Were you born between 1980 and 1999? Then you may have noticed that our society has labeled you as a “millennial”. Our country loves to label things and people, so I think we’re stuck with it. Instead of wasting time trying to argue against it (because millennial is lame), I would rather address and unpack the implications that come with being categorized as a millennial.
I was born in ’85, so I am a millennial, and I am annoyed with all the shit talking that has been going on in the media by older people, specifically Generation Xers (1965-1979) and Baby Boomers (1945-1964). This is not a new issue – ageism. In the history of people, older people always think that younger people don’t know as much as them, which is infuriating on many levels, specifically because it’s true (but only to a certain degree!). Considering the length of time they’ve been on this planet, technically Boomers and Xers do know more than us, because they have lived through more experiences. But is that it? Do I just have to take it, when I am feeling shamed for working and living my life in my own way? Or, when I am reading/watching the news, or overhearing people in public, do I just ignore comments on our generation as being lazy and spoiled? Actually, yes I do.
Yes, because the way I see it – the joke is on them, because we have only just begun. We can laugh with the older, grumpy naysayers, who are picking on us or any other undeserving population for not conforming to their expectations. The joke is on them; because we millennials know that time is on our side. Boomers are aging out of the work force, and relatively, we have just entered. Why are they so agitated? Maybe it’s because they can sense the change that is mounting. We millennials welcome change. We steer away from routine and static, where as boomers thrive on homeostasis. What might have caused their fear of change?
Their parents (the greatest generation 1901-1924; the silent generation 1925-1945) came from the world war era, a time when Americans could not help but covet the notion of the ideal, stable, happy, intact nuclear family. The wars and the Great Depression had beat many American’s psyches down to a pulp. In light of the social and political confusion experienced during this period in time, the world war generations unknowingly placed a desire for the American Dream on their kids, the boomers, if only out of hope for a better America in light of the wars. No wonder the boomers lost it half way in 2001 with the WTC disaster, and then completely in 2008 after the market collapsed again – that type of social and economic instability was what they had been trying to avoid their entire lives. Now, guns, health care, the internet and personal privacy, education, taxation, marriage… the boomer generation is all fired up about these issues and many others, because now that the internet has pushed society to be more consistent and transparent, the concept of the American Dream and Keeping Up with the Jonses is not desirable anymore. The world is beginning to realize that the “perfect” life is not definable, because it is different for everyone. Millennials pretty much stay clear of the P word.
The Boomers are so pissed at our country’s non-homeostatic nature, that it’s a factor in their alarmingly high divorce rate. Statistics from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University show that despite the overall divorce rate in the U.S. dropping over the last 20 years, the divorce rate among people age 50 and over has doubled. Issues with empty nest syndrome and communication were also noted as major factors of divorce. Ummmmm empty nest syndrome? What a nice euphemistic title for a maladaptive reaction to the change brought on by a child moving out.
If you are a non-millennial reading this, have you worked amongst one of us yet? Do you find our work ethic to be different from yours? Well that’s because it is. One study found millennials to be a “generation that experienced first-hand the toll of parents consumed by careers.” We watched our parents work like crazy, and now we are trying to find balance. Today, our work doesn’t come off as the most important thing in our lives, because for many of us it’s not. Our work does not define us, but rather the balance between work and play often does. We know that we can’t have it all, so we take what we can get. Like Garth Algar, we live in the now. We are mindful and try to appreciate what we have. We are educated and cautious, armed with data behind our opinions (because we know how to use the internet). We keep our expectations low so life’s dealt cards are less of a shock. We are concerned about our contribution to the greater good. We are not afraid to ask questions or ask for help.
Overall, we are just trying to make the most out of life, and we’ve realized that we have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone or anything else. So if we seem selfish and spoiled, lazy or entitled, it’s because we are still trying to figure ourselves out while we navigate through America’s (often unjust) constructs.
So, what do we do while we wait for all the old folks in this country to calm the fuck down? Stay strong and remember your own reasoning for your life choices. Though some choices may make your parents, bosses, or other older people frustrated – know that their confusion is due to how you are doing things, more so than why. Be confident in your dreams and desires, because it doesn’t matter how you get there, or even if you actually do – all that matters is that you explore all the possibilities of getting there, try not to give up, and be respectful of all the people you run into in the process. After all, if the boomers have taught us anything, we know that it’s not so much what you know, it’s who you know that equates to effective networking, a fruitful work experience, and a satisfying personal life.
Until next time – do work, be respectful, give back, and ignore the haters.