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Everyone these days seems to be talking about millennials. From our parents and grandparents to CEOs to fifty-somethings, everyone has had their say.
Everyone except millennials, that is.
And many don’t have a clue.
The children of post-World War II baby boomers, millennials are generally classified as those who “reach young adulthood by the year 2000”. Whereas we were raised in a dynamic and innovative digital age, our parents, or these baby boomers, grew up in an age of change and a difficult one at that.
Times are changing
Once defined by tradition, conformity and strict gender roles, our society has evolved over the past several decades. Though we still have a long way to go, we’ve made big strides, promoting equal rights for people of all races, genders and sexual identities. Roles have been reversed — mothers are working and fathers staying at home. The developed world has turned a new leaf and has finally opened its arms to a new liberalism.
While some of us may have benefited from the baby-boomer Golden Era, not everyone did. Just look at the income gap—it’s higher than ever. Many of our parents had to work hard — and very hard at that. Like many others, I grew up in a dual-income household, with my parents often holding down multiple jobs just to support our family.
I once read an article online that looked at millennials with a rather perplexing, if not contentious, point of view. Written by the popular blog Wait but Why, millennials are lazy, entitled and think that they’re special. Apparently, they expect to work hard for a short amount of time and reap the benefits – benefits which, in reality, don’t really exist. Work is supposed to be hard, gruelling even. We’re supposed to grind and grind and then maybe, just maybe we’ll earn a career and a life worth living. Finding work that aligns with our passion and purpose is fluff, the stuff unicorns are made of. Simply put, our expectations are out of whack.
With all due respect, dear sir, you mad.
Don’t blame us for not accepting the way the world works. Don’t blame us for wanting, for demanding change. Don’t blame us for refusing the status-quo and wanting to live more fulfilled lives.
Welcome to the new revolution
Our goals are far from lazing around, working for a short few years and climbing Everest with the click of a button. While there are exceptions, and there are always exceptions, if anyone has seen our parents work, it’s us. If anyone knows their struggle, it’s us. If anyone knows what it takes, it’s us. And with stress levels soaring and divorce rates at 50%, we too have seen unhappiness. Please don’t confuse hard work with our values.
Are baby boomers truly fulfilled in their lives? How many wish that they spent more time with family and friends? How many have reflected on their lives and said “I wish I worked more?” The evidence is in rising stress levels and burnout rates. Just the flux in traditional gender roles threw the world for a loop. It’s known fact that there’s an unfair division at home leaving most women to bear both career and family responsibilities more than their male counterparts. How do you juggle raising a family, maintaining a home and building a successful career without pressure? No wonder that today’s millennials are in the pursuit of happiness. Such a transition in society is not without its growing pains. It takes an adjustment period and we’re right in the middle of it.
It goes without saying that there are millennials who are too entitled and self-absorbed (let’s be real, there are humans of all ages that fit this description). Consumerism has risen to unseen levels, with celebrities and the media assuming a disproportionate, even unhealthy, position of influence. Vanity, excess and envy is ever-present and the challenge of our generation. Is it fair to stereotype an entire generation based on the vices of our age? What about the influence of parenting? If the family nucleus is the single most prominent influence on a person’s life, is there not an element that we’re neglecting to address? Parents, more than ever, need greater understanding in order to give us the right foundation to prosper. But I digress; this is a topic for another day.
It’s only the beginning
Society is old fashioned. It’s only just beginning to embrace who we are or what we value. It still tells us to go to school, pick a major and work. It tells us that the way to make a living is with a nine-to-five, whether or not we like it. It dulls our passions, asking us trade happiness for money. And if you don’t conform, you don’t succeed. Call it new age slavery where our souls are worth no more than a few dollars and a pension plan.
Our experience however has given us clarity on what we want and what we don’t want out of life. We’ve embraced the fact that we don’t have to accept things as they are. After all, we are the students of Martin Luther, Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs—to name a few. We know our ability to achieve and to succeed, no matter our age. We believe in ourselves. And we know what’s important to us—family, friends and moments that we can cherish, not just promotions and a bigger paycheck.
We’re the generation that would rather quit our jobs for purpose, happiness and fulfillment. We know that we all don’t fit in one mould and we want workplaces that accept and value our differences. Not just in words, but in actions. We may take selfies, Netflix-and-chill and drink lattes, but guess what, we slay.
How about we get the discussion going in reverse? How about you ask us what we believe in and start listening?
I’m sure you’ll learn a thing or two. You might even spot a few unicorns along the way.