Saturday, July 2, 2016

15 Ways that Millennials are Killing It (In a Good Way)

I haven't been able to avoid the general feeling that 2016 is a pretty heavy year so far. As some funny person on Twitter said, "has anyone tried unplugging this year for 10 seconds and plugging it back in?" I've joined the ranks of doomsday predictors when it comes to American politics. But I can't change the fact that this is the time I live in, and I do have the opportunity to find the advantages to that. When things get harder, the treasure hunt is more rewarding, you feel me?

 (not everything is amazing, but sometimes we lose sight of the fact that a lot of stuff is)

I understand why people might deduce, from a steady diet of Beiber and Miley and the Jenners, that millennials are lazy, self absorbed, and whatever else people think of us. But I would love it if people stopped painting an entire generation with such a broad brush. As my dad said the other day, how would Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers feel if kids were always coming up to them and saying stuff like, "woah, you have a phone? I thought you were too old and dumb to know how to use that". It's rude.

Growing up right now makes plenty of people feel the urge to go into hiding, but it also empowers some of us to be innovative. It would be helpful if millennial-bashers recognized that "innovation", by definition, means that the way we come at the world will be different than the way the past generation (or 2) saw things when they were 25.

We have a lot to overcome, and a lot of it is in need of overcoming thanks to mistakes made by previous generations, so it's pretty frustrating to be told we're trying to fix it "wrong" all the time. Extreme times require extreme ideas, so I don't think we're a particularly gentle or passive bunch. Gun violence and extremism are normal for us. Life is increasingly expensive (except when the USPS dropped stamped prices recently, WUTT?!) and opportunity itself has become expensive. Rampant social inequality is normal, as is extreme weather. It feels disheartening much of the time.

If anything, I have a respect complex where I think older people are right-er than me by virtue of age alone, but today I've gotta say, if you can't help, just stop hindering. Apologies if quoting Bob Dylan is a massive cliche, but I just can't believe how relevant this song feels right now (all the verses!).

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

I watched this amazing talk by Adam Conover a while back, and if you want to understand the Millennial world (he even addresses that awful TIME article from 2013 that I also ranted about a few years ago), please watch it. The main take away is that Millennials don't exist. I exist, you exist, but "Millennial" is just a label slapped on to a vague bracket of years. I get it, we want to put labels on stuff. I love labeling stuff (especially with that little machine that makes stickers). It helps us divide up our lives and it's EASIER than not labeling stuff. But not at the cost of dehumanizing people who will eventually control your future. Shouldn't we be encouraging our rising leaders instead of trying to crush them at every turn? Even so, I'm going to continue using the label to point out positives if others insist on using it negatively.

I'm especially tired of hearing millennials be the subject of cautionary tales from the pulpit. Way to engage "the godless generation".... A big reason that millennials aren't particularly engaged in the Church is that the Church feels largely irrelevant to the issues we're facing. Jesus is by no means irrelevant, but the Church has lost touch in many ways, and if millennials are anything, they're very sensitive to what matters and passionate about what is real. I would like to clarify, in the words of Pope Francis, "The Church must say it is sorry for not having behaved as it should many times — when I say 'the Church,' I mean we Christians because the Church is holy; we are the sinners."

Technically, the window for Millennials has closed. Kids being born today are a part of a new label. I'm pretty squarely in the middle of the Millennials, but I'm less and less sure that I have my finger on the pulse of the main things that characterize what's hip and "now". Even so, I decided to make a list of all things that millennials do better or things I love about being in my mid-20s in this era.

Resourcefulness. Gardens on rooftops and bee farms in the middle of cities, apps that let you buy dinner from a good cook in your building, platforms for buying and selling secondhand clothing, building houses out of shipping containers. Uncertain economic times aren't always comfy, but they do make for a sturdy generation of people.

The comeback of Radio. Radio has had a major revival in the past 5 years. I largely equate radio with podcasts, but NPR is still going strong on the actual radio too. There's been a lot of innovation with the return of live drama on the radio like We Are Alive, in depth investigation on the radio like Serial, and public story telling like the Moth or This American Life. The quality of the information is often superior to news on TV, and you can access it almost anywhere in the country with the simplest of technology. I love the fact that being on the radio is a dream job for some people again.

