Sunday, March 9, 2014

30x30: On Millennials or Terrible is the New Awesome

Sociology says that I'm a Millennial, though on the older side, for sure - 

that I've come of age at the dawn of the 21st Century, in the hyper-connected, digitized era of information, It Gets Better, and Michelle Obama's arms; in a 9/11 fallout shelter of Shock and Awe, trickle down, meltdowns, and Katrinas.

Conventional wisdom would have one believe that ours is a generation of lazy, entitled, narcissistic little Peter Pans who are too whiny and self-involved to ever contribute meaningfully to society. We've been called The Me Me Me Generation, the Boomerang Generation (because we've tended to move back in with our parents...get it? Boomerang?), and The Worst Generation. That last one gets the prize for most imaginative.

Though much maligned, I take a great deal of pride in being a part of this generation. It's one that has been confronted by a mountain of obstacles and, despite the stifling circumstances of the present age, has still found a way to forge a divergent, meaningful identity, and (dare I say) has begun to change the world.

First though, let's set the record straight on a few things.

As a group, we've largely been fed a steady diet of "You Have To Go To College To Have A Decent Shot At Life And If You Don't, You're Fucked." So we took out loans and went - - at the exact moment when higher education was and continues to be the most expensive it has Ever Been.

Then the housing market collapsed and so did the rest of the economy. Like, globally. There were no jobs. And we had hella debt. So, yeah, we moved back in with our parents, a lot of us.* Yeah, we've been delaying marriage, and children, and houses. Yeah, we change jobs often. When the Recession hit, we saw our parents and their peers lose, in the blink of an eye, jobs they'd held for 15, 20, 30 years. We saw employer loyalty evaporate with every bad quarterly report. So, like reasonable, smart people, we keep our ears to the ground.

But, while we may fail to live up to the standards of previous generations, let's not forget that we came out in droves and elected the first black president of the United States.

And that we pushed for (and are pushing) for gay equality and rights.

And that, since the economy has made it harder for us to own, we figured out how to share. We share everything: music, workspace, community gardens, bikes, and most importantly, cat videos.

And when we couldn't get decent jobs at existing companies, we made our own start-ups. The businesses we do want to work for have ethical backbones, and we're innovating in technology at approximately the speed of light.  

We also occupied Wall Street, and universities, and withstood being pepper-sprayed in the face while practicing non-violent civil disobedience.

But what I narcissistically most admire about Millennials is our willingness to reject the status quo and define our own success. We are criticized for not reaching the traditional milestones of adulthood, but while the world was changing, we forged new milestones. Before (or instead of) starting families and buying houses, some of us want to, maybe walk clear across the United States. Some of us want to build teeny pie companies, or make an award-winning web series.

Some of us even want actual work/life balance because we believe that where we end up is slightly less important than how we got there. If that makes us terrible, then terrible is new awesome.

Let's all agree that this Millennial Age has been, um, rough going for all generations. We Millennials are doing our part. We're keeping up the pace, but it's one that we've set for ourselves...with Arcade Fire as the soundtrack.

Original illustration by Isabella Rotman
* Did I mention that uber-Millennial Lena Dunham moved back in with her parents after graduating form Oberlin? Not having to work a low-paying, entry level job to pay rent on a crappy apartment was probably one of the circumstances that allowed her to focus exclusively on laying the groundwork for her pardigm-shifting career and eventually making the very significant contribution to current today's pop culture that is GIRLS. Just sayin.'

1 comment:

  1. What do you think the long term effects of our generational conflicts will be?