Our generation has been labeled as lazy, apathetic procrastinators, and so that is what is we call ourselves But this characterization reflects our actions within the previous generation’s realities — and our reality is changing. We think and act within a new and different mindset.
For us, imagining life in college using the library and typewriter (gasp!) for research and writing instead of Google and a Word document produces painful images of working on papers far in advance of the deadline. We have the capability to work on anything at anytime almost anywhere. How our parents managed life without cell phones and computers, we’ll never understand.
Making plans for the night involves texting, Facebook, instant messaging and emails. Nothing is decided until an hour before it happens. We don’t have to plan ahead, and in fact it can even be inconvenient. We do want to write our papers ahead of time but something always seems to come up. A random chat with a friend. A more pressing deadline. New photo albums posted on Facebook. A party for a friend’s birthday. Something that at the moment just feels more important. Beyond that we simply don’t have enough time.
We are full-time students, part-time employees, full-time friends, part-time club members and part-time volunteers. In one day we can go to Mass, work on a paper, take a nap, search the Internet, go to work, dine with friends, watch a movie, drink at a party, attend class, have rehearsal, volunteer and exercise. Our lives are insane. Yes, we “waste” time, but generally this time is spent re-energizing and being with friends. They are important parts of our lives, and we know that looking back on college we’re going to remember times with friends more than the papers we stayed up all night typing.
We are accused of being apathetic. It may appear that we don’t care because we are interested in a variety of things. We are told that we can do anything, be anyone. But choosing one path, one issue, seems impossible. There is so much going on in the world, it doesn’t feel like enough to just support one cause. Some of us do concentrate on only one, but the rest of us spread ourselves thin across many. We blog and create Facebook groups to foster awareness for various causes. We actively participate in improving the world through volunteer work at the local hospital or Teach for America. Our dorms rally residents around specific issues through unique events.
We reject traditional modes of protest and change because we have become unimpressed by their effectiveness. We have grown up in a world of distrust and corruption in the political, economical and even religious arenas. Therefore, we are compelled to create new avenues of change.
We are accused of being disrespectful. We do not assign an incredibly high value to age because we live in a world that is constantly changing. Experience and age do not always equal proficiency: these qualities can cause an inability or unwillingness to adapt. We were brought up to be free-thinkers, told we can do anything, told that we are just as good as anyone else and told to challenge current lines of thought in order to discover new ones.
At times, we do take for granted the accomplishments of past generations: such things as civil rights, technology, freedoms, the passing on of knowledge. However, we do not doubt their importance. They are such integral aspects of our world that we would not know how to function without them.
We are accused of being lazy students who don’t really care about going to class or doing our homework. We are not lazy. Well, maybe a little bit. In truth, though, we are bored. Few of our classes are truly engaging. A professor who stands in front of class reading off slides directly from the book is not interesting. We don’t feel compelled to put our energy into a class when we don’t believe the professor is either.
We write papers so boring we don’t want to proof them. Many of us also still get good grades if we don’t proof our papers. So if the professor isn’t going to take the time to notice we didn’t read through our work, why should we? We cheat on busy-work assignments because we don’t feel they are worth our time. We’re told that we are only cheating ourselves when we cheat. However, this is not true when an assignment basically consists of plugging numbers into Excel or a calculator. Guess what? We already know how to do this.
Contrast that to the few classes in which the professor actively engages students in fascinating material. Lecture classes. Discussion classes. Doesn’t matter. Any class in which the professor truly cares. Any class in which the information truly interests us. It is true there will always be students who remain disengaged regardless of the professor, but that is simply a reflection of the varying personalities within the student body. If we care — about the professor, the class or both — we will go above and beyond what is expected.
We are accused of being desensitized. Violent video games and movies have made us unable to feel. We can talk about war casualties, drive-by shootings and a shoe sale all in the same breath. However, this is not because we don’t feel. We do experience sorrow, anger, grief and pain. We worry that one low grade is going to ruin our life. Despair and frustration flow over us as we glance up at the student union TVs: war, murder, kidnapping, genocide. Tense lunches with two friends who aren’t speaking to each other. Trying desperately to get a conversation going while slowly watching a family fall apart. Some experiences penetrate our lives so deeply that we cannot concentrate on anything else.
Rape. Rejection. Death. Injury. Tragedy. To cope with the overload, we suppress and internalize our emotions. We don’t admit what we are feeling, because then we would have to deal with it and there’s just too much to take at once.
We recognize that concentrating on these events too much will cause us to overlook the positive — spontaneous dance parties with friends, Christmas-light hunting with siblings, tailgates, 3 a.m. conversations that bond friends forever, people-watching on the quad and parties. So we make time for “girls’ movie night” and “boys’ night out,” knowing that we are creating a network we can turn to for the rest of our lives. We support each other, struggle together and have a blast living life together.
The challenge we face is to balance our lives so we don’t go insane.
This article was co-written by Kelly Donovan, who is from Fullerton, California, and now works at Ernst and Young LLP in Irvine, California, and by Elizabeth Lohmuller, originally from Bettendorf, Iowa, who now works at Score! Educational Centers in Schaumburg, Illinois.