Are Millennials A Burnout Generation?

I Was Born This Way

By now, you probably have read the recent Buzzfeed piece entitled “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation”. If not, I do recommend having a look at it. While not a two minute read, it is an article worth contemplating.

Since this website attempts to analyze healthcare provider burnout and burnout in general, I thought I would share some of my personal opinions on the piece.

Will I always be a shadow of my true self? (Treasure beach, JAMAICA, 2018,  ©  JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

Will I always be a shadow of my true self? (Treasure beach, JAMAICA, 2018, © JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

Things I Agree With

1. We are all chasing an impossible dream

The article discusses how millennials are hunting for the dream job that pleases their parents, impresses their peers, and fulfills a personal passion. Of course, many are left disappointed and disillusioned by the hunt, wishing that they had the magical lives of random strangers on Instagram instead.

I agree that we as millennials are looking for something amazing. I think Instagram and Facebook contribute to our dissatisfaction, primarily because we willingly subject ourselves to these channels for many hours a day. But I believe that millennials are not alone in this. Everyone else is also elusively chasing after something in life. I do not personally think we can find true satisfaction in this world.

2. Burnout sucks life away

There is a sad quote from a woman in a Facebook self-care group in the article. Over the Christmas period, she notes:

“I have two little kids (2 and 6 months) and, while we had fun reading Christmas books, singing songs, walking around the neighborhood to look at lights, I mostly feel like it’s just one to-do list superimposed over my already overwhelming to-do list. I feel so burned out.” 

The Buzzfeed piece uses this quote to summarize the frustration of burnout succinctly.

“[Burnout] takes things that should be enjoyable and flattens them into a list of tasks, intermingled with other obligations that should either be easily or dutifully completed. The end result is that everything, from wedding celebrations to registering to vote, becomes tinged with resentment and anxiety and avoidance.”

I could not agree more. I know I currently feel this way about cooking, an activity I normally love a lot. At times, making meals just seems like a menial task that I just have to get on with.

When fun fairs are not fun (Raleigh, North Carolina, 2018,  ©  JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

When fun fairs are not fun (Raleigh, North Carolina, 2018, © JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

3. The solution is complex

Society has recognized burnout, and is actively looking for answers. But somehow we have also been told that the solution is simple. All you need to do is [insert desired solution here]. The options are endless. Yoga! Spa day! Travel! Sleep! Party! Eat the best vegan cronut! Meditate! Bake! Quit your job! Get a dog! Take some pills! Go on a retreat! Stay at home! Move to a new city! Get six pack abs! Drink more juices without any fiber!

I do not think there is no simple fix, and the article acknowledges this. I have definitely fallen into the trap of thinking that going on vacation will realign my life. While it helped me decompress, there were still problems which persisted after I returned.

Even this won’t solve burnout (Over the Bahamas, 2018,  ©  JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

Even this won’t solve burnout (Over the Bahamas, 2018, © JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

Things I Disagree With

1. Millennial work habits

At one point, the author of the Buzzfeed article suggests that millennials showing up to work late, skipping shifts, or ghosting on jobs may be because they have too much work to do. That high mental load coupled with the backdrop of financial insecurity can inherently lead to poor life choices.

I think this is a grossly privileged point-of-view. I have met a number of people that work multiple jobs against the backdrop of significant financial insecurity. They are more than able to fulfill their job responsibilities. This includes individuals from different countries. Some of them even go to work with the fear that they could be deported and separated from their families. I cannot imagine the weight of that mental load.

2. Burnout is our permanent residence

At the end of the article, the author provides no definitive solution but suggests that we should acknowledge burnout and live in it. She personally felt a sense of hope in admitting her burnt-out state, and in understanding all the factors that had led her to that point.

While I believe there is value in being honest about our personal emotional, psychological and physical condition, the solution to burnout has to be bigger than ourselves. I personally do not find much hope in self-discovery and self-knowledge.

I also find no hope in the idea that a millennial life will consistently be entrenched in burnout. It sounds depressing!

Looking for hope (Ehrhardt, South Carolina, 2017,  ©  JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

Looking for hope (Ehrhardt, South Carolina, 2017, © JOEL ANG PHOTOGRAPHY)

Do you have any thoughts about the article?