A Millennial Reckoning

Thanks to William Strauss and Neil Howe, my birthdate lands me with the term ‘Millennial’, dripped sneeringly from the lips of those Gen X-ers (born ’61 – ’81) for whom Gen Y (’81 – ’00) holds little standing. It’s derisive and speaks to the tension between generations (now we’ve learned to classify ourselves as such, and raise the drawbridges around our terms of self-identification) that seems to exist ever-increasingly in a world which is changing too fast for anyone, really, to keep up with.

A Millennial Reckoning - summat2thinkon.wordpress.com

We’re seen as the selfie generation – the “Me! Me! Me!” chorus in the sidelines of the way life plays out – imagining ourselves central to productions. We’re told we’re the most civic and community minded, but also the most coddled. We’re the ones who’ve paid through the nose for academic qualifications we can’t get jobs for, and so drift, transient, on a sea of professional discontent, seeking the myth of safe harbour.

We’re the spoiled ones who live in our parents basements, sponging free wifi and forgetting to change our bedsheets until reminded. Our beliefs in the traditionally safe and stalwart institutions which governed the Baby Boomers, have become wishy-washy. Our minds are filled with liberalism and sparkly fluff, preferring to check our Social Media statistics rather than engage with the world around us, and What’s Wrong With It.

We’re the second generation too young to have fought in a major war, and we’re guilty of beginning to forget the lessons learned by those who lived through one, or just after. We’re unproven by life, finding our crises (and redemption) in a series of progressively inconsequential #FirstWorldProblems.

We’re determinedly upbeat, preferring to believe that everything will turn out okay, in the face of economic instability, drastically reduced earning potential and diminished housing options from the generation before us, and an entirely uncertain future which seems, like as not, to end in being nuked by someone, at some point. We have our heads in the clouds, either because reality is too impossible, because we’ve realised self-help doesn’t help, or because we’re just too damn stupid to understand any of it.

We aren’t like those sweet little Gen Z-ers, keen to volunteer and change the world. We haven’t recognised the value in our educations like they have, and we refuse to cherish the idea that learning for learning’s sake is a Good Thing. If it won’t get us anywhere (and it won’t), we don’t bother with it, instead pouring out our every unedited thought through the World Between the Wires, desperate for the approval and endorsement of our peers throughout the network.

We’re confidently narcissistic, over-sharing our every moment as our anxious, more reticent elders roll their eyes in consternation at our lackadaisical behaviour. We write rants (like this one) which neatly and circularly encapsulate our egocentricity and lack of consideration for those beyond the bounds of our own, precious, unique experience.

We don’t want anyone else’s philosophy of life. We don’t want to know why intergenerational reciprocity might help us, or why the underprivileged of our own generation feel that the traits and stereotypes of Millennialism simply can’t apply to them. We’re too busy being trophy kids, elevated on the proud shoulders of anyone willing to play fluffer to our bewildered (but very determined) psyches.

We’re selfish techno-weenies, who cling to the intrinsic nature of our own entitlement, unable to open our eyes to the possibility that alongside rights, go responsibilities. We’re knowledgeable without research. We’re competent without qualification. We passed with minimal testing, and we’re owed. We’re bandwagon-jumpers, who took the beginnings of technology and sent it into flagrant, worldwide success. We’re wasteful consumers in a throwaway world. We’re adaptive and fluxuational. We make words up as we need them.

We’re the existential, cosseted corollaries of our forbears, and an embarrassment to our successors. We’re the ones who draw scorn from both sides, having been damned by the timing of our births and the made-to-order worlds we were born into.

Aren’t we?

Much as it pains me to write all that preceded, and to admit “I resemble that remark”, I have to disagree, fundamentally, with the idea that my generation can be so artlessly characterised (even in well-written satire).

We might keep our heads in the clouds but we’re fighting an uphill battle against overwhelming shifts for the worse in the spheres of education, finance, and politics. We’re the generation who hope against the trends that things might be better, as we’re strapped to a careening present we’ve not been adequately equipped to take charge of, and we’re trying to catch up.

