I am a millennial, it is a space that I occupy, sometimes proudly, sometimes not so proudly. I knew that getting perspective about the millennial lifestyle would prove difficult. So, like any good millennial who is stuck for ideas I consulted the experts. I googled it. And these are the results I found:
Lazy. Entitled. Narcissistic. Smashed Avocado.
These four descriptors troubled me. Now don’t get me wrong, there is some truth to these words. I love a good sleep in, I ask for what I believe is deserved, I appreciate a decent selfie and I certainly enjoy smashed avo on a slice of gluten free bread. But as a generation who is still trying to figure itself out, these four words painted a picture that was vastly different to the masterpiece I believed our generation to be.
So I went searching with Dr. Google as my guide, trying to make sense of this stereotype we have found ourselves in. In my search I stumbled upon an letter, bearing in mind that this was penned by an American for Americans, I believe the message still holds true. This is an open letter to Millennials;
What the Baby Boomers did not want you to ever find out is that your generation, the generation born between 1980-2000, actually outnumbers them. The Boomers knew that if you ever turned your eye towards political reform, social reform, cultural reform, environmental reform, any kind of reform for that matter, you could change the world.
They tried to keep you sated on vapid television shows and vapid music. They cut off your education and fed you very little. They took away your music and gave you Top 10 pop stations. They cut off your art and replaced it with endless reality shows for you to plug into, hoping that you would sit quietly by as They ran the world. I think They thought you were too dumb to notice. I thought They had won.
But I have watched you occupy the cities of this nation. I have watched you occupy the streets against gun violence. I have watched you occupy the protest for women’s equality. I see you today, as you occupy Wall Street, as you occupy local government, as you occupy our very way of thinking. And I see a spark, a glimmer of the glorious new age that is yours. A changing of the guard, a guard that has stood for far too long and needs your young legs to carry us forward.
I watch you turn away from what is easy and stand up for what is right. I see you understand that we as a society are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. I see you wise beyond your years. And I am proud. Give ‘em hell, kids.
Sincerely, a Baby Boomer.
As I read this, I was reminded of these words;
If I seem too passionate, it’s because I care. If I come on too strongly, it’s because I feel strongly and if I push too hard it’s because things aren’t moving fast enough.
And in my experience with Millennials, I have found this to be one of our greatest traits. When we care, we care deeply. When we want change, we’re brave enough to be that change. And when we dream, we dare to do.
As I ended my session with Dr. Google I pondered those four words again;
“Lazy, entitled, narcissistic and smashed avocado.” I realised that a millennial is not one dimensional, in fact it is a multi-faceted. I can be lazy and still be active. I can be entitled and still be giving. I can be narcissistic and still have substance. And I can eat all the smashed avo I want, because that’s just good sense.
The millennial generation is a young one, and we are building this plane while we are flying it, our stereotype will no doubt change and shift as our generation grows, sometimes we will be met with negativity, sometimes indifference, sometimes excitement. This is the magical thing about being a Millennial, we really can be apart of the change we want to see.
In fact, we are doing it right now. We are already imagining a better tomorrow. I look at the people around me and I see a collective of young people who are striving to build a more vibrant community in the Waikato. I see dreamers and does. I see Millennials and I am humbled. Humbled to be labelled as a millennial if it puts me in a group with all of you.
Millennials are unlike any other youth generation in living memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated, and more ethnically diverse. More important, they are beginning to manifest a wide array of positive social habits that older people no longer associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, modesty, and good human conduct. This is why the millennial generation will completely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated, to unbeat and engaged. — Neil Howe and William Strauss
Kendyl is Seed Waikato's Head of Learning and Development.