‘I have never seen so much drama, not even in my acting class,” my exasperated lecturer, an energetic Italian man living and working in Dubai, told our university class.
The people were angry. This man, much loved by his students until this moment, had committed the unpardonable crime of giving them a lot of homework.
Didn’t he know they also had jobs and other stuff to do?
The discussion was being held on the class WhatsApp group, of course — no other venue would be more appropriate in this digital era. But the atmosphere felt a lot like the infamous Salem Witch Trials held more than 300 years ago in the United States.
After deciding to go back to university for further education in my late thirties, I have found myself in a class of mostly twentysomething young adults. Many of them grew up in the UAE and went to school here. Quite a number are in their first jobs. They are now paying their own bills (including fees for this programme) and I find it interesting to observe how they feel about graduating into adulthood.
“Do write about this for your newspaper?” implored one young man.
He even suggested a headline for me to use: ‘Pressure on young minds of today.’ He threw in some melodrama by declaring that, caught between this degree programme and his job, all the stress was going to kill him.
But our teacher was having none of it. “Write about the pressure on young, fragile minds of today,” he countered. “And use eggs as a visual.”
We all needed to build resilience, he insisted.
It got me thinking. Are today’s young minds fragile, or, is the pressure of being an adult in the modern world much greater than in the past? A lot has been written about millennials and how they have grown into adulthood. The authors who coined the term millennial, William Strauss and Neil Howe, have described the generation as “special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured, and achieving.”
Each generation must face its battles
And so, there is some acknowledgement. Even the experts agree that the pressure is on for today’s young people. There is pressure to succeed, which often means pursuing further studies — at times for decades — even as you work. A Master’s degree or even doctorate attained only a few years ago may suddenly be rendered irrelevant in today’s fast-moving world. Then there is pressure to keep up with technology and social media trends — after all, the mere lack of a LinkedIn profile could cost you a lucrative job.
On the other hand, many things have become much easier for today’s young people. The majority of millennials don’t have to walk through snake-infested bushes to work in a field, as most of humanity did only 200 years ago. While wars and conflict still plague our planet, a lot of risks to life and limb have disappeared with the shift to city life. Young people today don’t have to risk scurvy if their job on a ship requires them to be away at sea for months on end. Health care has improved across much of the world.
And information and solutions to many of our daily struggles is freely available on the internet. As my lecturer would remind his students later in class, each generation of humanity must face its battles, and it’s one’s attitude that is more important in trying times. Of course, one cannot form their attitude and outlook toward life in isolation. Each generation must also teach the next one how to stay strong in the face of challenges.
If the young minds of today are fragile, then it is the duty of the older hands to point the way. And on this day, my lecturer had done this job well.
As the African proverb says, it takes a village to raise a child.