On an individual basis, the Millennials in my acquaintance are a determined, irrepressible bunch, who hope to improve things for themselves and those within the circles of their care. They’re fighting ever more unbuckable systems, now the notions of flower-power and free love have ground to a halt on the cash-strapped shores of reality.

They can’t obtain a career because those things are so damn scarce, it’s a case of putting practicalities over pride and leaving the expensive qualifications on the wall as they take job after job to make ends meet. They live at home because their parents were the last set of people able to get a mortgage on just one salary. They rent and house-share because they’re saving for the hope of a future which lies who-knows-where. They don’t worry so much about retirement funds because they’re not sure they’ll be around (or be allowed to be around) to appreciate them.

They travel, because why not? They seek experience and relationships and new horizons, because the boundaries which once seemed so staid, have become subject to lightning change. They adventure. They connect. They still believe in love and light, and people being stronger together.

We’re all on the bell-curve of likeability and personal circumstance, forsure, but the advantage of our egocentrism is that we hope you’ll take us as individuals – people in our own right, whom you should weigh and measure first – before you dismiss us as ‘Millennials’.

In our endless (and much photographed) quest for selfdom, we’re increasingly aware that we’re all far more alike than different. We continue to search for meaning in a world which tells us we’re part of something it would rather sweep under the rug, because dammit, we think we matter.

And what’s more, we think you do, too.

So: let’s be open to suggestions – how are we going to go about healing the breach?

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44 thoughts on “A Millennial Reckoning

  1. Everyone born after 1990 needs to come together to shape the future…we need to make older generations understand that we are the ones who have to inherit what they’re leaving us. The small 5 year differences between ages is irrelevant regardless of experience…we’re all inheriting the same future. The 20 year window between 1990-2010 should be classified in the same generation simply because we’re ultimately going to have fix this pile of shit planet we’re receiving from our “wise and ethical elders”, who we’re supposed to respect and learn from. What we experienced during childhood is irrelevant because ultimately our experiences in 20, 30, maybe even 40 years – will all be the same. You can’t determine a generation as they’re being born, you have to wait a couple decades and see what the world brings. For instance, if there was a WWIII type of event, all of the ages between 5 years before, and 5 years after that war would probably be put as the same generation in a history book if the war lasted more than 10 years. The reason being because they will be the ones dealing with it. In a 20 year window, I don’t really think you can split each age group as a different generation if they’re all dealing with the same major global issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like those thoughts. I doubt anyone likes being tarred with an overgeneralised brush, but we are all ‘of an age’ and facing the same worldwide challenges.

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    • I’m ’83, so I think I completely fall into the Millennial group, BUT I missed out on a lot of the pop culture because we didn’t have a tv, and I was pretty isolated until my late teens.

      I think we’re probably all a mixture 🙂

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        • Oh, without a doubt, but at the same time it left me unable to join in, and contributed a LOT a lot to the bullying I got at school. Because tv shows were IT, before the cool kids were old enough to go clubbing.

          I missed several boats, really, and it’s only NOW that I don’t mind. Living it was horrendous.

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  2. I think generational differences matter in that our experiences – collectively, with all those around us – help frame our perceptions and opinions about the world. So someone growing up in a Depression, or through a war, has a different experience than someone who grew up in the 80s, and again than someone who grew up knowing how to use a cell phone and other technologies from birth. Generally speaking.

    I think the differences are made bigger than they are and can be minimized if we all, just, well, spend more time with each other. Talking to my neighbour who was always Mrs. Harrison – because I went to school with her sons – until I moved next door and she just became Suzie. Talking with students finishing university and trying to figure out how – and what – is actually different – and what is actually quite similar in the experiences of that stage of life. And, of course, sharing online. If that in and of itself is narcissistic, then Millennials certainly aren’t the only offenders. And, if done with a goal of understanding others rather than simply promoting yourself, I’d say it’s anything but. A quest for understanding – to be understood and to understand others – is the exact opposite of that and how you go about “healing the breach” (as you put it).

    Thanks for a great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your idea about healing the breach. I feel as though our whole lives are somehow a quest to understand ourselves, the world around us, our personal and cultural circumstances and heritage, and SO much of our finding out is dependent on other people. I find it ridiculous that anyone would attempt to create barriers to accessing that wealth of knowledge by suggesting that other generations are irrelevant.

