A social commentary.
I was part of the high school class of 2000.
Yes, I am a Millennial and on behalf of my generation I extend my apologies. We elders of the cohort really missed the mark. Fortunately, the latter half of our generation gives me pause for inspiration. Nevertheless, compared to the earth-shattering cultural revolution we were preparing for and assigned to ensure, it seems we thirty-somethings got distracted by our smart gadgetry and projecting our low self-esteem upon others.
Sure, we blame Generation X for leaving us the crumbs from the Boomers’ plate of scraps, but we Millennials were the ones designed to break the mold. We associate Boomers with TV, and Gen X with the internet. So it stands to reason that Millennials are represented by social media. And instead of using it like a global platform to expand our network base and advance our change agency, many of us feel our civic duty is satisfied by broadcasting our super-exciting niche realities and perilous selfies across our echo chambers.
We are such a vapid cohort, aren’t we?
Don’t let us tell you it’s not our fault either, or that our late-onset “woke-ness” is something new or special to us. As if we discarded the replicate moniker of Generation Y and thought our rebirth as Millennials completed our transition towards authentic leadership. We became so self-absorbed in our creative classism that we forgot we actually had a job to do. We had our chance to inspire institutional change and participate in the dialogue about equal opportunity, equity & inclusion. Rather than play the game though, we sat on the sidelines complaining about the odds.
We assume that children will inherit our values by ethereal osmosis – as if they will somehow be spared of unbridled prejudice and the social justice that follows generations of disquietude.
It’s why we have a tough time adjusting to our rude awakenings from Gen Z.
Face it Millennials: we may think we are too cool for school, but we aren’t. We skipped way too many classes to assume we can take the lead now. There are new kids on the block and now we get to deal with self-sabotage and the disappointment of second-guessing ourselves to the point of inaction. We put down the book and now they are throwing it at us.
Despite the critique, it’s not a blame game. Life unfolds and we with it.
For a bit of self-serving context: growing up, my classmates & I were often told how special it was to graduate into a new millennium, a new century, the new era of technology. We were going to be the trail-blazing millennial generation! Since nothing could possibly stunt our potential, we were perpetually reminded that no other cohort had the opportunities we did, or would have. We took our progress for granted.
I graduated after the anticlimactic and seemingly farcical Y2K critical mass hysteria, and decided to take a gap year to save money. I felt an obligation to prepare as well as I could for the extraordinary future that awaited me.
My first semester of college was in the fall of 2001 and within a month of classes, we were torn asunder by the attacks on September 11 and the growing fractures in society. Talk about policy change! It seemed like overnight we leveled up in military simulation and the prize was patriotism. All anyone said was that the world was never going to be the same again, and they weren’t wrong.
I finally completed my Bachelor of Arts at the onset of the 2008 Great Recession. As a social scientist, I entered a decimated job market gravely unprepared to embrace professional risk. Within six months of graduation, student loans would start knocking and capitalists were bailing on their financial responsibilities to the public. I moved back home & scrambled for a minimum wage job. Then in the blink of an eye, a decade passed and I reached a low-wage employment ceiling.
Meanwhile, online software made people famous and the pound sign turned #comments into weapons. Go figure.
Looking for a greater purpose, I enrolled in graduate school in the fall of 2016 during a wave of unprecedented election campaigns that inspired social movements across the globe. The world was waking up and I felt like a crossing guard at the center of institutional change.
To be honest, I was overly optimistic about the job market for a Masters in Public Administration. With great enthusiasm, I re-entered the workforce – ready to change the system! – thinking the degree would catapult me directly into the ranks of human resources management where I could raise the bar for inclusion & diversity. That is not the case and I was unfortunately too impatient for the start of my career. So, I returned to the familiar service industry for more management experience.
Enter pandemic, political pandemonium, and social revolution.
For me, a third full month without gainful employment is coming to a close. As rabble rousers divide us and freedom fighters take to the streets, our youth sacrifice themselves for the greater good and history repeats itself.
Observing the deep divisions between our generations, I witness a multitude of missed opportunities. These are desperate times and while big picture aspirations go beyond just collecting paychecks, I tell myself that all I need right now is to clock in. This subconscious need for productivity makes me recognize how easily Millennial behaviors can mirror those of the Boomer generation.
So I find myself thinking, “Wasn’t it supposed to be different?”
All this time, I thought we were creating a new social order devoid of the previous generations’ obstacles. We were supposed to break barriers and embrace the impressive diversity of American culture. We were supposed to defy norms and elevate our conscience to its transformative capacity. We were supposed to change the game.
Let’s try this again, shall we?
Baby Boomers created the operating system.
Generation X paved the way to our modern digital landscape.
Generation Y *AKA Millennials* humanized a matrix.
Generation Z is now poised to take control of our nation’s legacy.
And there it is. A nice, tall glass of jealousy towards the progressive youth. Chin up, my cohort. Although it feels like it, this is not the end of the world. Admit it, we didn’t really want all this social responsibility anyway. We just wanted to be left alone to be someone special and contribute something unique.
Well, the Covid-19 pandemic can explain a stagnant job market, boundless apathy, and devastating morale across the globe. What then, explains our absence during the current social revolution? Are we sulking or just unwilling to do the right thing? As adults, this collective sickness does not excuse us from our call to action, nor does it relieve us from our humanitarian obligations.
We are the bridge that can close the gap on our nation’s intergenerational divide.
In a world of X, Y and Z, we are the figurative middle children – overlooked & underestimated – and we can use our powers to help our younger brothers and sisters use their voice! In a world where we thought the spotlight shone on us, in fact we were just warming up the stage for our little ‘sibs.
We can still help change the world.
Rewrite our destiny.
Re-evaluate our priorities.
It’s time to take action. Together.
Let’s work to avoid the hype we heard in our formative years and engage future generations in the process of reshaping our social contract.
It’s the least we can do.