The New Middle Class: Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires

We owe a lot to the comic book writers who invented the notion of the normal, mild-mannered person transformed into a remarkable mutant by freak accident. As a result, our generation must do extraordinary things. We have to! It would be absurd not to! "Average" is the temporary state before fame and fortune! Yet, these dreams seem ragged at the edges, gnawed on, incomplete.

In our younger years, we're concerned only with how to spin world-class brocade from the working-class cotton of our days, obsessed with going from "nothin' to somethin'." But what fails to penetrate our nacre-colored daydreams is the actual work needed to reach that level of success. And, once caught up in all that navel-gazing, we're already dormant, stagnant. We don't even realize we're not making progress and end up losing years like buttons or pencils. Look no further than the little kid who starts sentences with, "Momma, when I'm rich, I'm gonna buy you a..." But how many of those youngsters ever put their momma in diamonds and furs? We appreciate the sentiment and leave it at that, when what we should be saying is, "That's great, kid. But how?"

This immobility happens for several reasons. To begin with, our generation—more so than any other—grew up being told that we could be anything. We were given trophies for showing up, graded on inflation curves, coddled when we failed and told it wasn't our fault. Another culprit is the conspicuousness of people leading the lives we wish we did, or, more accurately, believe we eventually will lead. Cribs, gossip rags, Keeping Up and Johnny Football's Instagram are all to blame in equal measure. Being able to tweet at our idols and double tap their pictures has given us a false sense of proximity, when what's really happening is that we're making them more successful, and, in the process, making ourselves the butt of the joke. Yes, these lives of the rich and famous are somehow never closer than arm's length, yet, at the same time, hold us too.

Problem is, most of us aren't used to working hard or, even if we think we are, we don't know the real meaning of it.

All this would be more pathetic (less scary) if not for the fact that it's suspending many of us in the amber. We don't work as hard because our favorite heroes seemingly had their spots blown up overnight, when, in reality, overnight success takes a long, long time. We think fortune finds people, and not the other way around. So we sit by the phone, rather than doing things that make people want to ask for our number. And when the phone doesn't ring, we don't know what it means and there's no cockle-warming cliche in the entire world that can help.

But the condition can be reversed because the path out of the basic bitch briar patch isn't hard to find, it's just disguised as hard work. Problem is, most of us aren't used to working hard or, even if we think we are, we don't know the real meaning of it. Yes, it's never the changes we want that change everything. Because to test reality, we have to see it on a tight rope. It's only when the truths and delusions become acrobats, that we can judge them. And while many of the people who know this are afraid of failure—i.e. not reaching the zenith of their potential—with more hard work their lives as a whole would be much happier. They'd still experience the sweet success that is eventually being embarrassed of this version of yourself.

So, yes, our problem has never been dreaming up what we would do with all that guap and notoriety once it falls from the sky. It's that we're expecting it to fall from the sky. We're exposed only to, and consequently interested in, the cushy celebrity aftermath of honest work and, as a result, don't know that's the price of admission. Because what the comic books don't tell you is that the radioactive spider that turned Peter Parker into Spider Man took a dozen scientists countless weeks to develop. And we don't know a single one of their names.

Rick Morrison is a writer living in North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter here.

  • flacko put in werk

    “Aw man, I love poorly disguised think pieces bashing the current generation for it’s lack of work ethic written by crotchety old assholes!” – nobody
    All your thinkpieces suck and you are not a great writer.

    • Rick Morrison

      Zing, hayseed! You convinced me to quit writing. You may now return to your uncle behind the grain elevator.

    • Emily L

      This is more about the discourse being directed at our generation than about our generation itself. You are not great at reading comprehension.

      • Dieter Rams

        AGGHHHHH!!!! Emily Lever get the fuck out of my life. PLEASE. I knew there would be a typical priggish comment of yours in here somewhere.

        • Emily Lever


  • Fuck you

    God I hate people who write about “this generation” like its some homogeneous group. All generations past, present and future are complex masses with individuals of all types. Stereotyping them in one way or another is and always has been absolutely absurd. Even worse is when “our generation” is criticized for some bullshit reason like reality tv or social media (are you really going with these same old arguments?!). If this is your view of this “generation” its probably because you hang out with, or are one of the shittiest types of people of our generation.

    I’m sure you felt really good about this piece for exposing some new phenomena plaguing our generation, but I assure that this was just another shitpost in a long line of shitposts about “our generation”.

    • Rick Morrison

      If I made a list of “the shittiest types of people of our generation,” anonymous internet commenters (I KNOW your real name isn’t “fuck you.” Though I could see how someone might think it was their name if enough people said it to their face) would be on that list.

      That said, I still maintain that ours is a unique generation in that no other has been encouraged to reach-for-those-dreams-of-yours! like we have. And, in my experience, it’s backfired quite a bit. Not for everyone. But for many.


        Don’t mind these clowns..The only person who would denounce this article is the exact person you’re writing it about..The rest of us who actually do work hard are reading it and nodding with approval.


        • schoolboy q

          *record dickriding alert activated* oh wow you actually think you’re superior to all your peers how impressive we’re all impressed ignore the sheeple

      • Young Kang

        Here: my name is Young Kang. I don’t quite understand how that makes anything different but ok. I don’t want to attach my facebook/twitter to anything but if my identity is that important I can send you a message on twitter or something.

        My response was really vitriolic but I still stand by my points that you’re article is hardly true and nothing new. Also saying that anyone denouncing the article is the type of person being written about is absolutely laughable. I know what I’ve accomplished and its that exact reason that I’ve commented.

        • Young Kang

          I also meant to write that its obvious we disagree and since this isn’t something we can’t conceivably provide any real significant proof for what we believe (we can only provide shitty, limited anecdotal evidence) this conversation is kind of pointless. I wanted to express my thoughts and feelings and regret it because of how pointless it all its.

  • Ether Harrison

    Straight truth. Respect.

  • some_ meat

    “If we’re fucked up you’re to blame” – The ever wise and poetic Tom ‘The Voice of a Generation’ DeLong