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Why the Millennial is Laughing

Heidi Shenk

Technically, I am a millennial. Perhaps the countless bad stereotypes of millennials make me want to stray from that generation of people. Andrew and I discussed this last night. We'd rather be Generation X-- hard working, educated, happy and balanced, non-materialistic. And for the most part, we agreed, we tend to fit into that category.

Yesterday, I happened upon this hilarious graphic illustrated by Gemma Correll, and I couldn't help but laugh as I read through the reasons why millennials are crying. Then I got to the second to last box. One phrase. Crushing student loan debts. And suddenly, I was nodding my head in agreement and no longer laughing. Yup. That's why this millennial is crying.

We are both still in the process of paying off thousands of dollars in student loan debt. We often joke that Syracuse, perhaps not the most ideal place to attend college if you aren't independently wealthy or don't want debt, was like an expensive dating service. Sure, there are other positives that came out of our experiences there-- I studied in Australia, Andrew studied in Florence, we made lifelong friends, learned new things, broadened our horizons, and (more so Andrew than I) left with degrees that were useful for our day to day lives.

As we near the ten year mark of our graduation (one year away for me, and two for Andrew as his architecture program was five years long), those student loans begin to make their weight felt more often than not. Maybe it's the realization that we've been paying the debt for so long. Or the fact that we've reached an age where we imagined we'd be able to travel more, try new restaurants, and live a bit more comfortably. Instead, we're still saving every penny we can to pay off our student loans as quickly as possible. Crushing, in all senses of the word, is pretty accurate.

On Saturday, we went to Target with one item on our list-- a $10 iced tea dispenser that I wanted to use to make sun tea. The weather was gorgeous, and iced tea sounded pretty damn good. I'd never made sun tea, and Andrew grew up with his mom making it regularly. We thought it would be something fun to do on a budget, but we didn't have the proper glass container. We bought the dispenser with the last $10 that we had budgeted for the month in our already slim category dedicated to fun.

When we got home, I carefully began washing the glass dispenser with soapy water. As I turned the dispenser in the sink to rinse off the soap, I ever so slightly bumped the bottom of the jar against the edge of the granite counter top. Instantly, a small crack appeared, running around a quarter of the circular bottom of the jar. I stared in disbelief as I realized what I had done. "Maybe the crack isn't the whole way through and it will still hold water," Andrew quickly said as he saw the smile leave my face. But alas, there was a leak as we filled the jar with water. At the realization, I lost it. "Fuck student loans! Fuck not having enough money because of student loans! And fuck the fact that I ruin things even when I try to have fun anyway!" And suddenly, I was the crying millennial.

I raced up to our bedroom, flopped on my bed, and had a good cry-- the kind where you cry so hard that you fall asleep in exhaustion. An hour later, I awoke to our cat Finley curled up in the crook of my knee. I washed my face and went downstairs to find Andrew weeding our garden. I grumpily plopped myself down on our patio steps and sat silently, collecting myself after my self-admittedly childish tantrum. Andrew looked up from his weeding. "I exchanged it," he stated quietly. "Exchanged what?" I asked. "The sun tea dispenser. It had a crack. I took it back to Target while you were sleeping, and I exchanged it because it had a crack," he replied, holding back a smirk. Instantly, we were buckled over in laughter. "You did not!" I squealed. "Well, it had a crack!" he exclaimed emphatically. And we fell into a fit of laughter yet again.

And that, my friends, is why the millennial is now laughing. Drinking her iced tea, not her cold brew coffee, and laughing.

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