If you were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, congratulations! You’re a millennial.
Being a part of this generation has many implications, almost none of which are very positive. Recently I’ve been inundated with articles like these, plus many more about how to motivate your millennial child to get out of your basement or make a plan for their lives. We millennials are portrayed as passionate loose cannons who feel deserving of accolades but are unwilling to work our way up, as dreamers that cannot apply themselves, as technology obsessed, unfocused and pampered. We’ve been ruined by the adults who told us that everyone is special and wonderful in their own perfect way.
There’s a grain of truth in all of this. Every kid on my 5-6 year old soccer team got a medal at the end of the season. I’ve been told at various points in my life that I am a gifted writer, creative, mature beyond my years, a fast learner, an empathetic friend and daughter. This mantra of specialness has allegedly made us into entitled brats, or so the media says.
But by being taught that everyone is special, we were also taught to see everyone the same. I don’t want to veer off into some middle-class white girl tirade about diversity or how I never saw color or religion because frankly that’s not true and never will be. What I did see was that if I had something special to offer the world, so did everyone else, no matter how externally different they might seem.
My mom was born with a birth defect that left her physically and mentally different. She couldn’t look after us without help from my family, couldn’t play too rough on the playground, couldn’t finish college. I watched her be discriminated against in the job market and stared at by strangers. I watched people see her struggle to get a shopping cart or reach something on the top shelf and then awkwardly look away.
Growing up my parents were frequently telling my brother and I that life isn’t fair. I didn’t understand it at the time. Why CAN’T life be fair? If I do my homework and follow instructions and behave myself, why shouldn’t good things like stickers and candy come my way?
What isn’t fair is that I was given a perfectly functional body that I spent years abusing, despising, because I wasn’t thin enough or blond enough or good enough, while my mom, with her sweet, kind personality was given a body that has been attempting to hold her back since the day she was born.
This is what millennials need to grasp even more so than the fact that we aren’t special. Life. is. not. fair. And everything that we’ve been given in our lives, from the shoes in our closet to the safety of our neighborhood, is a gift that most days we don’t even recognize. Our minds are occupied with who posted what on Facebook, hungry for the latest technology or concerned about progressing through the milestones of college-marriage-children.
So this is what it comes down to, my fellow wandering millennials–
Be grateful for the things you have.
Work towards what you want, even if you aren’t sure you’ll want it forever and ever. Just pick a direction and go.
Ignore the haters, the nay-sayers, the dream-crushers.
Carry yourself in a way that exudes confidence, not arrogance.
Refrain from judgment.
Engage those who are different from you.
Measure your worth in the good you do, the people you help and the care you take to truly see the world through another person’s eyes.