      We’re all in this together.

      I’m so glad your house move transformed your neighbour into a friend 🙂

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  3. Oh, Lizzi, you’ve done it again! This is spot on, just absolutely brilliant!!! I can’t think of much to say because you said it all and you said it so eloquently. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay, so I don’t fit any of these categories – I’m just a “people” ! (”Before then, I guess people were just…people!”) I can’t speak for all the generations but I sure would like to pin this up on our university notice boards! (The ones that haven’t been burned that is.) – Speaking from S.Africa!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Shirley – if you want to make use of the article, feel free to print it out and use it – let me know what feedback you get. I would be fascinated to know.

      It astonishes me that so much of what ‘we in the West’ know as given (that there are distinct and distinctive generations; that we fit in somehow, with one or another of them; that we have the time to consider such things at all) is just nave-gazing. So much of the rest of the world has an ENTIRELY different take on recent history and current outlook, and somehow we miss that, UTTERLY! I love that the internet gives us the chance to change our ignorance into understanding.

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  5. Age is just a number, (I can’t believe I’m saying that) and the fact that we can all ponder generations and characteristics of one another based upon when we were born is a first world issue. None of us are struggling to live, although we are struggling to be. That is Universal. I wasn’t born in the Millennial years, but maybe history repeats itself. The connections between people are stronger now, maybe because of the Internet, maybe because it is all one struggle. At any rate, your post is thought-provoking and spot on without whinning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, my OceanHeart. I’m glad you appreciated this piece for what it is.

      I think you’re absolutely right – history repeats, and we’re ALL fortunate to be here, wondering about ourselves, rather than where our next meal is coming from, or whether our family will be alive by morning. No wonder we’re struggling to Be in a world with such stark dichotomy, yet I think the internet has allowed the opportunity (for any who would take it) to further our horizons, expand our compassion, and act with more humanity and care for those beyond our immediate circles.

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  6. Frankly, I’m tired of people being categorized and labeled like books in a library. We are people. We are not all the same just because we were born within a certain time frame. We are all the product of our genes, times, parents, and circumstances. We are all different because our genes, times, parents, and circumstance are not the same. I’ve never understood this need to label people. Instead, we should understand that we’re all different and embrace that uniqueness – so long as that uniqueness doesn’t violate the rights of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently it started with the Baby Boomers, who were the first ‘generation’, as such. I can kind of understand that children (in the west) who grew up in certain eras, with certain wider-reaching circumstances (like managing post-war, or being digital natives) will be likely to develop similar outlooks or access similar opportunities. In this way, it makes sense, but I think it’s devolved into a lazy method of attempting to pigeonhole people without paying them heed.

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  7. both my children are millennials and they are married to millennials – and they are hard working, mortgage paying, responsible contributors to society. I am immensely proud of both of them (and their partners) so I personally don’t believe you can put all post 1981’ers in a box and tie it with a bow – as with every generation, there are contributors and consumers – it’s your choice 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is just it – I was surprised (whilst researching for this post) how very negative the assumptions and assertions seemed to be about Millennials. It seems such a shame to tar everyone with the same brush, when there is such diversity to be celebrated. It’s ridiculous.

      Glad you have children who are a credit to the way you raised them 🙂 That’s awesome. And YES so very much to it being about choice and attitude.

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  8. I have to admit I have not kept any good track of the mythic mass of contradictory characteristics of the variously defined generations. The fact is, I don’t even know the name of mine. I was born about nine months too early to even be a Boomer – too young to be a Beatnik and a little old to really be a Hippie – lost, somewhere between “Howl” and “The Electric Cool-aid Acid Test” So, I tend to regard all that broad brush characterization of arbitrarily defined “generations” as a combination of lazy pseudo-sociology and half-assed journalism. Great read, Lizzi

