I like the generation so many others complain about. It helps that my son is one, and embodies the ideals, aspirations, and idiosyncrasies, so I get a front row seat. (Full disclosure, he is living with again…at age 25). Also, at least half of the clients in my therapy practice are Millennials. So I find myself a go-between them and “the world.” And I just plain like them. They are smart and funny and refreshing.
You might expect this to say, “They are our future,” but I’m not a Captain Obvious. Of course they are. And like so many before them, older generations look at them with scorn and worry. Because, hey, we’ve done such a good job with our safe keeping of the world, right?
Millennials have the most intriguing mix of fatalism and social justice optimism. And that extends globally, not just locally. The fatalism may appear to other generations as cynicism, and a mix of anger and what seems like apathy. And many are fatalistic about trusting anyone in leadership, and current systems, but they are determined to make change when and how they can. None of this is as foreign from some past generations as you might think.
People in America from the 1920’s would recognize the desire to live life to its fullest following a global war. People around the world in the 1940’s should recognize the fear of war and its destruction, and the ebullience about a new economy and opportunities. Those of us from the 1960’s and 1970’s who wanted systemic change and an end to war should be able to find common ground with this most intriguing generation.
The saber rattling of nations with nuclear weapons has made another world war more likely, especially with unhinged leaders around the world and in America. The only viable threat of nuclear annihilation in the 1960’s and 70’s was from Russia. And though we hid under our desks at school from atomic bombs, (seriously, that was our safety plan), we didn’t hear about it on countless social media outlets day in and day out.
Many millennials, like the aforementioned generations, believe these are the worst of times and the best of times. Technology and the resultant instant communication with their peers around the world, plus growing acceptance of and access to entrepreneurship and acceptance of different identities and faiths contribute to it being the best of times. Angst about countries constantly at war, or teetering on on the edge of war and nuclear holocaust, plus the global swing to the right and isolationism contributes to their fatalism and their belief that it is the worst of times.
In the midst of these beliefs, many of them also have a strong sense of social justice. They put themselves on the front lines in the fight for equality, freedom, social justice and civil rights. They accept the gender, sexual identity, and preferences of their peers in ways not seen before. They have friends from all ethnic backgrounds.
Many vote, while others of their generation do not. Both struggle with what actually makes a difference in their country and the world. In the 2018 midterm election in Texas, Millenial votes increased by 508% over the presidential election. This is historic, and bodes well for the future
They want to develop financial freedom because they see that corporations are not loyal to employees, so they don’t feel loyalty to corporations. They look for creative alternatives to making a living while being true to themselves and their beliefs. Many from the 1960’s and 70’s had similar concerns and a sense of rebelling against the status quo. However, most from that generation gave up their ideals and committed to corporations that laid them off after a lifetime of service. They lost pensions and security. Millennials witnessed that, and don’t want it for themselves. Whereas the older generation became entrepreneurs by default, millennials are becoming entrepreneurs as a first choice. That is my son’s plan, and I support him in it. He lives with me to save money on his journey to entrepreneurship. (Plus, he promises to take care of me in my older age. That helps).
My hope for this group I like so much is that, as they age, they maintain their particular provocative brand of optimism mixed with realism. That they don’t sell out. That they incorporate their demand for social justice and equality and freedom into their deeper psyche, so they don’t lose track of what really matters. That they usher in an age of dynamic entrepreneurship.That they continue to use technology to communicate with their peers around the world in ways that develop understanding, connection, and hey, maybe even world peace. And that as the following generations come of age, that Milennials reach out to listen to and understand them, and offer guidance with that awareness, just as we should be doing for them now.