A new brand of missionary. This one is obviously specific to believers and I don't have a great sense of all the facets of it, but I do know more and more people who are missionaries in a very different sense than missionaries of the past century. I think the idea that we're all missionaries no matter where we are is growing, and young Americans who are believers see the US as their mission field just as much as a foreign country. Missions seems less focused on Westernization and more focused on serving. I'm sure that is somewhat unfair to previous generations who did wonderful things for missions, but I feel much more attuned to wherever this new kind of missions work is headed.

Vintage revival. There's a Death Cab for Cutie song that starts, "she may be young, but she only likes old things". I don't know if it's just because I deal in vintage, but there seems to be this yearning for old stuff these days, partly because it seemed like a more honest time of manufacturing in both labor (in some regards) and product value. I think it's wonderful to recycle and cherish old things instead of consuming more new things. Nostalgia is both a respectful nod to the past and a promise to leave a lighter footprint on the future.

The rebellious spirit. I don't think any millennials are comfortable. And that's a good thing for everyone. We are entrepreneurs, questioners, dissenters, and rabble rousers. Some of us (so far not me) are willing to leave our homes and get in the street for causes we care about. I actually think we're a very compassionate generation, and it makes us a little volatile. Social media allows us to wear our hearts on our sleeve, and plenty of us do. Sure, we say some stupid stuff online, but at least we're not afraid to have conversations that matter with anyone who is willing to listen.

Long live print. They said print was dead, but millennials love nothing better than proving the Man wrong. There has been a resurgence of niche print publications, and many of them thrive! I mean, they cost like $17 an issue (not exaggerating) but people buy them, because the content is valuable and the pages feel wonderful and the photos are taken with love and careful attention. It's so nice to have that sort of media in a world of clanging symbols and gongs and immediate access to gossip and horror online.

Appreciation of food, nature, gardening, ruggedness, etc. This might be related the DIY movement? I'm pretty bad at DIY stuff when it comes to crafts or building stuff, but I am proud to have lots of hobbies that I'm good at. I can cook my own food, I can grow my own plants, I can identify a lot of plants in the wild, etc. Some of the millennial love for food, yoga, and homesteading borders on idolization, but I think the roots of this movement are solid. Food IS beautiful and I love to see it treated as artwork and elevated beyond a basic need. I think millennials are good at celebrating the things we love, and that is an excellent trait.

Community building, online and in person. For all the craptastic people mouthing off on the internet, there are some real winners as well. The internet lets you find people you identify with, no matter where you are in the world or what you're into, and it also puts you in touch with people who may be very different than you that you would never have run across otherwise. Millennials don't have stranger danger, which can go badly sometimes, but for the most part, I think it's a plus. Some of the smartest, coolest people I know are people I met online, and when it comes to parenting, online communities are probably the single greatest resource and confidence booster/teacher I've found. When it comes to in-person community, I think there's this huge trend (out of necessity and desire, both) toward drawing on one another's strengths and helping one another with weaknesses. Don't get me wrong, living with other people is hard, but sharing food, sharing space, and sharing bills stretches and strengthens us in ways that highly independent people don't benefit from.

The strengthening of families. Real families are messy, and they also take a lot of attention to properly nourish. There are a lot of broken families in this world, but I think we're also seeing this resurgence of young people placing a really high priority on the well-being of the family unit. Single parents adopting, stay-at-home dads, involved grandparents, close sibling relationships in adulthood - not all of these things are specific to millennials, but family is very important to us and statistically, we spend more time with our kids than the previous generation. One of my favorite things is the increasingly normalcy of dads caring for children and sharing more of the parenting burdens, whether that means supporting working moms or doing more housework or taking charge of their kid's schedules. It's about time we saw a generation of present, responsible dads. I'm confident that we'll be the generation that makes sure that mothers and fathers get adequate leave after a baby is born and starts treating parents like invaluable members of society instead of burdens.

Celebration of the offbeat. Being funky or different is encouraged (to an extent). Modern times are a nerd paradise. Every imaginable random mash-up of niche interests can come true, like Golden Girls Legos. If it doesn't already exist, you can probably have it custom made. Some people consider the hipster hallmark of glorifying obscurity to be obnoxious, but that's only true if you're snobby about it and get upset if other people try and like the same thing you like. Having bizarre hobbies and then being able to realistically pursue them is awesome.

