My generation. In the 1960s, the Who wrote a song by that very name. I only know that because my parents are Boomers. The lyrics are ironic when you consider the onslaught of negative press Boomers are giving us Millennials these days. But we don’t deserve to be disliked, ridiculed, and pigeonholed. We are vast; we contain multitudes.
After reading “The Millenial Pledge” this week, it became clear to me that my generation’s diversity and accomplishments aren’t being recognized. We need to be shown compassion, understanding, and acceptance. And it’s not because we’re entitled to love; it’s because many of us don’t see our worth being represented in mass media.
As Millennials, we have faced some of the highest rates of unemployment since the Great Depression. Our grandparents, the Silent Generation, are often referred to as the Greatest Generation. That’s because they faced severe economic hardship and two World Wars. We bear a striking resemblance to one another. Our generation entered the job market during the worst years of what is now called the Great Recession. Likewise, we looked on as two wars in the Middle East were being carried out in America’s name, wars many of us didn’t support, wars that we’ll end up paying off for the rest of our lives. Go ahead and add the bill for two wars onto the trillions of dollars in student loans we’ll also be paying off for the rest of our lives.
Because we watched our Boomer parents rack up credit card debt, buy homes they could’t afford, and get duped by the government and the banks, we learned that there’s no safety net. No one’s going to catch us when we fall, not Social Security, not unemployment, not our corporate bosses. That means at a very young age, we learned the value of saving. Those of us who can save do save. We’ve started saving at a younger age than our Boomer parents, and the majority of us don’t use credit cards.
Still, with all the financial hardships we’ve faced, the majority of us remain optimistic. We have a high unemployment rate, towering debt, and low income, yet we still believe it’s possible to stabilize our financial and social future. What’s more, most of us have done it without the support of a political party, coddling ourselves with religion, or getting married. Maybe that’s because we have faith in ourselves.
I mean, we’re more educated than any other generation. That education means we’ve invested in ourselves. Some of us went deeper into debt by going back to college during the Great Recession because we believed that we would one day be able to dig ourselves out with our sheer determination. And yet, some still call us unskilled. What do we have to do to prove to older generations that Millennials can be hardworking, diligent, and focused?
Older generations, especially Boomers, want us to claim our stake in adulthood by getting married, buying homes, and having kids. They say we aren’t adults until we do so. If you take a closer look at us though, many Millennials are staking a claim in their future rather than some arbitrary notion of adulthood. Instead of toiling away for the corporate overlords, many of us have started our own businesses. In doing so, we’ve changed the way people call cabs, get their laundry done, and meet romantic partners.
Likewise, while older generations have a higher rate of intolerance toward immigrants and varied lifestyles, we care about civil rights, income inequality, climate change, and corporate corruption. We are filming the police to help the nation address police brutality; we take to Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to gather support for direct action, and we take to the streets, much like some Boomers did in the 1960s. In fact, just this past weekend, millennials turned out in record numbers for the 20th anniversary of the historic Million Man March.
Even with all these attributed accomplishments, we don’t claim to be morally superior. We understand that not everyone is going to see our point of view. That, however, won’t stop us from trying to change someone’s mind. But that’s not arrogance; it’s passion; it’s possibility; it’s self-confidence. We try to change minds about inequality, climate change, corporate corruption, and civil rights because we know that things don’t change, people change, just like the tag line for the Millennial Legacy states.
Millennials know older generations simply don’t get us the way their parents and grandparents simply didn’t get them. And while older generations may say love us, they certainly don’t show it, especially not after ruining our economy and effectively handing our government over to corporations and special interest groups. Even though they don’t get us, it would be nice for us to get some recognition for the struggle we’ve endured at the hands our of predecessors, and the ways in which many of us have handled the struggle. We believe there won’t be anything left for us in Social Security once we get older, but we’d like Boomers and Xers alike to know that we’ll still take care of you when you’re old. We think it’s part of our responsibility to family, country, and planet.
So don’t feel bad for being a Millennial. Don’t believe them when they tell you you’re the worst, the laziest, and the most arrogant. You’re the survivor, the social justice warrior, the most underrated. You’re the underdog. You recognize a world that needs to change and a country that needs a new direction. You love, work, and party hard. You’re changing the simplest and most complex aspects of American life. You embrace diversity more than your parents did, and you aren’t afraid to stand on the front lines of the culture wars. You try to love yourself unabashedly while onlookers try to knock you down. You get back up again and again. And you do it all while most people don’t give you any credit.
My generation is on fleek.
Photo by ITU Pictures