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Reshaping Adulthood Narratives

Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, is often unfairly characterized as excessively woke and overly sensitive. There's a prevailing misconception that we're unwilling to work hard or strive for our goals, preferring instead to have everything handed to us while we lounge in bed, indulging in TikTok and snacks. This portrayal is not only absurd but also harmful, especially for the impressionable minds of our generation.


As the first cohort to grow up entirely immersed in digital technology, our lives are intricately intertwined with screens from an early age, whether we like it or not. Consider the scenario of busy parents resorting to iPads to keep their children occupied—a pragmatic solution in the face of costly childcare. This reliance on technology is a testament to our digital nativity, as we're exposed to it in a myriad of 

ways. From educational tools in schools to staying connected with loved ones worldwide, technology permeates every aspect of our lives, serving both practical and leisure purposes.


Let me be clear: I don't view technology as inherently negative; rather, it's the content that warrants scrutiny. While platforms host a spectrum of content, including explicit material and cyberbullying, my concern lies more with the dissemination of toxic advice masquerading as self-help—a trap that's all too easy to stumble into.


I'm deeply troubled by the prevailing narrative that frames adulthood as a bleak existence filled with pain, hate, anger, and destruction. This narrative, particularly prevalent during the transition to adulthood, can be profoundly damaging, especially for young people already grappling with external pressures such as academic or athletic expectations, familial responsibilities, or even abuse.


Adulthood should be a time of promise, freedom, and self-discovery—a journey marked by opportunities for growth and fulfilment. To impose the notion that the rest of one's life will be characterized by misery undermines the essence of adulthood as a period of emancipation and possibility. Certain aspects of adulthood may pose challenges, but it's essential to avoid framing it solely as a tough journey. Such a conversation suggests to children that their future is destined for perpetual struggle rather than genuine happiness. 


For children already burdened by societal demands and personal struggles, such messaging can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and despair, further perpetuating cycles of negativity and disempowerment. Between 2007 and 2021, youth suicides skyrocketed by a staggering 62%, underscoring a profound sense of exhaustion among the younger generation. The relentless surge in the cost of living and tuition fees has far outpaced wage growth, leaving individuals grappling with dwindling purchasing power. To compound matters, imagine logging onto social media after a gruelling day's work, only to encounter millennials preaching that your feelings are worthless, branding you a "snowflake," and insisting that happiness is reserved only for those who toil endlessly, forsaking rest as a luxury for the weak. 


They propagate the belief that true happiness hinges solely on amassing immense wealth and constructing a dream home from scratch, a feat that should have been accomplished yesterday. 


Work is one of the few certainties in life, alongside the relentless reality that change is constant and challenges persist no matter your circumstances. Many of us are willing to take on whatever work we can find just to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads in this era of widespread layoffs. Yet, the internet is awash with videos proclaiming that if you're not raking in $10,000 a day, you're somehow living life wrong. It's infuriating to see such unrealistic and out-of-touch standards being pushed onto people struggling to make ends meet. 


Caught between the relentless barrage of videos shaming any hint of dissatisfaction with work as laziness and the deceptive allure of multi-level marketing schemes masquerading as opportunities for budding investors, GenZ-ers find themselves utterly lost. All we crave is a moment of respite, a chance to merely endure. But even the desire for such quietude screams of a deeper malaise. Life shouldn't be a relentless battle for survival; it should be about thriving.


When we dare to dream with passion and enthusiasm, we're often met with dismissals of impossibility. We're told to dial down the theatrics, to grind away at six jobs, to fight to the death, to be ruthlessly competitive, always striving for perfection, never showing vulnerability, never admitting defeat. For many of us, our dreams are our lifelines, the fuel that keeps us moving forward. We understand that reality may not always align with our desires, but hope is a powerful force for transformation. So why is it that we're made to feel like hope is a luxury we can't afford?


