I am a typical representative of Generation Y in the Western world. I was born during a deep recession but grew up to be a well-off, middle class kid, better educated than my parents. I’m a white girl, ironically reading intersectional feminist literature yet not really having any idea of what it is to fight for your rights. I’ve lost my religion, I’ve learned everything on the internet. I criticize consumerism and private car owning yet fly around the globe and buy avocados imported from thousands of miles away.
I belong to a generation that makes a photo before touching its meal. We see the world and our own visage through the screens of our phones. We puzzle if the falling tree makes a sound has it no ears witnessing the tumble, and if the holiday trip happened had it not been posted on social media. Silently we admit that partly the joy of doing things is to show it to others and earn some online admiration.
We have a problem with the infinite catalogue of ideals and its carefully selected perfect images made with airbrush and filters. We compare our troughs to other people’s highlights: home alone in post break-up decadence scrolling down honeymoon pictures. Following often leads getting lost. For many of us it causes constant struggle to remember that we can be loved despite our flaws, even though fellow girls on Instagram have white teeth and porcelain skin, thigh gaps and other features labeled #goals.
I have all the time in the world to ponder on things like this. I, Millennial, like to say I’m busy af with my life but still do have time for constant self-reflection. We read self-help. We hire personal trainers. We brand ourselves.
We put a high value on freedom and individualism. We know we are the most important persons of our own lives and act accordingly. We let our societies grow old and they pressure us to breed. We, instead, enjoy the hedonism, the independence of place and office hours, we want to take the privilege of being a better-off to an optional destination, broadening our world view with other Peter Pans under the palm tree.
From time to time we maybe long for something that is not revolving around us. We might not have faith in gods but at the same time crave for something that is above the everyday hassle, that there would be deeper meanings, bigger things. We tend to pick up the elements of spirituality that appeal to us, to pursue something that meets our self-created word view.
We have other values as well but sometimes they apply only as long as it’s pleasant for us. We want to consume green and clean. We’ve grown up with inconvenient truths, we know that there are limits to growth, and we like the clear conscience. We demand organic and fair trade, call for the ethical responsibility of multinational organizations, yet are happily ignorant where the coke we snore from the toilet tile origins from.
Rapid life is the only we know. We do as much as possible, we multitask and are reachable 24/7. Those are the virtues of our time. We get our fast food delivered at door and order someone from Tinder to knock our door, too.
We suffer from the speed and look for peace. We try to heal our exhausted bodies with superfoods. We dream of a soulmate and a real connection, the idea of true love learned from Disney films we grew up with. We throw everything away because a pink book told us emptier houses will make us happy, and buy the same things later again when we after all need that stuff that doesn’t “spark joy”. We meditate not really knowing what it is, we practice to shut up and breath on our yoga mats. We burnout and downshift, later making it into a story of going to extreme limits before understanding what really is important in life.
What is it then, important?
The time we live in is said to be post-normal, characterized by chaos, complexity and contradictions. There is uncertainty that we can’t control, a constant oversupply of choices and information overload that exceed our mental and cognitive capacity. Managing the fast-paced everyday life and the unmanageable requires different kind of skills than earlier.
The older generations that raised us may say we are snowflakes, less resilient than them, fragile as strawberries. We are blamed to be self-centered and ungrateful for the wealth we have around us. What they usually don’t stress when talking about us is that, compared to them, research on values has shown that we are also less prejudiced and more likely to accept lifestyles that differ from ours. On many topics we have more sense of convergence rather than divergence. We look the baby boomers vote for making our countries great again while we don’t really understand why the greatness is so important in the first place.
Generation gaps are everlasting. Some other things are timeless as well: the eternal pain and struggle of growing up; the necessity of learning that life is unfair and accepting it all you can do; the realization that you can be more than your parents. Discovering what is important, which often happens the hard way by fucking things up. And finally comprehending that there is no other option than to trust something complete unknown: the future.