I am a millennial.
That sentence used to be very off-putting, like a pre-conceived stain on my existence. As a matter of fact, the Pew Research Center (an American info tank) claims the majority of us born in that early 80s to late 90s range found it off-putting and denied that label, trying to glom onto the titles of the generations before or after us.
We’re a conundrum of sorts, an ever-changing identity of excuses and aspirations and freedoms and shortcomings—our good intentions lacking the results we want. And oh, do people love to shit on us. Kind of like what I’m doing now.
Are we lazy? Do we have a privileged attitude and think we’re entitled to everything? Are we ungrateful for the opportunities at our fingertips, the modern conveniences we use every day? Do we really have it easier than our predecessors?
These questions hook pretty rapid responses from people belonging to any generation, whether that’s the Baby Boomers or Gen X, Y (why, that’s us), or Z. But as much as we’re privileged in extravagance, we also despair from the lack of simplicity in our lives.
This isn’t supposed to be a pained woe-is-me and self-deprecating rant—though I know it’s starting out that way—but more of an address. An address to my fellow Millennials and Non-Millennials that I hope might spur some deeper introspection and understanding next time someone shoots off on how Millennials suck.
They say we are lazy, but maybe we just have a different view of time and how we should use it.
I can drudge on about the actual lazy workers, the waste-awayers, but really, those people exist in every generation. I believe there’s a large misconception when it comes to millennials and “laziness,” and I think that has a lot to do with changing values.
A friend recommended a book to me called The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, where a crazy notion is introduced: there exists a group, of which Ferriss coins as the “New Rich,” a whole new genre of people who embody the idea that being in control of time and how it’s used, in essence, contributes to one’s “wealth” and “power”. Or rather that “being financially rich and having the ability to live like a millionaire are fundamentally two very different things.”
For example, he compares an investment banker that works 80 hours a week and earns $500,000 a year and an employed person (one of the New Rich) that makes $40,000 a year but works a quarter of the hours the banker works, and has the freedom of choosing “when, where, and how to live.” So, who is actually more rich?
Ferriss introduces this concept that “success” in life is no longer about working like mad for 50 years to achieve the end goal of retirement. He explains that many are now gravitating towards “distributing ‘mini-retirements’ throughout life,” not just to enjoy for your last 20 years.
Can this reconstruction of success be misconstrued as “lazy” and an unwillingness to work hard and put in long hours? Yes, I think it can and that it has been.
Then there’s the whole travelling thing.
Travel has become the clichéd dream of millennials, inviting scepticism and eye rolls from those hearing about it, despite the real benefits it can achieve. It promotes independence and forces a responsibility to oneself and others when being abroad. It can kickstart a survivor mentality that you might not have gotten with all the familiar conveniences of a first-world home and helicopter parents.
It can also hammer in your head that our home is not the centre of the world. We’re a tiny patch on a giant globe and we don’t know everything about what it means to really live. We can evolve in unimaginable ways if we open our minds and learn from cultures and communities different than our own. It’s inner growth at its greatest.
When people ask me what I want in life, I can now (almost) confidently say, “My goal is to travel.” I dream of a career that allows me to travel in one way or another with ease, whether that’s for, during, or around work.
My dream may be clichéd—a word of nightmares for writers—but how I reach it will be my own story and my own success. My priorities have changed from achieving my home-owner status (Vancouver, get your shit together) to walking another nation’s soil until my shoes wear out.
They say we are aimless and we wander…but maybe we really wander wondering how to aim for careers that will lend some meaning to our lives.
Modern Conveniences with Modern Curses
They say we have endless conveniences.
Yes, technology is growing at an alarming and magnificent rate. We’re able to communicate across the globe and expand our knowledge of any subject at any time with the simple clack of keys across a keyboard and a search bar. We have video tutorials and instructions available for literally any task you could think of, to the point where anything can turn into a DIY project on steroids (hello, Pinterest).
But with these amazing freedoms comes the curse of good ol’ effervescent Social Media—that annoying friend you can’t get rid of because you have too many mutual friends and mutual interests and you don’t really want to get rid of them because then what would you do and how would you know what was going on in your universe where everyone is connected and we’re so obsessed with FOMO??!! (Am I using that correctly?)
The Social Media noose binds us so closely together that we can keep tabs on each other to the point of obsession. Anxiety and depression has risen up the ranks as our most “popular” sickness, even branded as a trend by—you guessed it—our awesome friend, Social Media!
We compare and we like and we comment and we engage and we reflect on our own lives next to filtered photos and witty statuses and rose-coloured profiles.
Of course you’ve already heard of this, it’s all over social media.
It’s all very meta.
They say we need to get our shit together.
We are in a prolonged state of limbo. We are now aged 20-35ish and within this age range comes the usual confusion and urgency of dealing with life transitions and decisions—but lucky us, it comes a la mode. On top of this, we also get a fresh ice-cold scoop of stress and pressure that comes with being a millennial at this age. We’re trying to survive our “Quarterlife Crisis” while navigating through millennial problems.
Jobs are not available like they used to be in terms of getting a job in our field of choice. Houses are not available like they used to be. Things are not as simple as they used to be.
We are CONFUSED.
Some have been lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do and exactly how to get there. But for many, it’s not as clear-cut because the workplace has evolved into a monster with technical claws and fangs that eat up and spit out available positions, at least ones deemed worthy of being that holy, sought-after Career.
Technology is replacing and/or changing the roles we were training for—what’s a newspaper?—to the point where we’ll soon begin to resemble our favourite sci-fi movies. Our bachelor’s degrees are “useless” and our master’s are deemed semi-relevant, all the while we drown in tuition fees that have risen 40% over the last decade in Canada.
We need experience to get the job but we can’t get experience without getting the job. We’re stuck in this weird, demoralizing oxymoron.
If you managed to get all the way down here, I congratulate you. Your attention span is impressive by today’s standards in reading blog posts. Unless you’re part of my family and feel a certain obligation. Hi Mom.
You may be thinking by now, why did I bother writing this?
We are next, if not already, to be sitting at the figurative round table discussing the future of our world and making decisions that will shape the conditions in which we, and everyone after us, will live in for years to come. Whatever it is that you do for a living, whatever your interests, because of the lovely and frightening certainty of time, it will soon be our generation’s turn to rule the world.
Let’s hope with a better understanding of our generation and why we do the things we do, we’ll all be better equipped to succeed and more inclined to learn from one another.
So stop harping on us, okay?