It often feels like every action we take must contribute to our academic or professional progress; there's little room for simply pursuing joy. If you happen to find joy in life, it's immediately dismissed as a sign of not working hard enough. In the whirlwind of adulthood, work, and life's pressures, joy seems like an unattainable luxury. Unless, of course, you've resorted to cheating, turned to drugs, or simply aren't putting in sufficient effort. In those cases, you're told to stop slacking and push yourself harder. The message is clear: you must earn your joy, but it seems that reward only comes when you're on your deathbed, finally able to draw a breath untethered by the relentless demands that have haunted you since you turned 21.


Life undeniably throws us challenges, but when we yearn for a simpler existence, it's not the entitled demand older generations might assume. We're not seeking a life of privilege or self-absorption, constantly demanding without putting in the effort. What we truly desire is waking up each day genuinely grateful to be alive, not wrestling with thoughts of putting a gun to our heads, and knowing unequivocally that suicide is never the answer, no matter how dire things seem. We believe in the necessity of taking breaks, seeking help, healing, and persevering, trusting deep within that eventually, everything will be alright.


Genuinely, it's the small pleasures in life that we crave. Consider this scenario: after being taxed at work, which we accept as a necessary part of life, someone returns home longing for a moment of respite. They may choose to play some jazz, light candles, and sip tea—engaging in self-care that serves as vital downtime. This isn't laziness; it's essential for our well-being. Nourishing the soul in such moments enables us to navigate through sadness and pain with resilience.


Society constantly drills into us the idea that work never ends. We must subject ourselves to relentless toil, endlessly striving and dreaming about it. We're pressured to always aim to be the brightest and the best, leaving no room to pursue hobbies simply for the sheer enjoyment they bring, even if we're not particularly good at them. Any such pursuits are quickly dismissed as worthless. 


Hobbies are twisted into chores when they're forced to serve as mere embellishments on a resume, demanding mastery in minutes. This narrow view of life, where value is measured by achievements and accolades, feels suffocating. Learning should stem from genuine curiosity, not from the guilt of not meeting some arbitrary standard. If we strip away the simple joys—like walking in the rain, marvelling at sunrises, or savouring a cup of tea—what kind of world are we creating? Life is forever going to be saturated with pain if this is the mindset we uphold. 


Yes, money and hard work can bring comfort and happiness, but they're not everything—especially when we deny ourselves balance. Constantly chasing titles like the richest, smartest, and best creates an endless cycle of competition that leaves happiness perpetually out of reach.


For the children of this world, we need to reshape the narrative surrounding adulthood. Life undoubtedly has its challenges, but joy can be found everywhere if we make it a habit—in the company of loved ones, in simple everyday experiences, and nature. While depression and mental health struggles are real, happiness isn't something that can only be earned through corporate toil or being barefoot in the kitchen and pregnant. 


Just as adulthood isn't uniformly difficult, moments of happiness amidst adversity don't negate life's challenges entirely. But joy is always within reach—whether you're in a boardroom with colleagues, at home surrounded by pets and plants, with your nuclear family, or travelling solo. Even in times of great grief, loss, and pain, it is present. 


Adulthood feels like a relentless barrage of mental breakdowns, mounting bills, ageing bodies, and endless commitments. But amidst this chaos, there's also the profound richness of friendships, the hard-earned freedom of independence, the gritty determination of personal strength, and the fierce desire to reclaim control. It's a journey marked by jagged edges, not a smooth road, but always moving forward despite the challenges. Your life isn't confined to society's timelines—marriage by a certain age, kids by another, career milestones, retirement goals—because your journey is uniquely yours. 


Life isn't about coasting through without any challenges because then, let's face it, things lose their worth. But here's the kicker: you should never have to sacrifice your well-being and happiness just to chase some elusive idea of success. That's not normal, and we should never normalize it. Work hard, love fiercely, and fight tooth and nail for your dreams, sure. But never forget that when the music starts playing, you have every right to dance your heart out. And when you're exhausted, it's perfectly okay to leave those emails unanswered and catch some shut-eye. And let's be real, when you're feeling emotionally drained, saying no is not just an option, it's a necessity. Trust me, the world won't crumble—I guarantee

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Tags: Depression Instagram Mental health TikTok Anxiety Generation Z deconstruction


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