Tell me if you’ve heard this before:
These kids today are spoiled and lazy. The expect everything to be handed to them on a platter. They don’t know the value of a dollar, and they don’t want to work hard. And could they pull their heads away from a screen for just a few minutes?
You probably thought I was talking about Millennials but I was in fact talking about my generation. That’s exactly what was said about us when I was growing up.
We were Generation X. The blank generation. Generic, bland, no distinguishing features. We were cynical, disaffected narcissists that thought the world owed us something.
Of course that’s not what we said about ourselves. That’s what the previous generation branded us. They defined the terms, they set the rules. And I remember hating it. I remember a lot of people my age hating it. But now we are old and we forget.
We came out of the 70s. We were the product of recession and inflation. Of war and terrorism. Of a distrust of government and an older generation unwilling to fund schools, social programs and social safety nets that they themselves benefitted.
It was a world where technology was advancing at an astonishing rate. Computers began to be seen in the home. VCRs and Cable TV changed the way we consumed entertainment and the amount of it increased.
And we were expected to know more, to learn more. We needed to keep up with rapid change or be left behind. All the while industries and economies were changing so the old career routes taken by our parents would not suffice. In order to just get by we needed to be highly educated, we needed to be interconnected. And we had to be aware of and adept at multiple skills in a wide variety of areas. And when we asked for help we were told we were entitled brats.
And yeah, some of us did become disillusioned. Burdened by stress and responsibility at an early age we threw a middle finger at the establishment and said a hearty “fuck you” to the older generation while setting off to find a new path to follow.
We were told we had no respect for authority. We were told we didn’t want to work for what we got. We were told this by the same generation that had “dropped out” to attempt to change society, to protest injustice but who ultimately faced such disappointment and tragedy they became cynical and misanthropic and started to tear down the very establishments that allowed them to experiment in the first place. A generation that was told by the previous one that they were lazy and spoiled.
Look, Millennials are annoying. But not because they are lazy or narcissistic. Because they are young. Young people are a pain in the ass. I was a pain in the ass. You were a pain in the ass. Your grandparents thought your parents were a pain in the ass. And so on back to the dawn of time.
But Millennials are demonstrably not lazy or entitled, and we need to get past our biases and close-mindedness to see it.
They can navigate technologies and systems that only a couple of decades ago seemed impossibly complex with ease. The range and access to knowledge and information and the level of interaction and understanding of the world is astounding.
And they have been thrust into a situation where they are forced to deal with political, economic and social pressures that are unprecedented in this country and this world. They will be saddled with crushing debt to receive the education that is required to simply get by in that world let alone get ahead in it. And they are supposed to do this with a level of scrutiny and observation that is immensely intrusive; while at the same time expected to endure this lack of privacy with grace and a smile.
And if they complain we call them ungrateful.
I guess to conclude this little rant of mine I’ll just make a simple plea to my GenXer brothers and sisters…
Remember how much we hated it when the Baby Boomers said all that bullshit about us? Remember how it got under our skin to hear people call us lazy when we were in fact working our asses off? Saying we were entitled while at the same time cutting the very programs that they used to get ahead? Now understand that everything we went through, all the pressures and the stresses we endured have been multiplied exponentially.
So the next time you feel the need to roll your eyes and spew some derogatory insult toward a Millennial try to put yourself in their position. Attempt to have some sympathy.
Remember, once upon a time that was you.