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Millennial Burn: A Review of "The Burnout Generation" by Anne Helen Petersen

Updated on December 31, 2019
Heather Saint profile image

A millennial confronting burnout in a 9-5 job and hustling to fight back and reclaim the American Dream meritocracy myth

Who are Millennials?

According to the Pew Research Center, Americans born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial. Nevermind this definition includes people who remember Soviets, who don't, who remember 9/11, and who don't, all within the same collective supposedly defined by monumental generational events...

Meritocracy? What meritocracy?

Exactly. Anne makes it crystal clear that the promise of being rewarded for working hard and studying is nearly akin to being good all year for Santa to bring you wonderful presents on the list you mailed him to the North Pole last week.

Sorry, kid. Hate to break this to you, but your sister's too young to know the truth... you've been sold on a fairy tale and "adulting" is a lot harder than it sounds. You might get lucky, but you'll probably have to work very, very hard to make sure you have just the basics covered.

The promise of hard work and a college degree or two being rewarded by a stable job with a pension... that supports a family... with 9-5 (business) hours...and a house … and new car … and family vacations... is fraudulent.

Initial Skeptic Turns Repeat Listener

Born in 1989, and feeling very worn out from office demands, this Millennial initially laughed at the audiobook title from Audible. But Anne Helen Petersen's "The Burnout Generation" caught me by surprise. I thought I was being ironic by downloading the book, lifting my nose to look down the download of flaky, flimsy snowflakes whining about how hard adulting is... until I opened my listening ears and was very, very surprised. I had been promised hard work meant rewards to reap, but... I had been promised that a degree meant a good job, but hadn't anticipated how impossible it would be to secure that job. I lucked out after 5 years, but really, luck is what got me into the job after 5 years of trying. And now that I'm in 'the job...' it's not what it was cracked up to be. I have more responsibility, less flexibility, and no voice at work with management, let alone leadership, to influence any change, let alone positive change!

So, thank you Anne, for helping me realize the source of my long hours, too many hours each day trying to decompress from the job that should be great, supporting a middle-class lifestyle, and stable enough for a family.


I re-listened to Anne's audiobook because it really resonated with me. Not only did I hear a lot of parallels in my life, but it helped me think about why I was feeling this way. I had been lead to believe I was living "the life," but I have migraines at least weekly and am fuming inside as I walk into work. My home life is amazing, but this just crystalizes how stressful work is while navigating a frugal life.

Anyway, with all of the stress of trying to be a good, hard-working human, I hadn't spent much time trying to understand the underlying factors that were influencing my little ol' life.

If you're a young professional, or busting your butt trying to become one, I highly recommend the hour and forty-five minutes of listening for context of why reality is a bit inconsistent with ingrained expectations. I also highly recommend this little diddy if you work with, or raised, such a young person.

Some of the statistics facing young people are jaw dropping. A four-year degree in 1989 was $26,902 ($52,892 adjusted for inflation) compared to today's $104,480 bill for an undergraduate degree, according to Forbes citing a National Center for Education Statistics study. That sounds like a tiny house mortgage, not a piece of paper certifying an educational achievement. And rent and groceries, and probably car payments, continue whether you're a grad or not. Those school loan payments start immediately, whether or not you have secured the full-time job with benefits! '

Just to name a few stressors Anne Helen Petersen outlines in "The Burnout Generation."

Were you born between 1981-1996, and are you exhausted from trying to adult at work, and make ends meet at home?

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© 2019 Heather Saint


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