Dear Millennials (especially “Sierra” at the phoenix and olive branch)
Last week, on June 25, you wrote a blog that was a supposed letter to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. This letter seems to have struck a nerve with your fellow Millennials… their numerous comments on your “letter” seem to indicate many of them believe you have voiced their angst and anger at us Boomers and Xers in a deliciously accurate manner. The overall premise of your angst is that you believe you were treated special, yet you know that you aren’t special… and this special treatment has hampered you in your ability to achieve the American dream. You are now being told, as an adult, that you aren’t special… holy shit that is awful! A good number of your peers mentioned the horror of not being able to buy a house or find a job. You have entered the world, your helicopter parents have receded a bit and now you are facing the world… and you aren’t happy with what you have found. Basically, you are bitching. Before I address some of your specific bitches, let me define what you are (in general terms) and then I will define what I am. I want you to completely understand who you have bitched to and why I don’t want to hear it.
You and your “Millennial” peers (according to the Pew Research Center) are approximately aged 12 to 30, you are the most ethnically and racially diverse cohort of youth in American history,1 politically you are categorized as progressive and you voted overwhelmingly for President Obama (66%). You are the first generation to view behaviors like tweeting and texting, and the digital world in general, as everyday parts of your life and not astonishing innovations that the rest of us view them. You are the least religiously observant youths since survey research began charting religious behavior. You, however, are more inclined to trust in institutions (authority) than Xers and Boomers when they were coming of age. My observations of you are a little more nuanced. I have led you in the military, I have taught you college, I have worked with you, I have sat in a bar and watched you conduct your mating dance while you consumed Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, I have listened to you talk about law school around the pool, I have seen your duckface photos on Facebook, and I recognize you for what you are… you are young and some of you are fucking spoiled just like some of my peers were spoiled.
My generation, “Generation X”… the slacker generation… is now approximately 35 to 45, born between 1962 and 1980. The Encyclopedia of Identities defines my generation as one of perceived apathy, noncommittal, over-educated, reactive, cynical, frustrated, alienated, pacifists, anti-institutional, and disaffected. We too entered the job market during an economic bust period… some of us (me) joined the military, a lot of us got degrees, most of got jobs, we got married, we had kids (you)… we have learned to live our lives. Statistically, we are approximately 19.8% of the population, whereas you are 27.7%. Boomers are 26.4%… and the dying World War II generation (the greatest?) is only smaller to Xers at 13.0%.2 By sheer numbers, you are catching up with us in the work force, as of March 2012, there were 60 million Boomers, 49 million Xers, and 32 million of you going to work everyday. I know your parents, I dated your mom and gave her a first kiss while we watched Kevin Bacon’s dance of frustration (in the barn) in Footloose. I now see her post pictures of you on Facebook and brag about your achievements. I went to high school and college with your parents… I watched your dad throw up a 12 pack of Bud Dry at a Nirvana concert. I served in the Army with them as peers… just like some of your peers are serving in Afghanistan. I work with them now… but we are outnumbered by the Boomers who are unable or unwilling to retire, and we stare collectively in wonder as you join us in the office.
So now that we know who you and I are, let’s address some of your points that you emphasized by bolding in the texts of your letter… I will address the pertinent ones, considering you bolded quite a number of the same bitches over and over… we get your point.
– “We have not yet begun to shape the world: we are living in the one you created. And it’s killing us.” Yeah, get in line sister… we all got this complaint. This isn’t some special complaint that you and your generation gets to monopolize. You are facing a world of terrorism and economic uncertainty, we had a world of potential nuclear annihilation and economic uncertainty. Additionally, if you want to share this complaint with us, we then have to consider sharing it with EVERY generation that has come of age. No youthful generation feels like it has inherited a world that is fair or just. Boomers didn’t like the world they come of age in either. Get over yourself, your complaint is nothing new… I am sure some 20something in the 1930s had some grief about the Depression.
– “We grew up accruing praise, but not self-esteem.” You state that you learned that praise was a parenting strategy but not sincere. Okay, well be thankful Sierra that your parents thought enough to actually have a strategy in parenting you… your parents actually put effort and thinking into raising you. Many have stated that Xers are also called “latchkey kids” because our parents’ strategy was to ensure we had a key to the house so we could let ourselves in while they were at work… afterschool television specials were our reward. Quit complaining because your parents put thought into your upbringing, it makes you sound unappreciative. For the record, self-esteem is something you learn to give yourself, it is not provided… it is learned and earned. You aren’t a child so quit acting like one.
