Millennial is one of those weird era-specific terms used to mark people born in the 1990s or 1980s, depending on where you demarcate Generation Z and Generation X. Of course, it’s also used as a term to mark those people as entitled, selfish and generally not having any idea of how the world ‘really works.’ You could expect to see one of these millennials working in a Starbucks on a laptop drinking an iced coffee with one shot of caramel syrup.
But as one of these so-called millennials, I’m not entirely sure the word has any meaning.
As I sit here, I’m not sipping any iced coffee. In fact, I don’t even like adding flavored shots to my coffee if I drink it at all. The word itself is just used to discuss one generation of people that many think of as having lots of benefits. And that, in of itself, is not a lie. The world changed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Many of us had access to Internet early in our lives and spent our formative years playing Neopets and learned that social networks like Myspace and Facebook made socializing both easier and harder than real life.
Now that this generation is growing up and reaching their 20s and 30s, we’re finding the world is different. Jobs can be harder to come by, and college debt is something that many of us live with for half of our lives. Living costs are so high that many of us have side hustles, walking dogs or writing on a freelance basis to maintain our standard of living.
And so, the millennial struggle as I like to put it is figuring out what the new normal is.
We can’t really base our life expectations on what our parents had in their lives because things have changed too much. The way of the world is shifting to something completely new, where automation and technology are altering our everyday lives. Graduation speeches, whether from high school, college or doctorate programs advise you to follow your passion. But is it really possible to do just that? Is it fiscally possible for you to just have one job and live in an amazing apartment alone like Carrie in Sex and the City? Can you really maintain the lifestyle of characters from the TV show Friends? At least in cities like New York and San Francisco, the answer is definitely no.
And if that is the case — how then do we define what is average? Is sharing an apartment with three other people barely making rent and eating frozen meal every night normal? Or is it normal to just move out to the suburbs and work crazy long hours to live in a nice townhouse?
The struggle is about finding balance.
When all is said and done, we millennials have to do what our parents and their parents did before them — find a balance. You have to determine yourself what constitutes a healthy work-life balance and find out what kind of work fulfils you. The average person today holds 12–15 jobs in their lifetime. If that means you work 70 hours a week in one, then so be it. Maybe that means leaving the country and discovering who you are elsewhere. Maybe it means working a few part time jobs and pursuing other passions outside of work. Only you will know when you’ve figured out what makes you happy.
Millennial is just another word for the current generation who are still in the process of forming themselves. It’s an insult, an inside joke that spawns constant memes, and in the end — it doesn’t mean anything. We’re all struggling to figure out how we should live our lives, how we should balance our work and play and to what standard we can mark our process along the journey. So one word? It’s just another thing to unfollow.