Millennials and our cursed generation
We have the freedom to do what we love and love when we want. Still, we are sentenced to a lifetime of inevitable frustration.
How do you feel about Millennials? If it envolves admiration and (or) contempt, you are certainly not alone. We Millennials have no patience for useless rules and are constantly questioning the establishment. With unprecedented individual autonomy and no barriers to our dreams, we are bound to be one of the most brilliant, innovative and successful generations in a long time. We are also entitled and self-absoberd, and our lack of commitment to virtually anything also defines us as spoiled and selfish.
So far, nothing new. But when we dive to the essence of what we are, there is more to it. And it is neither good nor bad. It’s not complicated either. If anything, it’s a bit sad. Millennials are cursed by unreachably high expectations.
We have the freedom to do what we love and love when we want. Still, we are sentenced to a lifetime of inevitable frustration. Our idea of work and love is as recent as it is disruptive and as romantic as it is unreal.
The concept of finding self fulfillment and immaculate success at work is very recent. Not long ago, work was more of a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. In the past, jobs were a way to provide financial stability to individuals and their families. The very few who did what they truely loved were the lucky ones. Today, not only is it almost offensive to have jobs that are not directly connected to our very essence, but we also have no tolerance for failure or setbacks — even though they are an inescapable part of the path.
The way our generation is constantly bombarded by stories of people who are so happy with their careers and that don’t consider their jobs actual work (“if you do what you love, you’ll never have to work again”) certainly doesn’t help. We are so dazzled about how great work we can be that we somehow forgot how to distinguish what is ideal and utopian from reality. Thus our ridiculously high expectations.
When it comes to love, the gap of expectations versus reality is even more abismal. The idea of finding our soul-mates is not new, but considering it an essential condition for our romantic relationships certainly is.
We are the generation who realized that the traditional form of romantic relationships (e.g. marriage) might be outdated and just not a good fit for many. But we still have not figured out a suitable alternative. We engage in friendships with benefits, open relationships and other derivations that require low commitment and liquid ties, only to realize they are as flawed as the incumbent model.
Also, the options. So many options. How can we settle if a better version of who we have might be literally a swipe away? Add to that our incessant quest for instant gratification, and you have the recepie for short-lived encounters at best. No strings, no intimacy. The result: We believe there is a soul-mate for each of us just waiting to be found. But the more we search, the more distant it seems to be. How frustrating.
We are like Cristina, from Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Free thinkers at heart, who will not settle until we find what we are looking for. We don’t know exactly what it is we want, but sure know what we don’t. We have an underlying contempt for normal values, without realizing it is sometimes “pretentious, boring, cliché”.
Enough with the badgering. There is a flip side to that, of course.
We suffer from ridiculously high expectations because the pursuit of happiness has never been as genuine and essential as it is for us Millennials — and that is a noble quest.
We can’t accept that work, which spans most of our lives, is something we just tolerate in order to survive. It needs meaning and passion to a certain extent. But there is no such thing as a perfect job, which fulfills every inch of our holy mission on earth.
It is the same with love. Romantic relationships are not as disposable as Millennials consider them to be. There is always room for improvement before rushing into declaring their time of death. But we do need to question the love contract every once in a while, and not be afraid to part if need be.
Conventional wisdom dictates that in order to change things, we first need to swing to the complete (and often unrealistic) opposite to eventually find the sweet spot. That is exactly what we’ve done: We believe happiness is achievable as long as we activelty fight for it, as opposed to just considering it an uncontrollable act of serendipity — even if that comes at the cost of frustration.
Luckily, there might be a simple solution. A way out, so to speak: Just manage our expectations. Keep aiming high, but feel proud — and, why not, happy — about wherever we land.
Of course, it is easier said than done. But for Millennials, who believe anything is possible, it’s worth the shot.
With the kind contribution from the (often heated) discussions with Yoav Susz, Juan Cadavid, Martin Ha, Marcia Hazzan, Paulo Muliterno and Thiago Sak.