I hear a lot of talk about personal responsibility and toughening up and how safe spaces suck these days.
Just about all of it is directed at the generation we call the Millennials, or people who are between the ages of 18-34 right now. It has been interesting to watch how a person can blast these weak, needy Millennials one second and then call for their own form of safe spaces or cry about an offense the next.
“Everyone is so sensitive these days, you can’t say anything without someone getting offended…did you just take my Lord’s name in vain? How. Dare. You.”
“These kids need to man up and grow a pair and not be so sensitive, and how dare they be mean to my fwiend at the theatre! You huwt his feewings!”
I’ve spent the last 9 years working with what we call the Millennial generation in one capacity or another.
I have taught them in college classes, been a guest speaker at their events, worked with them as a campus mentor, life coach and counselor, and I’ve taught many of them to meditate. I play Magic the Gathering with them, have many as clients, consider many of them friends, and I am currently watching more than a few become colleagues.
Actually, I literally just realized I married one too.
Are some of them whiny and easily offended? Of course. Do some of them want something for nothing and expect an award just for showing up? Absolutely. Can they be self-absorbed and completely lacking insight? Yes.
But these things are true of every generation that came before them, they are human things. Every generation has something handed to them, and once they get it, it turns into a narrative of how they “earned” it and how the generations after them are lazy good-for-nothings who expect everything on a silver platter. The narrative is always about much harder your generation had it than the ones after you. World War II was horrific, but World War I was worse. Keep going back in history and you’ll read about massive multi-day slaughters that led people to commit suicide by literally burying their heads in the sand as they waited to die. This is what happens when things are getting progressively better for us as a whole.
The scary part is that we may be turning a corner in our country, and things won’t keep getting better.
This is part of what the Millennials are dealing with, this was handed to them. If only someone could harness the power of promising to make this country great again.
Anyway, you know who else I’ve worked with over the years? The helicopter parents who wouldn’t let their kids doing anything for themselves, and now complain that their children can’t do anything for themselves. The parents who told every kid to reach for the stars and follow their dreams, and now turn around and complain because the little assholes are reaching for the stars and following their dreams instead of giving up and going to get a job in retail.
In working with Millennials I’ve seen a generation that has been left with the short end of the stick that always comes with a long and unsustainable period of prosperity, while also being blamed for the end of this period of prosperity.
I’ve seen a generation that wants to do something more than phone it in at dead-end job so that their kids can have the latest iPhones and Nike cleats (so they can then turn on them and tell them how much they sacrificed for them to have the iPhones and Nike cleats).
I see a lot of good in the Millennial generation, and I appreciate their willingness to challenge the conventions and norms they have had placed on them even if some of it seems like nonsense as I begin pushing 40, but this is always the story of generations. I cannot wrap my head around Furries and Otherkin, but I suppose my parents hand a hard time understanding why we were all wearing flannel and piercing our faces and being just so disaffected.
The Millennials are dealing with a difficult economic situation, crippling student loan debt (often because they were told you HAVE to go to college to survive), and a mess they didn’t make. They cannot afford a house and car and family on two incomes, much less one income like the generation that complains about them the most could, but they are trying to create their own way of doing things. They didn’t give themselves participation trophies, they didn’t ask their parents to do so much for them, but a great number of them are working out how to deal with the results of their parents’ choices. When I am working with them in counseling and life coaching, I find them very willing to try new things and they take being challenged and confronted very well when it is done appropriately and compassionately.
So, I like Millennials.
I have faith in the positive impact they are going to make on our society, and I have to wonder how much better this might go if the generations that came before them owned their shit and took an interest in helping and mentoring them instead of complaining about them. One thing we have lost as a society is the civic and community engagement that helped us be more cohesive in times of difficulty. This is one way that it could be engaged again if we were able to get past our self-righteousness and condescension.
Just don’t ask me to understand Otherkin. Maybe I’m old, but no, you are not a dragon.