The “M” Word

Yesterday I attended an informational session about an internship opportunity abroad. The man orating the meeting was primarily there to urge us all to apply to the selection process for the prestigious internship. But in the hour that I spent in the meeting, I felt I only endured a few moments of information.

“You’ll never be professional if you pull out the one thing you can’t live without…” The man snagged a student’s iPhone from the table top and gave it an imperious wave overhead.

“The opportunity we present to you is an honor. You’ll ruin your chances by fangirling and taking Snapchats in my office.”

I left the session a little fuzzy after hearing the “M” word tossed at me a handful of times. Typically someone knows when they are being talked down to, but my realization happened a few hours later when I mulled over the man’s careless word choice.

The “M” word I’m referring to here is millennial. I haven’t shied away from the use of the word on this blog– in fact I largely and very clearly incorporate the millennial perspective into all my discussions. “Millennial” is not a dirty word. A generational title will never be censored or banned from dinner table language. But now more than ever I hear a pointed tone in its usage. “Millennial” may not be a swear word, but in many cases, it is used in derogation.

SnowflakesSocial Justice Warriors. Seeking Handouts. All synonymous to older generations with millennials. Even outside of ultra-conservative circles, I still feel a pressing judgement from Gen-X adults who are quick to label handfuls of young people. The inconsistencies between youth and adult mind frames have existed ever since people had parents. But extending beyond misunderstandings, the harsh labeling of the millennial generation takes on its own narrative. The state of “millennial” is deeply political– it’s an identity that bars us to a strange social structure.

Often the reputation of the millennial proceeds itself. As someone who is breaking out of their teen years, young womanhood proves itself as relentless and challenging as it was hyped to be. However, the added layer of “millennial” seems to compartmentalize my maturing even further. Automatically millennials are assumed to be misguided by technology and cultural change. I constantly feel that in school, family life and the working world I must convince others that I have broken from a mold I can’t even describe.

On the other hand, there are millennials who are sorely convinced they are unlike their generation. I have come across dozens of millennials who “hate millennials” and claim we are the worst generation. These individuals often praise what used to be and shame the conventions of today. Typically speaking, these individuals can be spotted getting congratulated by their traditionalist family members when voicing their opinion.

The voices of the anti-millennials are, in a word, discouraging. But to the tune of a delightful irony, their voices are perpetuated through millennial conventions like Facebook, Youtube and other social media. I scroll past anti-millennial sentiments dozens of times a day. While these young people explain (often extensively) why millennial culture is harmful, they are partaking in a larger millennial dialogue.

Values are not lost. Work ethic is not obsolete. Moral individuals exist. Believe me. The anti-millennial sentiment considers itself subversive and grounded. But in reality, it is just noise. Contrived individualism does not earn anyone cookies. Denying an entire generation of legitimacy does not make you special, it makes you bothered. And bothered individuals do not produce positive change. Passionate and driven individuals do. The world we live in today is a product of progressivism from the many plains of society. Equality, tolerance and unconventionality should not drive other generations to negativity.

All things considered, being a millennial is confusing on all platforms. Once we conquer older generations’ disdain, thriving amongst ourselves becomes a new challenge. The internet, and the culture that it harvests, consistently takes on a life of its own. Adhering to brand new social courtesies is a practice to be learned. “PC culture” is a qualm among older generations.  Admittedly, being raised one way and living another is conflicting. Monitoring yourself for the sake of culture can lead to some self doubt. It’s okay to recognize that.

Some of the best millennial advice I ever received is this: no one is born an activist. I don’t have a legal responsibility to speak on the behalf of all races, genders, sexualities, religions, ethnicities, nationalities, disabilities, socio-economic statuses and backgrounds in-between. I can, however, take it upon myself to respect all identities. Searching for injustice and problematic subject matter in all content makes for a pessimistic demeanor. When in doubt, removing oneself from intense cultural conversation is a good mental break from the ongoing generational experience. Never take yourself– or your millennial identity– too seriously.

After all, we’re millennials. We make killer careers out of makeup tutorials and Ebay accounts. Today, anyone can be anything. Understanding this ideal at its base level puts us at an advantage to embrace one another. Basic human respect is free and easy. Unconventionality is a paramount quality of the millennial generation. Rather than denying our differences, we capitalize on them. We stand and unite by them. Approximately 3 million of us march across the nation to defend them.

The point of this life is to live it fully and the way you want. This is something, if not the one thing, this generation has figured out.