foolish, at best. At worst, it’s almost like the girl who regrets her drunken orgy and accuses her fellow partiers of gang rape. Either way, you certainly don’t come off as someone with the requisite judgment and brainpower to make it as a lawyer. Are you sure it’s the school’s fault you’re not making it on the outside?
What this Whiner generation needs to do is learn some personal responsibility. You made choices. Those choices may or may not have been wise. Factors beyond your control, like the economy, may have failed to run according to your expectations. It’s not a matter of fault — it’s not the banks’ fault, it’s not the government’s fault, it’s not your school’s fault, it’s not really even your fault. Fault doesn’t enter into it. But now you’re faced with a reality, and the way to deal with it is to take responsibility for your own self, the consequences of your own actions.
You don’t do that by trying to blame everyone else but yourself. You don’t do that by demanding that others fix your situation. You don’t do that by demanding that others fix the economy, fix the schools, forgive your debt and give you a job.
No. Seriously, that’s not how you do it. And you have no idea how goddamn annoying it is to hear you insist on it.
How do you do it? You do what our generation did. You take responsibility for your own life, stop demanding that everyone else do everything for you, and go to work. You get a job that pays the bills. Not a dream job — maybe you’re delivering pizza, working a cash register, tending bar — but real-life work. And maybe it doesn’t support you in the manner to which you have become accustomed, but that’s how it goes. Better to feed yourself now, build some real-life experience beyond merely being a student (you have no idea how much this means to employers), bust your ass to be good at something, jump at the opportunities that come along, and make opportunities for yourself if nothing better presents itself.
You’re not babies any more. You’re grownups. Time to act like it.
For further reading, we highly recommend Matt Welch’s piece in today’s Reason, “The Only Thing Missing from ‘The New Declaration of Independence': Any Sense that Adults are Responsible for Their Choices,” and Matt Honan’s “Generation X is Sick of Your Bullshit,” both of which we found while researching this rant. The two Matts make much the same points, only better.