Millennials get a lot of crap. We’re stuck in childhood, we lived with our parents too long, we’re killing the napkin industry and business formal dress codes, etc etc. Of course, a lot of Boomers act like we haven’t experienced three recessions; the collective trauma of 9/11 and repeated mass shootings; and the realization that we won’t outlive the planet unless we take swift and drastic action to curb climate change.
I look at all of that and say that we are the generation that has redefined adulthood. It wasn’t by choice but there have been some positive externalities. Most of us have experienced long periods of unemployment or underemployment, so our careers and salaries weren’t good enough to justify giving up everything else in our lives that we enjoy. At 30+ years old we still eat cereal, watch cartoons, and play with puzzles and coloring books. We signal boosted the importance of mental help and are ending the stigma around seeking therapy. We started demanding inclusivity from not just in the media, but at our workplaces and churches too. We grew up on liberal ideals, and most of us didn’t become Republicans. Sure, maybe it’s because we’re still broke. But the end result is that if you don’t get rich by the time you’re 30, you usually stay humble even if you get rich later. And humility fosters empathy and cooperation, something the Boomers were solely lacking.
Perhaps most important of all, we might be the first generation to actively encourage the passion and idealism of the kids behind us instead of trying to kill their dreams. If we can survive the Boomer backlash to our efforts at making a better world, the eventual political coalition of Millenials and Zoomers will be legendary. (I read Zoomers that as an alternative to Gen Z once and it stuck.)
The amazing thing is that before they turned 18, the Zoomers absorbed by osmosis all the lessons we had to learn the hard way. It’s because of us that they feel so free to be themselves. Are they more sensitive than we were, less jaded, less tolerant of the sarcasm that’s just thinly veiled judgment? Yes. But that same sensitivity has 16 year olds sneaking out and breaking curfew to join the Black Lives Matter protests. 13 year olds are confronting their parents on their BS (something that took most Millenials 30 years of living and 2 years of therapy). They learned early that adults don’t know anything, and America values money over everything. They’re sick of America’s shit and they’re going to take us into a more progressive future, whether or not they have to drag us kicking and screaming.
I’m looking forward to it.