The Midlife Millennial

Millennials get a lot of crap.

If you believed everything you read, they’re lazy, entitled, beard-growing, ping-pong playing, little snots with their heads in the clouds.

This may be true.

But it’s just so easy to slam a whole generation (the biggest generation) of young people simply because they are, well, young!

Many of the criticisms ring true: “When I was their age . . . .”

What?

When you were their age what? The world looked different? You hated your parents and couldn’t wait to get out on your own? The job market for college-educated young adults was wide open and hungry for your expertise? You wore flannel because it was “comfortable” not “cool?”

Yes, this is all true.

But it is also true that this generation is one of the most idealistic, the most willing to reject all the trappings that we (Gen-Xers, Boomers) worked so hard to attain–fancy houses, fancy cars, money tucked carefully away in “safe” mutual funds, unhappy marriages, and yes, lazy, entitled, beard-growing, ping-pong playing, children!

My millennial daughter tells me she doesn’t want any of it. Not the house, not the car, and definitely not the kids! She’s very clear about it.

This hurts our 1980s feelings.

What do you mean you don’t want this stuff? It’s what we’ve busted our asses for all these years. It’s the holy grail, dammit!

Or is it?

More and more, I’m beginning to think that we’ve got it all wrong.

I want to be a midlife millennial.

I’m tired of all the hustling and doing of my Gen-X brethren. Sure we’re goal-oriented and get s*** done, but we’ve also lost the plot when it comes to work-life balance and self-care. Sometimes my (millennial) kids look at me whirring about the house, as they recline on the couches (okay, so maybe they are a little lazy), as if to say, “What up, lady? Chill.” And they’re right. I have become so accustomed to speed and “fitting one more thing in,” that I have (literally) forgotten how to be still.

(Hold on while I add this to my to-do list: Must. Be. Still.)

Millennials are also plugged into the environment and are one of the most inclusive generations in human time. I like that. The Boomers may have set the ball rolling with their activism and protest, but Millennials are possibly the most connected to diversity in a real (and lived) way. It’s neither hot and heavy as it is with the Boomers, nor is it perfunctory, as with the Gen-Xers. It’s much more organic, as if their awareness and activism is part of who they are.

It’s like they’re hippies. With 21st century skills.

They can create a mobile app AND grow rhubarb in their cooperative garden.

I want some of that!

I want to be able to stand firm in my values AND have the confidence to know that good things will come my way all the same.

I want to call myself a “creative” even if the only thing I have actually made is this stupid blog.

I want to be able to learn any time and all the time. Because Internet.

My friend’s son taught himself 3D modeling with nothing more than Youtube videos, his mom’s old desktop, and three terabytes of hard drive.

I want that. Don’t you?

Why would we slam a whole generation of idealistic, earnest young men and women simply because they live at home. And eat our food. And wake up at midday to stand in front of the refrigerator.

We want that, too.

We raised our kids to live at home or at least to return home because we told them (even if in not as many words) the world is your oyster . . . but in the meantime, your bedroom is made up if you want it.

Oh, and go to college because that is your ticket to the universe. Never mind that there are no jobs out there.

Wait, that’s not exactly true.

Unemployment for college grads 25 and over is at 2.5%. That’s actually not bad. (Then what the heck are they doing in my house???)

But I digress.

What I really want to say is that the millennials have got a lot of it right.

We should stand up for what we believe and what we want and not just let the culture and it’s expectations define our lives.

We should expect to be compensated appropriately for our work and not just have to “pay our dues” with free internships that go nowhere.

We should value transparency and flexibility in our workplace because 9:00 to 5:00 is just some arbitrary bullshit. Like the clocks changing.

We should want to feel connected, even when those connections are fostered online.

We should be global citizens. If the last twenty years has taught us anything it’s that we’re all in this together.

We should view hierarchies with suspicion. Look at where they’ve gotten us?

We should imagine a new and different way of living. Because this is what every generation before us has done.

So all you nay-sayers, put away your walking sticks, and take a moment to marvel.

This is what we have created!

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