Sometimes, I get really down on sharing a generation with you guys. One of you wrote recently about the apparent failings of our parents and how they’ve come to influence our lives; it’s not a nice thing to read, to see someone of my generation hurling misplaced blame at the people who raised us. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a response, just so the three people who read this know that not everyone born at the tail-end of 80’s is bitter about life sometimes being a little harder than we’d like. It isn’t your fault, either, Millennials. So don’t get down about it.
The letter in question, “Open Letter from A Millennial: Quit Telling Us We’re Not Special”, tells a tale of entitlement and bitterness. It’s a long, fairly repetitive piece in which the writer lets loose a fury born of her/his apparent discontent at the way things have turned out for “Millennials.”
The tirade begins with a demand that Generation X and the Baby Boomers (band name? No?) “quit telling [Millennials] we’re not special. We bloody well know.” The first thing that pops into the head of the non-middle-class-American-Millennial at that point is, Who’s telling you you’re not special? Wait, who called you special in the first place? Do you need to be either special or unspecial in the eyes of your family to be happy about yourself? If so, why?
The point of the post as a whole seems to stem from the implications of that opening line. The author accuses the world we Millennials were born into of being a place too sterile and barren to allow creativity and individual expansion. She or he is annoyed that rich kids always seem to get their way; she or he doesn’t like how our parents put their hopes into us and then weren’t super-happy about them being hard to achieve; she or he doesn’t like how said parents apparently get at annoyed at us for being too immature, without giving us the “chance to grow up”.
This is giving me a headache. Straight up, Millennials: I am 23 years old and a recent social science graduate. For the most part, I’m unemployed. My family background is completely working class, and my immediate family unit is composed of four people who genuinely operate better as human beings when they don’t live in the same place. None of this makes me bitter, angry, or sad. There have been hard times, but pleasure and growth come from solving these situations. That’s how you grow - you fix things without waiting for anyone to give you permission to do so.
I fit neatly (and very genuinely) into the categories of “disadvantaged,” “broke,” “Millennial,” and “family unit so broken it somehow started approaching normal from the wrong side.” So how do I wind up seeing the future as a bright place that’ll be interesting to explore while you, middle-class-Millennial, whinge about how hard you have it?
See, this is why people get annoyed at you, myself included. No, you don’t get to choose your profession right off the bat. The idea, as far as I understand it, is that you do whatever it takes to make a living wage while you hone the skills you’ll need for your preferred passion in your downtime. Nobody’s going to pay you to do what you love as soon as you graduate (unless you’re into medicine, for example, or a trade). You’re unproven and untested. Your childhood and teenage years were preparatory stages designed to create a person capable of choosing and fulfilling their own direction once they hit 18, of standing up and proving themselves to the big wide world with ingenuity and hard work. Our parents weren’t handed their lives by anybody other than themselves. Why should we expect anything different?
And please, <i>please</i> stop bitching about how hard you have it compard to rich people. I had to learn a long time ago not to hate the middle classes. Yes, you. You with your warm houses and cars and self-righteousness. You, who waste carbon and plastic and metal like you’re somehow entitled to it. You, with your fluffy carpets and bad attitude towards people who depend on the state. The ultra-rich are a problem for both of us. Remember: the working class have figured out the internet. We’re here. Work with us, and stop acting like you’ve got it hard. You seriously fucking do not. Nothing riles us up as quickly as you claiming as much.
You’re not special - but why do you think you need to be? You don’t. You just have to be useful. Usefulness comes in millions of different forms - kindness, engineering, writing, making coffees, singing, driving, answering phones, washing dishes, whatever - that make the lives of those around you just a little brighter. Do it really well and they’ll give you money for it. No, you’re probably never going to know the comfort and ease of the lives of the upper middle classes and the ultra-rich. They’ll control you for the rest of your existence, unless you deign to get off your ass and do something about it.
Our lives won’t be like movies. Nobody’s ever going to film us, the quieter ones, because we’re not special. Boo fucking hoo. Do you need that kind of affirmation? If you answered yes to that question, reassess yourself to the point where you answer with a definite “no”. You don’t need to be special to make a positive impact on the lives of others, to make your way in the world, to get a job and pay the bills. You just need to keep moving forward. It’s that simple.
Also, on an economic note, do you think our parents had super fun at work? Like the 80’s was all COKE PARTIES 24/7 YEAHHHH BOIIIIII? Seriously, it wasn’t, not for the parents of the vast, vast, vast majority of our generation (who, remember, don’t actually live in the West. Just sayin’). It was every inch as hard as our lives are now. Sure, our numbers look a little worse, but nobody’s going to tell me I can’t be a computer programmer because I have tits, or marry a black guy if I feel like it, or easily do a thousand things our parents fought to allow for us.
The coming years are going to be incredibly difficult. Western economies are tearing themselves apart at the seams, and what are we doing? Bitching to our parents about it, right. Doing that achieves <i>nothing</i>. This is the way things are - we have to deal with it or it’s game over. My mother doesn’t blame her body for her illness, and nor does my brother. My father doesn’t get angry at his parents for dragging him out of school when he was 15. And I don’t ever, ever get angry at my parents for having a hand in creating the world that we live in now.
Remember this: Our parents were controlled by the parents of the assholes who are controlling us now. They dealt with it by working, trying to twist themselves to fit economic systems that will never benefit them. And us? We’re getting angry at our parents for not tearing down a system most of us don’t even fully understand. They at least tried to work through it.
What we need is a form of synthesis based on the failed hypothesis our parents tried out before us. So let’s talk about that, rather than blaming the people who raised us for creating a situation that is categorically not what they were aiming for. How could they have known? Don’t be surprised that they’re disappointed. You would be too.
So let’s do what they’ve always wanted us to do: Let’s do better. Let’s stop wasting time writing badly-composed screeds at one another across the internet. Let’s talk, and improve on the template written by the people who came before.
And for fuck’s sake, stop moaning about being middle class. Seriously.
The Happy Millennial