– “You have made us depend on you.” You state that you went to the best schools, got the best grades, took the internships, met the right people, got into the right grad schools, and chose the right majors… and then you are stuck in your parents’ basement because nobody was willing to pay you a “living wage.” Okay, I am calling a little class bullshit here. I cannot believe that all of you did this, and pretty sure Sierra you are talking about a high middle class upbringing. Your definition of “living wage” is far different from mine… and probably the rest of the world. Let me tell you how I did it. I didn’t go to the best schools until way later in life, I got shitty grades, didn’t even know what an internship was, drank and smoked dope with all the wrong people, didn’t get into grad school until the age of 28 and had to do it on the US Army’s dime, and kept getting liberal arts degrees… yet I am professionally employed after 18 years of working… I learned to depend on myself. What you want now is what took me all the years to obtain. I have had this conversation with you numerous times in the graduate class I teach. All of you ask me how you can get my job and I tell you that it takes decades of work and experience… neither of which you have much of or much willingness to endure. You want to graduate and make six figure incomes immediately because this is what you believe is a “living wage.” Well, at least some of you think that… a number of your peers are actually living and working on far less than that… just like I did when I was your age. Want an eye-opener? Ask your parents how much they made a year when you were born. You weren’t made to depend on us, you were given guidance on how to do better… how to make it without making our mistakes.
– “When you told us that you loved us and that we were smart, beautiful, creative, independent, and destined for greatness, what you implied was that we must be all of those things.” WHAT THE FUCK are you complaining about? Your parents told you that you were smart, beautiful, creative, independent, and destined for greatness and then you complain? Again Sierra, welcome to the real world sweetie. I have no idea if you are smart, creative, independent, or great until you prove it to me out here in the real world… I might think you are pretty until you start bitching… I am pretty sure I’m going to find you highly unattractive then. Your parents told you those things because that is what loving parents do… loving parents believe… believe… those things no matter how stupid, ugly, unimaginative, dependent, and mediocre you are. All parents think their babies are pretty… trust me not all of you were pretty babies… a lot of you looked like little red rats. Here in the adult world you are expected to earn those superlatives… they are not bestowed by the grace of parents.
– “We spend our days fighting each other, always fearing our invisible duplicate who has everything we have on her resume, plus one.” Your complaint here is that you are tired of competing… got it. My generation felt that too… actually we felt like we were never given the chance to compete. Like you, we felt we inherited a shitty world and struggled to find a way to make it through. Guess what, some of us like to compete… just like some of you… and we have made it. What you don’t want to admit is that some of you are given not only a “plus one” but a “plus thousand”… some of you have been given everything and that hasn’t been enough. Sierra you sound like one of these, you are complaining that you were prepared for the competition with a lot of assistance, but once you realize how hard this competition (life) is… you want to bitch because you weren’t given more.
– “If there is anything that defines our generation, it’s knowing exactly how miserably our lives have failed to satisfy you.” Sierra, you haven’t matured yet… but one day (hopefully) you will realize that what others (including your parents) think of you, or how they may or may not be satisfied with you, is as important as the number of beers you can funnel. Because of your texting, tweeting, and social media habits, you seem to have this overwhelming desire to receive acceptance from not only your parents, but also your peers. This is nothing new, every youthful generation feels the need for acceptance. High school and college sucked for most of us because of this indescribable desire to belong… one day you will realize what a waste of time and energy all of this was. When you grow up you will understand that you are the only one who matters. Fuck your parents and fuck your “friends”… learn to accept and love yourself and then you will be satisfied.
– “So quit telling us we’re not special.” You state that you know that you’re not special and you think we can’t accept that. Guess what… you don’t know it… not yet… you still think you’re special. If you knew you weren’t special you wouldn’t be bitching as if your complaints were new or earth shattering. Your complaints thus far have either been the result of a pampered lifestyle or a lack of maturity. You are not special, you are like the rest of us when we were your age… you are young, you are learning the world isn’t fair, and you are learning that your parents (and society) aren’t perfect. Some day you will learn that your parents probably did the best they could… you didn’t come with a fucking owner’s manual.
Sierra… grow up but don’t forget to laugh. Learn to love yourself but don’t forget to love others… love them with all your heart… but you won’t be able to do this until you learn to love yourself. Recognize what you can change and what you can’t. Being an adult means accepting that your life is yours and yours only… the sooner you quit blaming others the better. Unfortunately, like all of us at your age, you are young, inexperienced, and you think you know everything. You also believe that being smart allows you to ignore the advice of others… others who have gone through the same bullshit.
Buck up lil’buckeroo… if you think facing the world as a 20something… a 20something with a fantastic resume sucks… try facing it as a 20something who wasn’t loved by their parents… try facing it as 20something who wasn’t given everything. Let me know when you grow up and experience some real problems… then we will talk.
1. 18.5% Hispanic; 14.2% are black; 4.3% are Asian; 3.2% are mixed race or other; and 59.8% are white (a record low).