I have written only the title, and I can already feel this post getting out of control.
Let me just start with how it came up, I suppose. I read an article (or is it a blog post? Can we tell these days?) about so-called Millennials, and why they tend to be unhappy. I’ve read approximately one umpteenbajillion articles like this. Millennials are awful, self-entitled, delusional, lazy idiots who have no place in this world. They need to shape up, and quick, or they’ll never make it in life, amirite?
Then I read posts (like this one) in defense of the much-beleaguered Generation Y, and while I laugh sort of hysterically and shout “hell yeah!” in my head, I also know that it’s not completely right either. I read through the comments, and some of those Baby-Boomers who commented had great points, too.
So where does this leave me? I feel sort of offended by the Millennial criticism, but I’m not always sure I fit into that category. I was born in 1981. That sandwiches me right between Generations X and Y, neither of whom have been very highly regarded lately, but if I had to pick, I think I’d take the former, just to get away from the supposed terribleness of the latter. Just for shits and giggles, I took this silly Millennial Quiz to see if I fell more to one side or the other. Turns out, I’m 80% Millennial. Damn.
Well, this is no surprise, really. I grew up with a computer (albeit a green/black screened one until 1990), the internet (we got AOL Online in 1994, when I was in 7th grade), multiple “participation trophies” (awarded for no other reason than showing up), and a genuine belief that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I’m relatively liberal, I have multiple tattoos and piercings (although do I get points for having taken all the piercings out at this point?), and I thought that my extensive education entitled me to a job that was better than slaving to The Man for minimum wage. Fine, ok, I get it. I’m one of them.
Here’s the thing. I swear I’m not delusional. I am painfully aware of my situation as a completely ordinary human being who will likely not do anything special in my entire life. Thats not to say I don’t have value–I believe all human beings have value, even the really terrible ones. This is not a rant about being worthless or anything like that. This is just a check-in with reality and knowing my non-place in it. In fact, this entire blog got started basically because I realized how incredibly Normal my life had suddenly become (until I got sideswiped by illness) and how I had been making peace with that fact. Now that I’m getting better and things are again returning to Normal, I am again making peace. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
What I Feel Like I’m Missing Out On
By not being “special,” I feel like I don’t have enough influence on the world. I see so many bad things happening everywhere (world hunger, war, climate change, natural disasters, disease, homelessness, drug addiction, etc.) and I just want to be part of the solution. I’m so appreciative that my life is pretty darn good, and I want to help the ones who are struggling. My heart goes out to people, and I want to fix things. I do what I can when I can (volunteering, being a substance abuse counselor, etc.), but I’m plagued by guilt in realizing that it’s just not enough. I know the world does not rest on my shoulders alone, but I have the heart to do so much more–I wish I had the means.
I had a boyfriend in college to whom I tried to explain all of this. It basically came out as “I wish I were famous” (entitled Millennial alert), but what I really meant at the time and was completely unable to communicate was, “famous people have money. Money talks. Money solves problems. I want to solve problems and I would do it if I had the money.” He thought it was a very stupid and selfish desire, and I can see how he thought that. I promise it came from a good place.
Anyway, I’m at a point currently where I am barely keeping my own head above water, so my ability to help others is diminished. I know that when the time is right, I will resume helpful activity, but until then, I will probably continue to feel pangs of guilt. If I know me, I’ll probably continue to feel guilty even after doing what I can, because I will likely continue to believe that it’s not enough.
I also feel like I’m seriously letting my parents down. Actually I know I’m letting them down because they tell me so. I don’t know how many more times I can be reminded that I am educated and not living up to my potential and blah blah blah before I throw something at the wall (update: the answer is one. My mom called as I was reading/editing this post, we had “the talk,” and I threw a pillow at the wall just for dramatic effect). I know I’m educated. I’m the one who spent 19 years in school, thanks. It just so happens that I focused really hard in an area where I have (at best) very little talent. It is a mistake that I am still working on letting go of (and just when I feel like I’m getting past it, the student loan bill comes again). Again, this is not a self-depreciating rant for the sake of ranting. I’ve been through it and gotten the T-shirt. Do you know what it’s like to be bad at your job? I do. It’s the worst. I left my field so that I didn’t harm anyone. It honestly felt like the responsible thing to do.
People tell me I jumped the gun too soon and that I was just “inexperienced,” but I know in my heart that it was more than that. To put it in perspective, think about doctors. There is a doctor out there who is the absolute worst doctor in the city, state, or country. You wish he/she would stop practicing medicine, right? Right.
But really, when I think about it, all of that is tolerable. I mean….
Here Are the Advantages to Being So Incredibly Normal
I can hide in plain sight. No one is following my every move. Hell, I don’t even have a Facebook account anymore. I cannot imagine what it would be like for people to know (or care) what I was doing all the time. I think it’s kind of funny when famous people complain about that sort of thing, but when I try to put myself in their shoes, I get it. It would be super stressful.
Drama is truly awful. I’ve had a lot of it in my life, and most of it was created by me and me alone. I actively tried to make things interesting, and often ended up in the middle of a tornado of suck. Then I would complain about it and set the cycle off again. Inside, I hated it, but I also didn’t know any better. It took some pretty serious explosions for me to notice that I was actively chasing bad situations and worse decisions in order to keep things constantly on the razor’s edge. My 23-year-old self would not be caught dead with a square like my current self. Her loss. My current self sleeps well, eats healthily, does not drink in the morning, does not wake up in strange places, and is not afraid of her partner. It may be less exciting, but it’s a hell of a lot better.
So am I one of those terrible Millennial-types? Sure. I am. I have pretty much all the symptoms. That said, I am going to continue to work hard (both at a corporate job where I don’t see myself ever making much money and at my own pursuits), and I will not get bent about how I “deserve” fame and recognition. I will not ever go back to my crazy, drama-seeking ways just to keep it interesting.
And I will try try try to stop feeling guilty about things that aren’t mine to feel guilty about.