On Albion College’s campus, students worry about getting a job, student debt and what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. This is no coincidence since all three go hand in hand.
Another factor in Albion students’ states of worry is the media’s constant reminder that we live in a time where things on our planet are changing rapidly, one of the most prominent being climate change.
“Basically, when I see the news, I hear how the world is either burning up or the fact that certain jobs are disappearing while I’m actively in that job field,” said Jared Council, a first-year from Deland, Fla.
Typically, students come to college with the intention of getting a job after graduation, moving on to their dream jobs and hopefully getting an income that allows them to be financially comfortable.What Albion students are missing, though, is that real beauty comes is present in their day-to-day lives.
“There are worries that I heard from my students that aren’t what I used to hear around the dorm or campus back in 2006 and 2007,” said sociology professor Dr. Mathew Schoene. “That seemed to be a remarkable generational shift that I didn’t know how to explain, but I was pretty sure it was there.”
Schoene is right: A generational shift has happened. Being a first generation student, I have a nagging feeling when I wake up in the morning that I have to make each day move me toward my goals and dreams. It doesn’t matter if I discover a new species of butterfly on the way to class or if I catch up with an old friend. If I didn’t do something that seemed to further my future, it doesn’t stick out to me as progress.
Whether they are first generation or not, this mindset is not uncommon among college students. However, that only takes away from a greater thing that comes with college experience and life in general: Fun.
“Generation Z is defined as people born in or after 1997 which are people who have just recently past the age of 18,” said Schoene.
According to Schoene, Generation Z is not very optimistic about doing better than their parents, clearing their debt before age 50, and being able to live comfortably, something that can be seen all over Albion’s campus. This, in turn, clouds generation Z’s minds and their decision making process.
Scheone also referenced a study conducted by Noreena Hertz, Honorary Professor at University College London since 2014. In the study, teenagers were asked their level of agreement with the following statement: “Society is fair and everyone has an equal chance.”
Not a single participant in the study agreed with the statement. As a result, Hertz drew some pretty saddening results.
“Generation Z believes that it’s the colour of their skin, their sex, their parents’ economic status and their social standing that will determine their future,” said Hertz in her study.
Albion College students are in a state Schoene refers to as a “perpetual sense of elsewhere,” and it doesn’t seem as though many people have asked why: Why aren’t our 5 senses enough to enjoy day-to-day life? This is a question we must all ask ourselves when we get into a state of worry about things we can not necessarily control or when we worry about things that are too far in the future for us to control.
“In your first 30 years of your life, you make your habits, and for the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you,” said Sube Barkhasbadi, a senior from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
This state of mind is part of the reason why Gen Z has difficulty living in the moment. We are too worried about the social standards that guide our stages of life. Society says we are supposed to know what we want to do, grow up and change the world all within the span of earning a bachelor’s degree.
However, the reality is that there are people who settle into a comfortable lifestyle at 18 and some who settle into a comfortable lifestyle at 80. The destination is less enjoyable when we take our own unique processes for granted.
“Understand that nobody’s life is defined by any one element of it, and don’t forget that,” said Schoene. “Pay attention to process.”