It’s almost as if baby boomers find joy and an odd sense of satisfaction in telling millennials how “easy” we have it. They wag their finger and whine “back in my day, I had to walk 9 miles to the nearest soiree and I had to be back home by 8:00 on the dot!” Alright. Good for you gramps. Time are a’ changin.
I’m not trying to say our parents and grandparents don’t have a right to grouse about their lives when they were our age. In fact, I agree with them on some things. Let’s be realistic here.
There are two sides to the most common arguments about the millennials vs “oldies” debate:
First of all: Sorry you didn’t have cell phones to Snapchat you pals with or computers to watch endless amounts of funny cat videos on. Doesn’t the lack of technology make life a whole lot simpler though? Hear me out.
We are so consumed by our Apple products nowadays. It’s as if we’re going through a new plague; a technology-obsessed epidemic that makes us zombie-like and grouchy if the wifi isn’t connecting. One can argue that the lack of these media infused chains was beneficial to our elders’ health and self-esteem. Yeah, self-esteem. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty crappy when my hotline isn’t blinging or my friends snapchat me pictures of themselves doing lavish things without me. I don’t want to be THAT person that complains about social media while actively on social media, but you can’t deny the harmful effects it has on us. I might go to Twitter for funny dog memes and scroll through USA Today’s mobile site to fact check what politicians are saying but I also go for my daily dose of “wow, my life sucks compared to theirs”. The “social” part of social media is awfully bittersweet. Not touching my phone for longer than an hour seems almost impossible but, hey, maybe no social media was actually pretty liberating.
But, with that being said, I understand that the lack of technology was sort of a bummer. Well, the lack of convenience provided by technology was a bummer. I cannot even begin the tell you how many time the maps on my smartphone has saved me from being stranded in a sketchy area of New Jersey at 2:00am (don’t ask me what I do in my spare time…you don’t know my life). Also, having a handy dandy calculator at my disposal whenever I want is pretty cool. Oh! And Google? Thank you for finding answers to all my weird questions (once again, you don’t know my life). Knowing our elders had to actually look something up in an encyclopedia is kinda mentally draining to me. Life without Netflix is a life I simply do not want to live. How else would I binge watch Orange is the New Black and House of Cards?!
Education + Job Searching
We know this struggle all too well. If we don’t get good grades in high school, we won’t get into college and if we don’t get into college, we won’t get a job and if we don’t get a job we’ll end up like crazy Bill who always hangs out at the street corner with his fat cat and is convinced he’s Alexander Hamilton. “Don’t end up like Bill. Go to college. Get a job.” It’s a lot of pressure on us, okay? Not all of our parents, and even fewer of our grandparents, went to college. But hey, they have jobs right? You have a roof over your head right? Some can say that they’re lucky that they didn’t have to spend a fortune on grad school to get a master’s degree to get a stable job. Standards and expectations are high nowadays. There was once a time that a GED was all you needed to get a “good” job. Now, you’d be lucky to get a job that pays minimum wage with that. College is not for everyone. I wish jobs took that into consideration when they tell the hard working, passionate kid he can’t be hired because he didn’t go to Yale.
On the flip side, we are lucky as heck to be in college. Sure, the all-nighters suck and the monotone professors are a bore but college is much more than a prereq to a career; college is a community. We should be considered lucky that our parents recognize how crucial college is and encourage us to attend. We are bombarded with resources and valuable opportunities at college. Take advantage of libraries, kids. They hold the answers to everything.
Again, college isn’t for everyone. Also, not all parents are as willing to help their kids go. That’s okay. That isn’t shameful. If you WANT to go to college and have the MEANS to go to college, do it. Do what is best for you. If you are lucky enough to attend, count your blessings.
It’s common for my peers to talk about how much pressure they face nowadays; they struggle with balancing a social life with employment and internships and beauty standards. It feels like we’re constantly being invalidated and expected to act a certain way. Keep up with trends! Don’t be weird! Make sure you know what you want to do with your life by 18 years old or you’ll be a failure! It’s almost as if we’re thrown into adulthood, but then scolded if we try to take too much responsibility. When I try to explain to parents where my stress is coming from, they simply don’t get it. They don’t understand why I feel so passionately about things and why the pressure to be perfect is so evident. Didn’t they too feel like failures when they couldn’t get the internship that would look amazing on their resumes? Oh wait. Probably not. They also probably didn’t experience the same pressure to like the “right” type of movies or music or celebrities. On top of that, almost everything we say is dissected and misconstrued these days. It’s like we’re walking on eggshells.
But I think it’s important to note how much more accepting we are of people’s differences. Sure, that might sound contradicting but I mean this on a racial and gender scale. Women are being empowered in ways that would’ve been frowned upon 20 years ago. Slowly but surely, people of color are being more appropriately represented in film and television. We have a long way to go but we shouldn’t ignore the milestones we’ve reached. Full equality doesn’t seem that far away anymore. We have a black president. Viola Davis made history when she became the first black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series. Marriage equality is now a reality in all 50 states. What makes us different is alienating us a lot less now and being celebrated a lot more. Millennials are fighting WITH each other rather than AGAINST each other.
When you take everything I just said into consideration, it’s kind of hard to say who has it “easier”. As Kanye West once tweeted, “No matter what level you’re at in life there is still a struggle”. We millennials have so much to appreciate in the world today, but older generations need to recognize how hard we work to build a brighter future for generations to come. Call us materialistic, call us spoiled. But one thing is for sure: we are revolutionary.
Diane Cardoso is a writer who enjoys pug puppies and long walks through New York City. If she’s not working on a screenplay, you can find her at the August Wilson Theatre watching her favorite Broadway show.