I don’t know about anyone else, but I am just about sick and tired of living through major historical events as a college student.
I know I cannot be the only one who thinks that, at this point, the amount of monumental, crucial-for-the-fate-of-the-human-race situations that Gen Z students put up with constantly has gone beyond ridiculous. It is just painful now. Pandemic, insurrection, election, impeachment, repeat. What is worse is that 2021 is holding its own against 2020 in terms of absolutely ludicrous tomfoolery.
Still, here we are. An entire generation of badasses staring down what seems like the precipice of extinction with indignant resolve. Which other generation of university students can claim that they successfully forged through their academic careers during all of these historical events? The truth is, we, the Gen-Z college students, are an anomaly. Through the hardest years in our nation politically, economically, and socially, we have been separated, divided, and challenged while attempting to not only succeed in pursuing higher education but stay engaged within the Pacific Community in meaningful ways. Obstacles that other generations of students never overcame are all in a day’s work for us, and however impossible that may sound, it’s actually more so. That constant state of struggle is the reality now and has been for almost exactly a year.
And, let’s face it: that kind of pressure is divisive. I mean, who among us can honestly say that, in the past year, we have taken a good look around at the world and thought to ourselves “Look at all of this unity!”? Who didn’t look at the news at any given point this year and feel the urge to walk straight into the ocean? In every discouraging national situation this year, I have found that the root of these feelings lay not in the overall political and ideological discourse, but in the inability of anyone to listen to one another. Whether it be in terms of political polarization, social injustice, or ideological polarization, it is clear that the challenge facing modern problem-solving is that being right has become more important than being understanding. Once again, it falls on our generation to face this challenge, as well. To make it fashionable to listen with the intention to understand instead of respond.
Of course, subservience is the last thing that this damaged world needs, especially from the youngest generation of voters, activists, philosophers, and leaders in this volatile country. This is absolutely not to say that one should not have convictions and stand firm with them. Although, the world also cannot possibly begin to move toward healing with more derision, so there has to be some kind of middle ground. It’s up to us to have meaningful, comprehensive interactions with each other this term, especially with those with whom we do not agree. That seemingly simple but actually meaningful goal can only make us more efficient, respectful problem solvers than the generations before us. — Isabelle Williams