To a graduate of 2020 from a graduate of 2009

Creative writing can be a tool to release anxiety, find clarity and share perspectives on difficult issues. IF supporter Josephine Robertson, a graduate of 2009, writes an empathetic letter to new graduates on intergenerational legacy and adjusting expectations. Focusing on these revised expectations, and having an empathetic listening ear between generations, may yet deliver fulfilment in a sustainable way for 2020 graduates and generations to come.

To a graduate of 2020 from a graduate of 2009,

What you are feeling is OK. Whatever you are feeling is OK. It is right and appropriate to feel the way you do. You do not need it verified; it is yours and shared collectively to varying degrees by your peers. As a 2009 graduate, I am listening to the graduates of 2020.

The future is uncertain. Cohorts that came before me told me this too. What they did not appreciate was that the anxiety associated with that uncertain future is greater now than it was for them at this time in their life. What I want to tell you is that I understand what you mean; I hear you.

“It is different now” – our almost-expected rebuttal to their sage advice. Trying to explain that my future forecast was smaller than theirs, different to theirs, restricted – not in ability, but in translating our ability. To translate my efforts into future security, future happiness.

My degree of confidence in knowing that I could – and having trust in that I would – accumulate future security was different to theirs at this point in their life. The expectations, the ability to feel secure, the ability to feel happy – has changed.

Adjusting expectations

What is security? A place to call home as bricks and mortar. A salaried job and a guaranteed income later in life. An accumulation of interest on savings and the ability to provide for a family. What would bring me happiness? Friends, family, experiences, time, love.

Should I adjust my expectations? Can I be happy without security? Without a concept of security? Are these expectations set in society, inherited by cohorts that come before us? To attain my potential at university, to get a “good” job, to work “hard” and do “well”. To buy a house, get married, have a family, retire well, and have sufficient funds to “enjoy” my later years.

I adjusted my expectations – initially, with hurt: that I would not achieve what should be attainable in this world, in society, in life.

I adjusted my expectations – later, with more ease. Shedding some that I did not consider would bring me happiness or that represented a false sense of security. A mortgage is a large debt. Deriving pleasure from my work surely implies I am doing “well”, regardless of status or money. An emotionally fulfilling partnership meets my needs regardless of its legal status. I adjusted with ease as I shed those expectations inherited as shorthand metrics of success.

I adjust my expectations – still now, with placid resignation. To the possibilities of an altered society that operates within a new order of expectations – unfortunately, yet to be prioritised in our society. Perhaps they will be with time.

Do the cohorts before us still believe that what was possible for them, what was achieved by them, is the state of life our generations will inherit through the necessity of time alone? Comparing where my parents were at, to where I am at, given the same amount of time – this is not necessarily the case.

Finding another way

I will adjust my expectations again. But in the future, I hope to see a world where our expectations can be met.

We do not necessarily hold the same expectations as the cohorts that came before us. The world we are inheriting is different and the way we navigate it is different. A concept of security more closely aligned to human need than the attainment of money. A concern for the security of our collective wellbeing, future generations’ wellbeing, for the environment, health, justice, and equality.

My main sharing is not to adjust your expectations to fit what we have been left with. Tilt your expectations to what will bring you joy. Shed the expectations of society which are built on old foundations and tune in to your own desires.

All I ask is that our basic human need to feel secure is met so that we may reach for our desires. We need a sense of belonging. A voice at the table to be heard. We ask for intergenerational recognition. We ask to be heard by the cohorts that come before us.

What you are feeling is valid and true. I hear you and feel what you are saying. To a graduate of 2020 from a graduate of 2009, I am listening. May we continue to hear future generations and foster intergenerational fairness in our society. First, by listening.

Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash:

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