There used to be a ladder to success. It was the college–good job–marriage–house–family–cushy retirement. Sure, not everyone made it – there were a few broken rungs near the bottom – but that was the guiding light to the good life, and enough people made it that it seemed within reach. A few people questioned whether this ladder really led to “the good life,” but those were just hippies or crazies, no one worth paying attention to. Now all this has changed; my generation is growing up without a ladder.
Before you scoff, let’s think about that for a second. The first rung on the ladder, college, used to be seen as a straight shot to success. Now, for too many of us, it’s a straight shot to our parent’s couch and thousands of dollars in student loans. As for a “good job,” well, many of us are busing tables in restaurants and shuffling papers in unpaid internships, but we’re the lucky ones. For those who didn’t make it to college, the unemployment rate is even higher. While the economy will certainly improve, those years spent doing menial labour will never come back to us, with estimates that we could end up earning 10 per cent less on average than somebody who left school a few years before or after the recession due to the loss of critical entry-level work experience.
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