If you’re a millennial than you’re more than likely aware that well… you’re not very well liked. By pretty much anyone who has an opinion or internet access.
We have recently come under renewed focus in the media, in boardrooms, and in literary circles, with everyone trying to pinpoint who we are and what we want. And they seem to have come to a not so nice conclusion; we the millennials, are entitled, easily distracted, impatient, self-absorbed, ‘trophy kids’ who have little understanding of hard work, perseverance or of anything of real importance.
We sound awful. I wouldn’t want to be us, forever postponing adulthood in an attempt to stay young and free. However, as a millennial, there is something really unsettling about that answer, about the idealization that we are trying to avoid the inevitable. With so much contempt surrounding our attempts to change how businesses are run, how we would like to be educated and what we expect from ourselves, our peers and the world, seems hardly an advocate for avoiding adulthood. In fact, it sounds quite the opposite. We don’t sound that awful, on the contrary it sounds like we know exactly what we are doing, what we want and how we need to get it.
Not to say that we’re like this because of any kind of preconceived planning or thought. If anything, we are only reacting, to our circumstances, to the situation of the world, the world we inherited, the world you left us. We are not acting, we’re reacting, in a way that we find fitting. In a way, that benefits us and our world, for the better. In a world rife with climate change, economic despair, social and political injustice can you blame us for wanting to do things differently than before.
Growing up we were told that we could do anything we wanted to, sure it may not have been the best life lesson but is growing up believing you are special and that you have a purpose really make us tragic? This feeling of believing we could do anything is a feeling you gave us and now because of it, we are destined to be failures as adults. That doesn’t sound like enough, does it? Is that really why we are the ‘tragic generation’ because it doesn’t feel like that is enough to condemn us to a future of failures – there is just not enough evidence to convict us. It only means that we have high expectations and when things don’t work out the way we hoped we feel insecure, leading us to low self-esteem because suddenly we can’t do anything we want.
This low self-esteem coupled with growing up in a Facebook and Instagram world, just means we are good at putting filters on things. We’ve grown up looking at the world in two separate realities. The physical reality and the virtual one. And the virtual one is way easier to handle, it’s instant and it allows us to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. It’s easier to control people’s perceptions of you, and even the perception of yourself. It makes us insecure, self-aware and makes us want everything to happen at the click of a button. But again, not tragic, circumstantial. Yes, we may need to learn that not everything can be filtered, or come to us in an instant. That things of value take time, that It’s not as easy as swiping right. Yes, our incomes are 20% below the national average, yes, the living cost is always rising, yes, we have student debt and yes, there is a lack of employment which all means that we are unlikely to fulfill our even the most basic milestones of adulthood because of it.
We were a generation that was dealt bad hand. But it’s hardly a tragic one. Tragic is a generation who killed six million people during the Holocaust. Tragic is thousands of Aboriginal children forcibly displaced. Tragic is Apartheid, Soviet Famine, the Rwandan genocide, Hiroshima and global warming. They are tragedies. And that’s just a few of them.That’s not to say that we are aren’t going to have our fair share of challenges or that we are necessarily prepared to handle them. But we do have choices, we are not optionless, we educated, well educated and we are still breathing.
So how do we deal with the messy world we inherited? With a unique blend of civic idealism, savvy pragmatism and our seamless ability to navigate the 21st century where constant change is the new normal. We create our own milestones, set our own paths, and yes it might be different but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It might not follow ‘The Plan’, you know the one that’s been constructed on a deep bedrock of old religious dogma, the good normal of society. The right way to be and to live. ‘The Plan’ is not the wrong way, it’s just not the practical way…anymore. It’s no longer a viable option for millennials. We’ve to disregard the nine to five working days, to opt rather for days filled with new places, spaces, and faces. We are more concerned with the benefit of the world as a whole opposed to the benefit of our individual country. We think that love no matter what kind, is scared and should be valued and acknowledged for what it is; beautiful and profound. We would rather follow our dreams and search for purpose than settle for an unsatisfying job that barely gets us by.
If you take away the labels, and you stop trying to define us, to put us in a box, you might realize that we are far more alike than we are different and really we are all just looking for a place to belong, a place filled with peace, love, and understanding. This question you keeping asking is an example of the problem, not the solution. Focus on the possibilities and responsibilities instead of who is to blame for our setbacks. We will only be victims as long as we see ourselves as victims. We deserve better than to be spoken about with a victim mindset, with a sense of failure, give us a chance, we may surprise you. We are not going to get hung up on your generational comparisons/labels. We’re not just gonna think we are special. We are going to be special. You’ll see.