I am not ashamed to be a millennial, so I find it discouraging that the generations ahead of me – generation x and the baby boomers – have little to no faith in me or my peers. We’ve been labeled the “Me-Me-Me” generation, the “lazy” generation, and a whole host of other derogatory labels.
Thanks for the confidence guys.
I wonder how my predecessors felt in my shoes. Fresh from college, with a wife and a baby or two in tow, did they worry about the future like I do? Did they ever feel the weight of bearing the burdens of the past generations? How did they deal with the weight of their triumphs and their sins? Did they ever look up at the ceiling late in the night and realize that the next few years of their lives would determine who they would become? Would they be a menace and drain on society? Or would they do justice the gifts their forefathers?
I know from talking to my parents that they did feel that pressure, and still do. But even with that in common it is not hard to feel that many people think that somehow the world is going to be in rough shape when my generation is in charge. So why do the generations past think that we, the so-called millennials, are any different from them? I think there are about three reasons why past generations have a hard time trusting with the millennials.
The Freshman Syndrome.
The first reason is actually fairly simple. I’ve noticed a trend that happens to everyone as they get older. I call it the freshman syndrome.
As I have gotten experience and grown wiser to some degree, I tend to forget what it was like to be a kid, a teenager, or even a bachelor. I forget the frustration I had in school. The pain and awkwardness that is being a teenager. I’ve forgotten what it was like to be ignorant or misguided.
Since coming to this realization that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be just plain stupid. I’ve also come to a realization that I have little pity for those who haven’t figured it out.
It’s like being a senior in high school looking at a freshmen. Many would look at freshman and think, “What the heck is wrong with these guys? Man, they are a bunch of idiots.” True, they are a bunch of idiots. But we all were when we were freshman. I’ve come to realize that there is no sin in being a young idiot. They just haven’t learned how to deal with life the same way that you have but they will eventually.
Now sometimes we think we can and should pass on a bit of wisdom, to help them not be idiots. But let’s be honest with ourselves, how often does that really work? Most of us would likely say never, or at least not as well as you would have hoped. That’s because you can’t truly describe to a person who hasn’t experienced something what it’s actually like. I remember trying to describe how cold winter is to a man who had never left the tropics. I tried to relate it to what he knew. I had him place his face in a freezer but in the end that is a poor comparison to the real thing.
So we are back to square one, which is thinking and treating those behind us in life like they’re idiots. As we are going through life shaking our heads at those who trail us, we would do well to remember that we just can’t expect people to understand what they haven’t experienced. We should remember how it was when we were their age. Remembering just how clueless we actually were. We should take pity on the unexperienced youth, nay, empathize with their struggle. We shouldn’t berate or belittle. I remember being new to high school and how frustrating it was to have the seniors mock our inexperience. It was pity I didn’t remember it when I was a senior.
Now before you think, “Well, life really hasn’t changed. You still need to get a job and make a life for yourself,” let me explain my second reason. I don’t disagree with anyone that humanity’s basic goals haven’t changed but I am going to argue that the way we have to go about getting this goal has changed. In fact, it’s changed a lot. Don’t believe me? Think about this.
With the advent of the Internet and a whole host of other technologies, things have changed. Gone are the days of yore. Still not a believer? In my grandparent’s and parent’s time, if you had a bad life – maybe coming from a broken home – and things just weren’t working out where you were living, you could leave. You literally could leave and move to somewhere you could start over. You would be a new person and could forge a new life. Those days are gone and it’s largely because of internet and technology.
Today, everyone has a digital record. And it follows you. If you have a dark past and made a lot of mistakes, people can find it and find it quick. Credit scores, criminal records, and just about everything else is online. That makes life a bit harder for the generation that has grown up with – or in– the internet.
Adding to that, technology has changed every aspect of our lives, and because of that the job market demands fluid standards. In a lot of ways, the millennial generation has a double burden. We have to figure out how to use the technology to make a life for ourselves and at the same time deal with our digital profile.
Now for whatever reason, the older generations (not universally mind you) don’t really understand how much this technology has changed everything. They only understand youth from the glasses of their perspective. And, in all honesty, I don’t blame them for it. They can only relate to what they understand and for some of the older generation, the changes in life are just beyond what they could comprehend. And as I get older and look at my niece who is only three and using her parents’ tablet, I can kind of see how it just blows your mind to think about how technology has and will continue to really change the game of life.
A Sliver of Truth.
For my final reason, I am going to say that behind every stereotype there is a glimmer of truth. I shake my head as I write this but I know it’s kind of true. It’s not an absolute truth mind you, but there are just enough lazy and selfish millenials that this stereotype gets confirmed in the minds of many people. Even though I hate saying it, I know that there are plenty of my peers out there that you should worry about.
But I am going to say this about the sad truth behind the stereotype. It’s not really any different than what any generation had to deal with. Each generation has to go through its own journey to collective maturity. There are plenty of hardships along the road. Eventually, each generation has to decide how it handles the challenges of life and deal with their peers that are lazy or just plain old crooks.
And every generation had to endure some kind of displeasure from the generations ahead of them. I am sure that everyone could think of at least one time that their parents or grandparents have said, “I just don’t know about your generation.” But the world hasn’t ended yet, and my generation has a lot of steam left in it.
When it comes down to it, there are times that I do get discouraged by feelings of inadequacy. Especially, when I think of the wonderful heritage left for me. But in the end I realize that even though I didn’t ask to be a millennial –and I certainly don’t know what the future holds for me – I am still going to try and make the best of my life. Just like my parents did, and their parents did, and so forth.
Loren Brewer is a soon-to-be graduate from Utah State University in comparative politics and broadcast journalism. Send him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org