Review: Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's so much that resonated with this book.  Peterson manages to articulate so much of the frustration and challenges of being an adult in the current age and navigating the all-consumption mental and emotional demand of work that is bread into the culture, particularly for those labeled millenials (Side note: I think the generational categories are largely BS and hide much more than reveals about the complexity of life in any age to say nothing of the problematic assumed uniformity of existence, access to technology, resources, etc, but I digress). The forces of free-market capitalism unleashed with other forces inject a precariousness that makes what we have to feel ever-fleeting--just one layoff, firing, medical emergency, mental-health challenge, etc away from falling back down the socio-economic ladder. These anxieties mean we throw our all into maximizing everything into cultural capital to turn it around into actual capital to reinvest in ourselves and family units but it is never enough. It is never going so the profound sense of instability that a great many folks feel and have felt for decades.  Peterson's interest focuses particularly on those who were born in the late 20th century and came into adulthood in the 2000s, hit by the dual economic downturns of the DotCom bubble and the Housing bubble, thus being hit economically hardest in terms of their maximum economic growth potential years.  These have had long-term consequences for so many of us (and probably now, the third thread of COVID and 2020 economic downturn) and create a sense of instability and precarity that increases burnout and increases mental health challenges.  

There's a lot that resonated for me in this book particularly around how much we fold back and invest back into our work in the hopes that some large sense of freedom is attained, while we try to pay off astronomic college tuition, afford unaffordable housing, and always feel that we're just one layoff from returning to fighting for low-wage entry-level work that won't actually cover our needs.  While Peterson's points ring true and can be scary to face, her writing also helps readers to recognize that these experiences and feelings exist in us and by naming it, we can feel a bit less threatened or a bit more capable of resisting these pulls.  Still, it's a book that's likely to leave readers a bit raw in terms of the truths it reveals about our lives and society.

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