By Inni Ngijoi Yogo
How do you expect me to be the greatest version of myself when I barely know how to be an adult, or of much grandeur, and how to survive?
In the year 2020, I was in debt. Like, serious debt.
I had -$32 in my account. I know, I was a disgrace. My family and friends couldn’t look at me in the face. This led to an additional overdraft fee I couldn’t afford. All of this was influenced and worsened by the pandemic when gas, food, and merchandise became more expensive.
Yet, I still had to pay for textbooks, school fees, cell phone bills, subscriptions, etc. Long story short, I got a peek into what real life is like as I ended up getting kicked off of subscriptions one-by-one, suffering in hunger when I couldn’t buy snacks and becoming the subject for my own personal spammer, aka my debt collector. (I’m not joking, she’d spam my email, like everyday.) Can you believe it? All because I couldn’t afford $32 in my bank account.
And when I got sick, the medical bill didn’t help. Eventually, after finally finding a job six months later (let me remind you this was when everything was closed), I was on the road to financial freedom. Talk about humiliating.
That was exactly three years ago.
Flash forward now, and you’re telling me to go out into the world and be this inundated superhero in this uncanny and nebulous adventure we call adulthood. How do you stack a pancake of responsibilities and finances when I was literally broke with only minor obligations the same amount of years ago, the age most toddlers are right now.
I am a toddler in this pool of maturity. As an antithesis of the Chloe/Halle song, the kids are not alright.
Not only do I not know how to walk or paddle, many young people my age would agree: We can barely float.
I also heard 2020 was the year of the break up. Everybody was breaking up. Boyfriends and girlfriends. Friendships. Even boss/manager relationships with employees.
I saw it play out like an overly dramatic soap opera.
Just imagine the contentious scenery being at a work office, where Kevin Hart is shouting at his boss, “You can’t fire me. I’m firing myself.”
The world was and is meaner. Can we really navigate that? Let’s ask George Floyd. Or Tyre Nichols.
Emotionally, as a society, we’re not there.
Surveys showed that spiritual health, along with mental health, significantly declined, too. Fitness levels declined. And now that we’re trying to readjust to post-pandemic life and play catch-up from all these years we’ve been behind, how do we find the work-life balance to fit physical activity into our already bustling schedules? Believe me, home-gym equipment is not a “me” thing or a feasible space option either.
Let’s be real, it’s not like young adults are really given guidelines on how to be great post-pandemic. There are numerous self-help books, podcasts, and influencers out there, but which one speaks true to our individual experiences, to manifest strength in overcoming debt, dealing with grief, building self-confidence, maintaining our health/state of mind, racism (in my case) and shaky relationships, while also remembering to do homework and waking up for our 8 a.m. classes?
In this stone age of hearts we live in, what guidelines are there on how to be a breaker of ceilings and revolutionary, especially as a young, Black woman? Or another woman? Or men? What do young people get? We haven’t seen it yet.
I don’t believe that adults invest in our youth enough. Ageism is real in the workforce. Seniority matters. You’ve heard stories of how resident doctors get bullied around by the attending physician until they’re officially out of residency. Happens all the time in the medical field. Oftentimes we see Boomers complain about generation X, Y, Z and how we have it “easy.”
Although I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what alphabet we’re on now, that’s why I listed all three. I don’t even know when they started counting generations. Is there a “W” generation, an “A” generation? A for Abe Lincoln or Adam and Eve? And if we’re the Z generation, does that mean we’re the last ones? If anything, we should be getting special treatment.
But to be more precise, the Boomers looked down at the Millennials. And now, the Millennials and Boomers are criticizing us. They call us a mess when we mess up. Or on a national scale, the backlash that’s been received for loan forgiveness. This would provide a major relief to those with a plethora of college debt and allow youth with smaller loans to reach financial freedom much quicker.
Millions of Americans are now choosing to avoid college education because of how crazy college debt is. Yet, when they’re denied higher salaries or job mobility, there’s no grace in understanding why they stopped at a high school diploma. Let’s not forget how all these entry level job applications ask for said amount of years of this and that experience, but that entry position is what we needed to propel and elevate to apply for that job.
It’s a never ending loop. Confusing too.
Shall we consider the incarceration of urban crack users in the ’80s rather than providing them with the necessary education, guidance and resources needed as were provided for opioids? Do we hate our youth?
To the Boomers in the room, remember how it was when you were first learning how to drive.
We all have dreams. Regardless of age, it’s there.
Most of us want to be the greatest version of ourselves and to succeed. Rather than being individualists about it, why not be communal? Two hands are better than one and assist in achieving our goals even faster. Many of us even have the same goals, too.
Let’s dig deeper from the soil of pettiness and title, to the root of solace and love. We need to start investing in our young people, for they are the leaders of tomorrow. Provide them with the necessary training, resources and time to become themselves.
When rapper Lil Wayne shot himself, he said multiple officers ran into his home looking for drugs, but only one looked at the 12-year-old and stopped to administer the CPR that saved his life.
Please be patient when we screw up. Provide us with the necessary things that we need and be patient with us as we strapple our own pride or arrogance.
Young people, let us dig deep through the root of our struggles and experiences, and let that be our motivator to keep going through difficult times and the grace we use to support others.
The Notorious B.I.G. once said, “Sky’s the limit, and you just keep pressing on. You can have what you want and be what you want.”
Let’s do that. This way, our parents and grandparents will be able to shout out loud and proudly that maybe we’re not too bad, and maybe, “The kids are alright.”
Inni Ngijoi Yogo is a Master of Public Health student at WVU