Why health care, wages, and paid leave matter for millennials

It started with the shrimp in lobster sauce.

That’s not entirely fair. It started with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis over 15 years ago.

For those unfamiliar, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease – the body’s immune system begins attacking the joints; causing pain, swelling, and the gradual degradation of cartilage and bone.

My mother, born at the beginning of the baby boom (sorry, mom), was in her late 30s when I was born – her only child. I was in high school when she was forced to quit working as a long-haul truck driver due to the progressing pain and diminishing mobility in her hands, shoulders, and knees. The diagnosis came soon after.

To arrest the damage, immunosuppressant therapies are used in conjunction with anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving medication. At 16, I became quite the expert at administering injections.

This brings us, circuitously, to the lobster sauce.

Last year, I lived in DC during a yearlong fellowship with a nonprofit. My mom came to visit over the holidays, and as per our custom, we ordered Chinese delivery on Christmas Eve.

Maybe you see where this is going.


Within hours of eating, my mom got violently ill. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say a compromised immune system is a big-fucking-deal. She experienced the bout of food poisoning from hell. I was able to take care of her for a few days, but – norovirus being norovirus – I eventually got sick, as well.

I was over it in a day or two. She wasn’t able to keep any food down for four. By the end of it, she was weaker than I’d ever seen her, and we had to reschedule her flight home. She did recover her strength, but the whole episode brought into stark relief just how far her disease has advanced and how drastic the payoff is for the medication that keeps her mobile.

This is partly the reason I returned to Colorado once my fellowship was done (not exactly torture, tbh) – I have to be within driving distance of home in case anything happens and I need to be there with a quickness.


Via Giphy

There is, I promise, a point to this charming tale of gastric distress.

Amid the numerous and ever-escalating debates on wages, healthcare, and family leave, one of the greatest concerns of our generation is the care and dignity of our aging parents. Because of the looming responsibility to ensure the dignity and care of our elders, these three political topics carry an added weight for millennials, and each magnifies the last.

Not only are many millennials burdened by student loan debt, they’re making less than their parents did – adjusted for inflation – with those pricey degrees. Lower income workers can’t afford to hire in-home care out-of-pocket. As medical costs rise and wages continue to stagnate, the number of families who can’t afford long-term care will increase.

And while the debate around parental leave rages (and certain sectors lose their goddamn minds over millennials not settling down and starting families), no leave of any kind is guaranteed in this country, nevermind family leave that extends to ailing parents or disabled family members. Without comprehensive family leave policies, millennials can’t afford to care for aging parents personally.

Comprehensive, universal healthcare that includes long-term care could alleviate the tension in this no-win situation, but both politicians and advocates seem to prefer holding forth with impassioned philosophical debates about entitlement, human rights, and government control.


Recall how I said I do stupid things? Yeah, we’ll be tackling all these issues – with the aim of reaching some conclusions and charting a course of action. Because plenty has been said about what’s wrong, what’s not working, and how very fucked we are, but precious few concrete steps have been taken to dig down and solve it.

And both sides are going to be questioned and critiqued – conservatives, I’m going to challenge the veracity of your narratives on fiscal and personal responsibility – liberals, I’m going to be dressing down your dogged insistence on ineffective, smug-ass rhetoric that insists on engaging only on a field of moral superiority.

Ain’t nobody going to be comfortable with the discussion because there can be no squeamishness where human lives are concerned.

But be assured that I’ll be engaging both my “frighteningly pragmatic” mind (according to my best friend in high school and nearly everyone who’s met me since) and my tender, snowflake heart (according to the same best friend and literally anyone who’s had more than 15 minutes of real conversation with me) in the discussion. I’ll be using as much verifiable data and legitimate research as possible to support my arguments.

You may or may not agree with me – but I will make a concerted effort to lay all my cards on the table so you don’t doubt my sincerity.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Mom says:



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