by Daniel Koustoufis (b. 1982)
It’s ironic that in a blog about Generation Y, I write about my past contempt for my generation. In the past, I tended to have a view of Gen-Y straight out of a John Mayer song:
They say we stand for nothing
And there’s no way we ever could.
I left the comforting confines of adolescence much too early. I married my wife Jacqueline at nineteen years old, and I had my first child, Kaitlyn, when I was twenty. I left school, because, of course, I had to support my new family. I thrust myself into a demanding and stressful career. I became an EMT at the tender age of 19 and went on to deal with domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, cardiac arrests, strokes, and car accidents. I dealt with more death and carnage by the time I was 21 than anyone should deal with in a lifetime. Every patient I took care of throughout the course of a shift was having their worst day ever. I had to learn to deal with death before I even knew what life really was.
Many of my friends from high school fell away from me; partly because I didn’t have time for a social life, and partly because I couldn’t relate to anyone’s problems anymore. Turning in a term paper on time is stressful, but taking care of a patient whose legs had shattered because she was hit by a car on the highway was not even comparable. I never got to live my life for myself, and I despised my whole generation for that. I watched all of my friends as they went to school and lived according to their own wants and needs.
For my whole adult life, I worked in service to others, first as an EMT, and then as a firefighter. I still work as a firefighter, one of the few graduates of my high school class that remained in our home town. Along the way as my life became more stable (and brought me four more children), I began to accept my life as it was. Whether you believe in God or not (I am an ardent Catholic), I believe that every person is put on this earth to serve others. I serve my community, but I also serve my family.
With the election of Barack Obama and his call to national service, I have incredible hope for our generation. Generation-Y does stand for something. We stand for hope. We stand for change. We stand for something bigger than ourselves. Let’s hope Gen-Y lives up to the promise we made to this nation by never forgetting our call to service.
Daniel Koustoufis is a firefighter in Massachusetts. He is also a father, a husband, an active church member, and a deep thinker.