When I was growing up, and into my early teen years, everyone seemed to be talking about “Generation X.” Were those cool, edgy, gen-X-ers ruining the moral fabric of America, or were they smart and savvy young people who would surpass their parents with their accomplishments? People didn’t agree, but they DID want to talk about it, and I was captivated, and wished that I could be part of this bold and interesting new generation.
But I wasn’t, I never would be. My parents were too young to be baby-boomers, and I was too young to be a gen-X-er. My older sister, might sometimes be considered among the very youngest of gen-x, but not me. By the time I was of the age people like to complain about (roughly 15-20 years old) I thought for sure there’s be a quirkly and slightly obnoxious name for MY generation, but there wasn’t yet. People didn’t know what to call us.
I didn’t hear the terms “generation Y” or “millenial” until I was in my twenties, and they seemed to be used mostly to describe people who were five to ten years younger than me. When I started seeing articles popping up about the myriad of things that were supposedly wrong with millennials (which were suspiciously similar to the myriad of things older people have always felt were wrong with the next generation forever and ever) all I thought was “huh, can these kids really be as bad as all that?” But I didn’t know any teenagers personally, so I shrugged it off. It seemed like a somewhat comical complaint of “kids these days!” to me, but I wasn’t personally offended and it wasn’t worth fighting over.
Then, about two years ago, I woke up and found that I was a millenial afterall, and not only me, but my older sister as well!
These days the generally accepted definition of “millenial” is someone between the ages of 18 and 34. Apparently, people born during those particular sixteen years have generational things in common that people born before or after simply do not share. I’ll be twenty nine in August.
So just a couple short years before my thirtieth birthday, I suddenly found myself considered a snot-nosed-brat by the media. I am what is wrong with America. I don’t understand or value honest work. I expect everything to be handed to me. I’m emotionally stunted. And, this article I saw yesterday which claims that I am a poor tipper because I “lack dining experience.”
I know human beings love to make generalizations and put things into categories, but really? Myself and people up to five years older than me seem to have been hastily added onto “millennials” in order to do something about that weird gap between generations, and the majority of the descriptions of what millennials are supposed to be like sound completely unfamiliar to me. Furthermore, haven’t we learned anything at all from previous “kids these days!” discussions? Can’t we admit that age cohorts do indeed grow up with similar cultural influences (though I would argue that those cultural influences are largely created by the generations prior to them, so anything we DO have in common with our age cohort almost certainly isn’t something we chose to seek out, and is instead based on choices made by our elders) and that does indeed affect them later in life without being jerks about it? I kind of find it the most exasperating when it’s the gen-x-ers gleefully talking shit, as if it’s the first day of high school and they’re finally seniors and ready to dish out some of the bullying the endured for the previous three years.
I am a Millenial. I loved My Little Ponies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a small child, and again as a teenager when Hot Topic decided to cash in on nostalgia in a big way. I have watched the word “hipster” mean at least three different things. I’ve been working since I was eighteen years old. The Great Recession aligned with the age at which I was expected to get a respectable, dependable job and settle down, and consequently I didn’t do that. I watched my friends and peers take out massive loans to pay for college only to end up taking low-paying service jobs due to the lack of opportunities. I was part of the “self esteem movement” and consequently I have low self esteem about having sub-optimal self esteem. I tip generously in part because almost everyone I know has had to work in food service at one point or another. I pay my own bills. I have been on food stamps. I eat mostly vegetarian. I have strongly held beliefs and opinions, but I’m willing to hear you out provided you aren’t racist, sexist, homophobic, fatphobic, or transphobic. I have online dated. I spend too long on my phone. I eat tofu.. I take care of my friends and family when I can and when they need it. I’m married. I want kids. I’m trying to find a second part-time job to make ends meet.
And if that is ruining America, you know what? So be it.