How To: Be Young & Confused (COVID edition)

There’s time to flourish and to expand one’s horizons — it’s called youth. But there’s also time to reflect on things and I feel this time has recently started in my life, definitely more than before. And because more and more can I hear about this horrible Gen-Z and our demanding approach to things, I want to show you all my perspective. And still, an essential part is — I’m from Poland, CEE.

Karolina Wilk-Tryjanowska
7 min readApr 17, 2021


  1. People born between 1997 and 2012. I’m a proud 24-year-old girl (Happy Birthday to me for last Monday!) so I’m a perfect fit, 1997.
  2. People who do not know the world without technology, and “Uncle Google” is a significant persona at the family table. True. Despite having needed to share a PC with my beloved brother during my kindergarten, I was quickly given a laptop and a fast WiFi connection at home. The annoying aspect of this is that it was difficult for me to understand the essence of school exams when all the knowledge was just a click away.
  3. People who travel the World and do not experience limits of their passports (with some exceptions, I know). Yes, I live in my small world of no borders, which is called European Union. As a kid I wouldn’t even notice when our car was crossing any border because of the Schengen Area (which “allows nationals of certain countries to enter the Schengen Area via air, land or sea without a visa for stays of up to 90 days”).
  4. Over the course of their lives, they often change jobs. I don’t know why it is so provoking for millennials and older because I’d never think that we need to stick to our jobs no matter what.
  5. People who are enterprising. Neither can I agree, nor disagree. Me myself, having my own company, I’d automatically like to nod my head but as I look around, not every single youth is driven by the same values. But it’s probably not that hard to create your own path rather than rely on somebody else.

Okay, this list can be a few points longer — but I hope you agree that I can speak for the Gen Z, it’s in my heart and I need to admit it.

The status:

There’s a pandemic all around and although I am grateful that I previously took care of the digital aspect of my work, I’m stuck in Poland and I take it worse and worse.

And normally at this point I’d say: “… but I still believe being Polish is cool”, this time I won’t add it. And it’s not about complaining, let me tell you the story.

Being a 24-year-old Gen-Z member, there’s time for me to flourish and to expand my horizons. If Covid hadn’t happened last year, my friends and I wouldn’t have cancelled our foreign trips. Many of us wouldn’t have lost their jobs in bars, restaurants and hotel industry. Students wouldn’t have resigned from moving alone to another city for studies (now it’s all online), new pals wouldn’t connect for cyber beer while on Erasmus exchange. We wouldn’t also have been banned from going to gyms, museums and theatres, but I don’t put these on my “grudge against the world” list as we all feel it, not only the Gen-Z.

Does it sound like another example that the young generation is 100% not humble? Probably yes, but adults, try to understand.

How To: Young & Confused. Statistics on: Children and youth out of school due to COVID-19 closures and Young people classified as NEET.
source: Children and youth out of school due to COVID-19 closures and Young people classified as NEET (Wikimedia Commons)

According to an amazing research “Youth & Covid-19: Impacts on Jobs, Education, Rights and Mental Well-Being” (based on an online survey, 23 language groups, 12 605 participants aged 18–34) here are some of the facts:

  • One in six young people had stopped working since the onset of the crisis, either due to lay-offs or because of lack of hours they spent working (basing on hourly wages). Most of the time it was a business that went bankrupt but what’s even worse, some workplaces decided to get rid of young ones as they’re just less experienced.

In my opinion, youth situation on labour markets, which had already been harsh in many countries, will only downgrade, however I’m lucky to live in a country of a comparatively low unemployment rate; 3,1% in Poland compared to 16% in Spain or 8,8% in Sweden). Good point for Poland!

  • The closure of schools, universities and training centres affected over 73 per cent of the youth. What’s more, one in eight of young people experienced a complete stop of their education process and online / distant learning highlighted even more “digital divides” between countries and regions.

I experienced it myself, the survey doesn’t lie! I was in the course of my Master program and the things were smooth, I was expecting to finish it this May. But. When the pandemic started, universities showed how NOT READY they are to provide us with ANYTHING ONLINE. My school (Warsaw School of Economics) was still not that bad, but I had some courses that were suspended for a few weeks with an idea of waiting until Covid would go away. Whoa, looking from a time perspective it was sooo stupid, universities.

So some of my courses restarted, but do you know how it worked? Instead of discussions and creative projects, I was given PowerPoint presentations and theoretical tests. In exchange of substantive and inspiring content, I was promised to be given a “some small presentation about anything, passing it will be very easy “. Does it sound like a valuable time at online uni? No, it was not, and that’s why I quit my studies — and I quite wanted to study…

Did you hear it? 50% of youngsters can end up with some form of a mental distress.

Let’s make this test together — if you have some young guys around, feel free to ask them as well.

  1. I’ve been feeling optimistic about my future. Rarely
  2. I’ve been feeling useful. Often (I owe a company which employs people, I do feel useful.)
  3. I’ve been feeling relaxed. Rarely
  4. I’ve been dealing with problems well. Some of the time / Rarely
  5. I’ve been thinking clearly. ? / Depends (I do need to think clearly on my professional grounds and I think I managed but my personal goals were rather abandoned)
  6. I’ve been feeling close to other people. Rarely / None of the time (Does the cyber wine with pals count? Does it count that my wedding guest list was way shorter due to Covid struggles?)
  7. I’ve been able to make up my own mind about things. Rarely / None of the time (And again, in job-related issues - maybe; in personal issues - I can admit that most of my plans were ruined totally.)

One positive answer and six that are puzzling, mildly speaking.

  • One in three young people had noticed a significant impact on their right to participate in public affairs. Nearly one in four young people reported a significant impact on their right to information.

And it’s high time to welcome Poland, the stage is yours. I can speak only for myself but I can’t help a feeling that almost every single young person I know lives full of bitterness about how the political life in our country is going. Having a very serious health situation in the country, our government decided to get on with things that are known to cause social reaction and that will affect my next years of life here.

How To: Young & Confused. Protests on Warsaw streets against new polish abortion law.
source: Protest in Gdansk against Poland’s new abortion laws (Wikimedia Commons)

The anti-abortion law is something that our government has gripped extremely hard in the pandemic. The Law and Justice party is known for its convergent views, but no one expected that during a pandemic they would decide to sign this law in secret, prohibiting legal abortion even in many important life circumstances. It hadn’t been easy before, now it’s impossible.

And you know what? I don’t want to be forced to go and protest on streets in the middle of the pandemic but obviously I went. I don’t want to see huge anti-abortion posters everywhere in our cities if our healthcare system is already dying. And I don’t want to leave in a country that will put some old awful guys to decide what kind of decisions about my body I should make.

I hope I managed to show you that the Gen Z struggle is real. Of course, again, I don’t want to compare it with our global fight over Covid because I can see clearly how bad it is for so many people. But please understand us — young people with our “whole life ahead of us”, but in reality with no good horizon. Thank you, 2020. Thank you, Poland.

Do widzenia!



Karolina Wilk-Tryjanowska

Founder at Nieobce (language brand), COO at ReaktorX (startup accelerator). My days consist of: innovation, business and coffee. And I‘m super excited about it.