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Her Headache and commented:
    I have been thinking about all these things, am even watching a documentary on my local television station called “My Millennial Life” and I don’t know where I fit into all of this, but I wish for more understanding between all age groups. Wonderfully summed up by Lizzi and so I couldn’t resist sharing her take on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things — and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning — all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything — they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.” – Aristotle talking about the cocky, overprivileged youth of Ancient Greece.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. While I think there are some trends to people born within different timeframes, I think that the frames are too wide (a gen-xer born in 61 had very different childhood experiences and teen experiences and early adult experiences and formative and later and and and than somebody born in 81), for one. I think the “assumptions” (stereotypes??) likely made more sense for the group of people born during the depression in the US for example, who truly shared more similar experiences. While the wealthy weren’t as affected by the war, they WERE affected causing a savings mentality effect if you will.
    The fact is, there are more TYPES of jobs than ever before today. A social media manager didn’t exist a very short time ago. A cell-phone tower repair person was not a job that existed when I was in high school or college. IF there’s a gap between your gen and mine, it’s really a good one – there are more equal rights and more equal opportunities for people with special needs and differing abilities than there have ever been. There’s awareness and acceptance and a global consciousness that didn’t exist before Twitter and social media. I often wonder if somebody like me, sitting in comfort here in the US would have ever known about what Isis is TRULY doing before the sharing that happens today. There MAY BE some stereotypes that “became stereotypes for a reason” among gen-xers, and gen-yers, and Millenials but mostly, I think it’s kinda stupid.
    The fact is that there are selfish dickheads throughout the ages. There are those who dedicate their lives to giving and improving throughout history and that will never change. The cultural and lifestyle differences between generations only accelerate and facilitate knowledge and information of them. Today, somebody who is 18 or 80 can go viral in a stupid meaningless video. But also, somebody can raise money and awareness for something that matters. Whether that person is 18 or 80, I don’t care. I dislike all the assholes and admire the ones less selfish than I, no matter the age.

    Boom fuckityBoom how’s that for a comment?

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ha! ME LIKEY!

      And you’ve picked up on a subtle point I’m glad got highlighted in your comment – how much of a ‘gap’ really IS there? I was shocked to read that the generation gaps are considered to be about 25 years each because as you said, the world has progressed SO quickly within the last 50 years, a lot of comparisons aren’t really fair, and certainly don’t do anyone any favours.

      I think perhaps there are commonalities between people who were children in particular eras and within particular socio-economic contexts within those timeframes, but even the Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers drive a wedge (by the very terminology) between the West and the rest.

      Those ties are beginning to be loosed, and I like that – I like that the world is no longer just ‘somewhere for us to travel to and see’, but a place where other cultures and people live and thrive and MATTER, in their own place and time.

      I agree there are stereotypes which have happened for a reason and perhaps there are overriding trends and quirks which show up particularly strongly in particular age brackets, and I’m certain there are ways in which these stereotypes are used and played on. I’m also absolutely certain we have commonalities as human beings (like you say, an asshole or an altruist can be any age), and we are rapidly acknowledging those at a global level, which is HUGELY important.

      As to jobs and knowledge which were non-existent in previous decades, that’s such a factor to take into account. The world is in some kind of tailspin change and I think on the whole it’s important to focus on those things which unite us, rather than those which divide.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Focusing on things which unite rather than divide is, I think, something that’s been strived for by the altruistic and feelers since the beginning of humans. Animals, even. Since The Beginning. Also there have been and always will be those who prey on the weaker. When that happens for survival (food as in the lion killing the zebra), it’s nature. When it happens because bully on the playground sees boy who is struggling, or the dictator terrifying people to do his biding, not okay. At least today we know about (some) of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well really we *should* be evolved enough to know better and to consider the implications of our actions. We’re made empathic on purpose, so we DON’T just go around ‘killing zebras’.

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  12. I love reading generational stidies and content. The whole thing fascinates me. I often think the Millennials should be classified in two different generations, but then I realize that despite our technological differences, our personalities are strikingly similar. We hate identifying with our generation, but that’s one of the characteristics of our people. We strugpe. We live at home. We strive for sparkles even in the dark swirling clouds.

    Fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d not really considered myself part of it, and had kind of stayed at arm’s length until a friend called me a millennial, and it got me thinking (and, oddly for me, RESEARCHING) exactly what brush I was being tarred with. Bit of a mixed bag, really, but I think there’s hope for us yet. Hopefully hope for ALL of us, yet!

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