College Students: Courageous, Not “Crybabies”

Surprise, surprise. Another “open letter.” This time, it’s a business owner’s bitter diatribe written in the New Boston Post “on behalf of CEOs across the country” when he describes a so-called “wussification” of college students (AKA: “crybabies”), and proceeds to insult their intelligence and values by using condescending and assumptive language throughout.

Well, excuse me, Mister CEO. But you do NOT speak for me.

graduation

For starters, telling a college student that “The Business World Doesn’t Give A Damn About You” is problematic. As an aunt to a college freshman and a business owner—who, in fact, has hired both a high school age intern and millennial college students—I DO give a damn. I have seen the passion, drive, and courage in these individuals and others of their age. And I believe in the power of positive reinforcement to help them work through their struggles and meet their goals, both with me in my business and wherever their lives might take them. But any successful CEO knows the importance of positive reinforcement… right?

Sadly, writing an open letter to categorize an entire age group would be close-minded; such assumptions only divide individuals and breed hatred within companies, societies, and nations (just look at the state of our political system—amirite?). But a CEO of an organization consisting of cooperative employees would know that such language has this effect… right?

Plus, telling a budding businessperson that their career will not be a “safe place”? Some of the most happy, successful workplaces have been built by organizations who believe in creating environments that are both challenging AND safe/supportive. (Note: the two are NOT mutually exclusive.)  But a CEO of a thriving business knows the importance of its company culture… right?

I believe that each young person has individual strengths that must be cultivated. Not to mention, success is a process—one that requires a lot of hiccups along the way (even amongst the blessed CEO class). And, truth be told, some of the most so-called “successful” CEOs we can think of were/are also considered colossal failures in their personal lives—depriving family and friends of their valuable time and attention, all for the benefit of their companies. But a shrewd, and balanced CEO realizes this… right?

While there were certainly valid points in this letter, they were administered in a manner that would likely not be received favorably. Reading through it sounds—quite ironically—like a crybaby CEO’s experience with a few bad apples, in addition to a lazy attempt to make sense of a changing world. He oddly failed to mention one detail about this new generation of young adults: that they’re/we’re frustrated by seeing our own parents devote their lives to a system that has broken many of its promises. And y’know what? We’re afraid. We’re afraid that the educational/political/economic system is going to let us down. But any insightful CEO would recognize that and use words of understanding and encouragement… right?

To the professors, business owners, and mentors in this world who DO use words of understanding and encouragement: THANK YOU. You believed in me, and you believe in our current generation of college students, because you dispense advice that comes from a place of wisdom, self-reflection, and hope—sentiments that are, sadly, lacking in this letter.

And now, dear college students: please remember that challenging the status quo is HARD. But doing so doesn’t make you a “crybaby”—it makes you courageous. And I’ve seen your courage. In an age of information overload, you’re dealing with technological stresses and demands never before seen by earlier generations. And recently, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found anxiety and depression, in that order, to be the most common mental health diagnoses among college students. I’m sure Mr. CEO might dismiss these diagnoses as “wussy”, but the rest of the thinking world recognizes them as very real, and very prevalent, and very dangerous, as this New York Times article about the link between college, perfectionism, and suicide points out.

But you are working through your struggles with anything but “wussification”—that kind of tenacity takes heart and a hell of a lot of patience to deal with widespread dismissal of your values. Please also remember that, despite this silly man’s bitter diatribe, you should keep pushing for change, and keep striving for success in your own life, whatever that means for you.

And keep listening to those of us who are proud of what you’ve become—and even more certain of your coming greatness. We believe in you. ❤

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