The Burden of Opportunity | Are Millennials Spoiled For Choice?

It’s a tricky time. Being in your 20-30s’ that is. It’s a time when you define the rest of your life, hopefully. Of course having to redefine yourself is always a possibility, no matter your age. So what is the experience of 20-30 year olds today trying to make their lives happen?

Aisling O’Connor with her masters degree studied what is the experience of being an Irish millennial. Her paper ‘I am a Millennial … What am I?’ spoke to a variety of Irish millennials to study how they are getting on and what seems to be the experience of those who had grown through the boom and bust of the past few decades.

For Aisling, making life-defining choices, is not purely an intellectual curiosity. “I was offered a six-month contract before I was offered a PHD and I remember having to go into that job and they said ‘well let’s try and counter your offer’ and I said well I can’t because you can’t offer me a PHD.”

”I’m still like ‘I could be earning money but now I’m investing in myself for the next few years but I suppose 4 years for anyone is quite a long time, let alone when your in your mid-to-late 20’s. There is this constant thing in your head, and all my friends thought it and everyone I interviewed was ‘when my parents where my age’ and thats the big thing. It always seems to go back to; we have to follow the pillars they followed, even though its exceptionally difficult for us…”

One of her insights from her paper was what she called “The Burden of Opportunity”. There is so much opportunity available to you that you have a burden to make sure you make a choice that makes you happy.

“One girl in particular, she was really interesting and she said we were spoilt for choice. I went back and I didn’t really know if she said spoiled, like iled or spoilt, ilt. So it as almost like she was saying, you could take it two ways that, we’re so lucky to have all these choices or else well actually we have too much and we are spoiled because of it, because we can not function now because there’s too much choice. It’s almost like it incapacitated us.”

Even though many were worried about making the wrong choice, it seems that many would not acknowledge when they made a mistake. “One girl, she said, that she did her undergraduate and there was a lot of people in her course that didn’t like it too but they stuck it out anyway. Because of that, they went from job to job in that sector, trying to figure what was right for them. That was the closest you could come to somebody admitting to me, that they made the wrong [decision], whatever that is, what’s the right decision? That was the closest someone came to say ‘and I made the wrong choice’ that was not for me. So that almost implies that there was nobody who has actually made a bad decision yet but there was this paralysis of ‘what happens if I make the wrong choice?’.”

Aisling provides guidance from others’ experiences in the Overinformed episode, “What Choice Do I Have?”. The episode looks to the past and to literature for the way forward in your life.