The millennial generation is known for a myriad stereotypes. We are lazy, we are never willing to work hard, and we are all pessimistic and depressed and cynical, and tend to fixate on our desires so much so, that we often become pretentious about them. The only things we care about, from an outside perspective, are our clothes, our coffee, and our cats.
So often the millennial generation is thought of as inherently sad; depressed, even. As a generation it seems we are all chronically pessimistic. But all evidence of our childhood denounces that fact, and so it only seems to make the situation worse.
As a 90s kid we grew up in one of the wealthiest generations to have ever lived thus far. Our childhoods experienced vast change in technology, economy, and standards of living. We grew up with color TVs in every room, gameboys in each hand, and forms of entertainment that previous generations had never dreamt of. And it was all readily affordable.
As children of the 1990s, we lived in a time of relative peace and prosperity. War was often forgotten in the light of entertainment, and the world seemed overall peaceful as we thrived in the innocence and luxuries of our generation. We were innocent, we were oblivious, and it was bliss.
However, while we have experienced vast peace and prosperity, as a millennial, we have also experienced extreme turmoil. As a child during 9/11, we experienced the dramatically changing tone of our society in response to huge tragedy, while being entirely unable to do anything about it. We watched, as children, our parents fret and worry, and the paranoia of our country shift to an extreme. We saw the innocence of a country at peace be transformed into a fearful anxiety.
Traveling became a burden, and preparation for the inevitable dominated our thoughts. As children, we were taught to live in a constant state of worry, without ever fully understanding why. We never really had a chance to grow up and find ourselves in the throws of adolescence. Instead, we were jolted into a world of unknown with the expectation of the past and no knowledge of the present.
As we have grown, millennials have yearned for the return of innocence. We have longed for the times of our childhood to resurface; for the luxuries of our elementary school days to once again dominate our thoughts.
We long to spend summer afternoons with our classmates in the bliss of thoughtless play, and at night to lay next to our friends in a fort of pillows and blankets that we built ourselves and talk about nothing important at all while we watch the time pass us by.
We long to stare at the stars and sleep on trampolines and run wild through the streets in the middle of the night with no worry about tomorrow. As a millennial, we long for the care-free lifestyles of our childhood because we feel as though they were ripped from us without explanation.
As a now 20-something in society, a millennial is faced with the daunting reality of adulthood without the reconciliation of their adolescence.
It seems that our dreams are no longer our own; they are dictated by a society of expectation. As children we had dreams; passions, desires, and pursuits of who we wanted to be. And monetary stability was never a part of that. Yet today we live, as millennials, in a society of comparison that tends to serve as something to run us dry, rather than push us to be our best. Millennials are stuck with a mindset of childhood that told us that there was nothing wrong with following our dreams, while living in a society that tells us to forfeit happiness for stability.
No longer is a high school diploma acceptable in any field of employment. Your dreams are no longer attainable without a degree from an educational institution. College is no longer for those pursuing a career in only the most prestigious fields of professional employment, but is expected from everyone hoping to survive in a corporate world.
And yet, we have made college unaffordable. As a millennial, we are thrown into a life where college is expected, yet not financially feasible, and we have never had the time or thought to understand why.
We long to explore the world, but only after the stability of our future is in check, because that is what we have been told to do. We explore our worlds and our dreams after college, whereas our elders explored after high school. We break the status quo of working straight out of college, and are thus deemed lazy and unproductive by the standards of generations before us.
From the days of our childhood, we have felt oblivious and helpless to everything around us. Society has continued to change in dramatic ways just before we have had a chance to have a voice about it. We had the biggest and most ground-shaking presidential elections just years before we were able to vote, yet we, as millennials, are the generation that is supposed to live in the world our elders decided for us.
We have spent our lives trying to figure out adulthood, just to have it change before we get there; we have felt forever in the dark.
And so we sit and we try to figure out where to go next, all the while trying to understand the loss of our childhoods. We sit and try to figure out the society we live in and understand the methods to the madness, while being expected to run the culture that we are now a part of.
The world looks to us to fill in the gaps in business and industry and politics that the older generations have left behind, yet we sit here and wander in the stages of exploration and experimentation that our elders enjoyed, trying to find out who we are.
We long to contribute to the society we live in, yet we are forever behind the curve.
And I sit here and write this article, and I am not entirely sure what to say. There is no real ending. I don’t know how to fix it. I have some ideas and I will write on those in the weeks to come, but I don’t have the perfect answer.
We live in a world that will forever be expectant. We will always have the older generations to show us what they’ve been through, and we will always have the younger generations to show us where we are going. As millennials all we can do is chase after our dreams. Because it is only when we are passionate that we can be productive in our work.
But like I said before, there is no one answer. And so I want this to be an open discussion, an open topic; a place to discuss.
What do you think? Where do we go from here as millennials? How do we “catch up” or change to curve all together? How do we contribute to the society we live in now?