Millennials, schmillennials

We aren’t all that bad (or at least not that much worse than our parents)

By Sharon Miki, Contributor

Were you born sometime around the 1980s or ‘90s? Well, then you must be an entitled, lazy asshole who pouts around your parents’ basement in a murky pool of your own consumer debt and underemployment because you didn’t get your fantasy job—as an astronaut, or whatever—immediately after high school. And you’re probably really whiny about it, too.

No? Is that a harsh and pointless overgeneralization of millions of people? Not according to mounting public opinion in recent years, which is epitomized in the recent viral-lite essay “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy,” published in the Huffington Post.

The essay offers waves of condescending faux-concern for the socioeconomic plight of today’s youth, positing that so-called “yuppie” members of “Generation Y” (i.e. born between the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s) are unhappy and floundering because they have set too-high expectations for an easy, special-rainbow-unicorn life—and when reality doesn’t live up to these expectations, they pout and retreat to their glitter-infused self-indulgent corner to rot. This highly unflattering description of gen-Y isn’t new: an article published in Time earlier this year, “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation,” classified Millennials (born between 1980–2000) as “lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow.”

Am I angry that I’ve been automatically lumped into a group that is viewed by its elders with such disdain? Not really. The reason these anti-Millennial arguments gain traction is that there is some truth to certain characteristics of the generation: many Millennials were raised to believe that they could achieve whatever they wanted if they tried hard enough; we are, in fact, the shoot-for-the-stars generation. Indeed, I have personally received several participation medals, and my parents did encourage me to find a career that was not only financially fulfilling, but that I enjoyed doing. Sue me.

I find this generational bullying to be narrow-minded, short-sighted, and largely counterproductive if our goal as a society is to encourage members to be productive contributors to our culture and economy.

Millennials and gen-Yers are still quite young, so it’s pointless to freak out about us being a lost generation at this point in time. Our grandparents tsk-tsked our baby boomer parents for their perceived sloth when they were young (hello, hippies?), but eventually the boomers grew up and cut their hair so they could start shaking their fists at us. All generations have some growing pains, but history has shown that they will inevitably grow up to take on a mature perspective. Millennials just need more time to adjust to the very different economic climate than that of their parents’; as we move into our working lives, we’ll most likely adjust our expectations to our realities.

Granted, it’s unlikely that our careers will mimic the 9-to-5 model set by the boomers. Is it because—as the Huffington Post suggests—we think we’re too good for our parents’ jobs? Maybe, but I’d suggest that a lot of this job diversification stems from a combination of factors: for one, it takes more and more education to compete for prestigious jobs nowadays, which means more time spent in school and accumulating debt before entering the workforce. Also, there are more diverse, special-unicorn-style jobs that young, tech-savvy people may strive for (for example, “social media strategist” wasn’t an option when my dad graduated in the 1970s, but it is a job that employs a number of my peers today).

I know that I’m not a special snowflake, but I also know that I’m starting my career in a dramatically different social and economic climate than my parents did 30 years ago. Without the aid of a DeLorean time machine, all I can do is work as hard as I can within the framework I live in. Besides, if I want to be a lazy, entitled asshole, I don’t want to be lumped together with all of you. I want to be my own unique rainbow-unicorn kind of lazy, entitled asshole—after all, I’m a ‘90s bitch.