Millennials are called “Generation Me” as opposed to the “Me Generation” of our Baby Boomer parents before us. I don’t know who comes up with these names, but I do know that it wasn’t one of us. Whoever it was: you guys are lazy.
It seems like once every generation starts to hit midlife, and some in crisis, they become hypercritical of the current generation of young, up-and-coming adults, who are now living what was once the prime of the former generation’s life. Too often I hear things like:
“All these Millennials care about is themselves: self-discovery, self-fulfillment, selfish, self-aggrandizing… blah blah blah.”
But let’s be real for a second here, what young 18-20 something year old isn’t going to feel a bit entitled to this selfishness, as they transition from childhood into adulthood?
Maybe I’m wrong in this, but most people I’ve encountered under the age of 18 have barely even a semblance of what it’s really like to be self responsible, and truly independent adults. Let’s not impose an ideal of what the generation before them thinks this means on top of all of that, eh?
There are many challenges to becoming an adult in the first place, but we are the first generation that has been so freely allowed to express our feelings about these challenges as they occurred. We’ve been equipped with tools of communication for expression unlike any generation before us, and that makes us much different than our predecessors, though mostly in visibility.
What I mean by that is the generations before us didn’t know exactly what they wanted, when they wanted it, as soon as they were adults, or even in their primes. It wasn’t Millennials who were the driving force behind the skyrocketing divorce rates of the baby boomers. It wasn’t the Millennials “wishy-washy” and irresponsible logic that caused the housing crash of 2008.
So, you see, we have yet to make such grandiose mistakes in our lifetime, although there is certainly still time for that. We are attempting to make fewer of those mistakes, and we are dealing as best we can with the missteps of the generations before us as we speak. I think the biggest problem that most people have with Millennials though, is that we speak.
We are erroneously labeled as whiny children because we “demand” participation trophies, when in all reality it was well beyond even the earliest Millennials’ control to receive participation trophies. We never asked for participation trophies, let alone demanded them. We also never asked for a war that most of us weren’t even old enough to vote on, but almost all the casualties of said war, would come from our generation, and some seem to think that we were meant to just shut up and put up with it.
With the advent of social media giants like Facebook(2004) and Twitter(2006) we were encouraged to communicate with each other, and to share our thoughts and feelings, like no one else before us. So, what did we do? We called out the mistakes of our predecessors, and some of us even vowed to not make these same mistakes over, so long as we could help it. Because most of us are very much still in our prime, and the full impact of our decisions has yet to be seen, I cannot say with certainty that we’ll achieve this. Though I’m willing to venture that most of us will try.
Still I know this hasn’t made us exceptionally popular with our counterparts, and because said counterparts still control much of society, whether that be our workforce, our media, or our government, even Millennials within ourselves result to Millennial bashing, in order to fit in or get ahead in the world we currently live in. It’s the popular thing to do, although not the right thing to do.
Every single one of our capitalist choices is subject to intense speculation about our circumspect and dubious personalities(hello vacations, avocados, and pumpkin spice lattes). Our decisions to marry later, or not at all, come with warnings of tragedy and accusations of committal fear(not taking into account the previous generations tragically high divorce rates and what we might’ve learned from that). And our desire to watch viral videos of piano cats somehow negates our ability to be taken seriously, because we are for some reason intensely one dimensional characters that cannot understand, let alone live, a multifaceted lifestyle.
But what does that look like, now that a vast number of Millennials are finally entering the community of parenthood? Well, to be honest, it doesn’t look all that different from when the generations before us entered parenthood, only that we’re doing it a little bit later, as following a trend that started in the ’70s before any of us were even born.
Yes, we liked being able to enjoy our youth, going on vacations, wasting money on rent instead of buying a house so that we weren’t tied down, jumping from job to job in order to explore our options before settling for the rest of our lives at any one place, but as Millennials become parents, our decisions that shape the economy move toward the stability that our parents, and seemingly all society, had deemed was most appropriate for us, earlier than we had acted on.
We’re ready now to shift into more stable lifestyles, that are fulfilling to us at the stage we are now at. However, there is a slight difference in that Millennials aren’t satisfied with just starting families, we want to be good parents, with a real focus on developing our children into well formed human beings.
We are willing to put off marriage and children until we’re well and ready, to avoid making the mistakes that our 50% divorce rate parents did, that led to so many issues of dynamic for us in our youth and into adulthood. We think that learning to co-parent responsibly, and with love, is more important to our children’s health than dragging a child through the mud of a relationship that doesn’t work. There are so many different models of parenting and child rearing out there, that we have a hugely diverse school of thought when it comes to what works per every individual child.
While Millennials may be hyper focused on our children’s overall happiness, we are less prone to be hyper focused on their achievements. Maybe my son will want to play division hockey like his father did when he gets to be in high school, or maybe he’ll want to be a musician, or an architect. Millennials are now more focused than ever on insuring that our children are happy and healthy, first. Because without these things, they are unlikely to be able to bounce back from inevitable failures in their futures.
It seemed like everyone wanted you to be someone when I was growing up, and that we needed to contribute to society or stand out from society above all else, when we finally became adults. “You can be anything you want to be,” they would say. “And you should be something great,” they would imply. But I don’t recall a single adult ever asking me what would make me happy.
And this is what will separate the generations when “Generation Me” becomes the parent to the next generation, one we hope to make better and happier than any of us had ever experienced when we were children. To that end, I’d like to paraphrase a quote that I can’t recall the source of:
There is no point in cultivating a better world, if we are not also cultivating better people to inherit the world.