Efficiency. Millennials don't want to wait for things. There are downsides to this trait, of course, with patience being a virtue and all, but think of all the apps and services that are available now that allow us to cut down on time doing mundane stuff so that we have more time to do important stuff. And by important stuff, I largely mean things like investing in relationships or recreation. I think we get caught up in busyness easily, but we also have the option to optimize our time spent on responsibilities such that we have time to relax and enjoy the things around us. Multi-tasking is so easy to do well these days - we can talk to friends or listen to books or the news while we drive or cook or clean. We can remote control our sprinklers and our door locks and every other imaginable thing. I'm just waiting for this trait to take care of traffic in LA...

Crowd Sourcing. I'm not very confident about Democracy anymore, but I do believe in crowd sourcing. We already have amazing opportunities to pay producers of goods or services directly for what we want or what we would like them to invent. I love the hive-mentality of millennials and the idea that if you don't have what you need, someone else does and you need only ask for it. Kickstarter and Fiverr come to mind, but can you imagine how it would be if we could crowd source politics? On the one hand, terrifying, because Donald Trump. On the other hand, we could prioritize our social programs by choosing where our taxes went. Don't like how much the military spends destroying other countries but wish your kid's school had art classes or the road to work wasn't full of potholes? Pay the same percentage of taxes, but make it go to places that you care about.

We are really funny. I love to laugh, and laughs are always available in this day and age. Granted, there are plenty of bad jokes or jokes made too soon in situations that are serious, but good humor helps us see the absurdity of life in the midst of challenges and it's good at pointing out truths or half-truths that we may not be able to see on our own. It's a pretty non-threatening way to challenge social inequality and other genuinely sad and wrong parts of life. I think that joking is more a part of American identity than we realize, and it fascinates me to note the differences or lack of humor in some other cultures.

(we found this especially funny after a recent possum sighting in our yard)

Long-distance education. We have access to pretty much any knowledge from anywhere in the world. I love a face-to-face classroom, but it hasn't really been a practical in my life thus far. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to study at night from home. Like I said, there are some parts of in-person school that I think can't be replaced, but online education is relatively affordable and easy access to education can only be a good thing for all of us. It drives me crazy as much as I love it, knowing that I don't know the half of what is available to me. There are vast libraries accessible online, free lectures from Ivy League schools, archives of many magazines and newspapers, TED Talks for day, etc. etc. Also, Youtube, which I have barely utilized so far and my cousin's employer, Again, I don't really know how to use it yet, but just knowing that I have access to most of humanity's knowledge is pretty fantastic. It almost takes the sting out of losing the Library of Alexandria. Almost. Just wait until we hook up virtual reality with education.

Excellent TV. Movies have been alright, but we are in a golden age of Television right now. There is way, way more quality story-telling going on than I have time to consume, and I assume the same is true for everyone else. There's something for everyone on right now, and it's very easy to access. I think there are still improvements to be made in TV culture, but diversity and experimentation and boundary pushing is gaining a toehold and I think it enriches our lives, honestly. I view television and movies as the modern equivalent of sitting around the fire handing down legends way back in the day. Think about it: TV is something that we can all talk about together and we get to live through all of these characters vicariously. Good TV makes us question aspects of ourselves and I find that a well-told story (in this case, a visual one) transports me into this whole other universe and has the power to shift my emotional state. It makes me excited to have the ability to manipulate words and tell stories because it's the power to change minds and hearts in a way that we're open to. Stories are harmless on the surface, but they very much weave themselves into our cultural fabric. Some of my favorite shows recently: Peaky Blinders, Newsroom, Orange is the New Black, Hannibal, Parts Unknown, Mind of a Chef, Call the Midwife, Master of None. Shows I'd really like to watch: [the new] Roots, Vinyl, Masters of Sex, the Knick, Penny Dreadful, the forthcoming Baz Luhrman show that's a take on West Side Story (!!!), and loads of others.

Bonus points: Our Pope is more legit. What an unexpected breath of fresh of air.

Are you a Millennial? A parent of a Millennial? A Millennial with children who are also Millennials? Tell me, what are the advantages that you see? 

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