It seems that lately I’ve heard a lot of criticism of my generation. It usually goes something like this: We’re lazy. We’re entitled. (Or we think we’re entitled.) We have no patience. We can’t get our hands off of our smart phones. We’re too sexually promiscuous. We don’t know how to dress appropriately. And the list goes on and on. Frankly, I’m tired of it. May I be so bold as to say that such criticisms offend me on two levels: on a personal level because I know these criticisms cannot be fairly applied to me & on a more general level because I know that these criticisms also cannot be fairly applied to the majority of my generation? In light of that, perhaps I should just shrug off this negativity & forget it. And usually that is what I do. But this is a subject that’s been brewing in my mind for quite some time now. I don’t know that I’ve really thought of it explicitly as a potential blog topic, but it’s just an idea that’s been running through my head for a while now. As I was driving to my flute group practice today, I started composing this blog post in my mind. I got to practice & all I could think about was “I’ve got to get home & start writing before I forget this!” If you’re a fellow writer, I’m sure you know exactly how this feels. So here we go. Here’s my response to all those nay-sayers who say my generation is going to hell in a hand-basket or running the world into the ground or whatever else.
I’m proud of my generation. To be fair, I’m not sure exactly how to define the term “my generation” but generally I think of anyone who is now about 20-30 as within my generation (that’s anyone within five years older than me & five years younger than me). To me we are the last generation to grow up without computers as a mainstay of our lives from birth, yet we are one of the first generations to be well versed in computers, ipods, & other such technology as teenagers & young adults. I see my generation, especially those of us from rural areas where high-speed internet access is still far from universal, as straddling the gap between those who had to learn computers & other such technology as adults & those who grew up with it from day one. Now on to the meat of the piece: the reasons why I’m proud of my generation.
1. I’m proud of my generation because of our acceptance of those who are different from us. A great example of this is how common interracial relationships & marriages are in our generation. Especially in a multi-cultural city like Raleigh, it’s very common for me to see couples at the mall or other public places who are composed of everything from a white man and a black woman to an Asian woman and a white man to any other combination you can think of. And most of them are from my generation. As much as I often rail against the mainstream media, take a glance at modern-day ads or TV (much of which is aimed at my generation) & you’ll quickly see that mixed race models & actors are all the rage (& fairly so, for many of them are drop-dead gorgeous.) [Think Jennifer Lopez, Shemar Moore, etc.] While older generations still can’t seem to grasp this concept, my generation has realized that all relationships are made up of people with different backgrounds & points of view & thus an interracial or inter-cultural relationship really isn’t that different than any other relationship. To put this in simple terms consider that I as a white American female probably have more in common with your average black American male than with a white man from another culture, say Eastern Europe. And yet I know there are plenty of folks from older generations who would much prefer to see me dating a white Eastern European guy than a black American guy . . . If you think that people aren’t capable of overcoming cultural differences to establish & maintain a relationship, then you have far too low an opinion of humanity. Consider that perhaps the greatest challenge for those in inter-racial relationships is actually dealing with the REACTIONS of those around them, rather than some inherent challenge found in dating someone of another race. Hmmm . . .
To follow in the same vein, I am proud of my generation for how many of us support equal rights, including marriage, for gays and lesbians. Not everyone of my generation agrees with this obviously, but I daresay a greater percentage of people from our generation are in favor of gay rights/marriage than from any other generation. This isn’t meant to be a post about gay rights, but it does warm my heart to see how even those of us from conservative religious backgrounds (such as myself) are questioning some of the things we were taught growing up & realizing that gay rights are a cause we can’t help but support.
2. I’m also proud of my generation for being adept at using technology & handling change. As a generation who grew up with massive change in technology both at home & in school, we are thus adept at handling new technology in the workplace, even though we’re often fully aware that whatever technology we’re now embracing will probably soon be replaced by something newer & better. Consider that just between elementary & high school we went from using floppy discs to flashdrives, from cassette tapes to CDs, & from VHS to DVDs. Thus, we are both swift to learn how to use technology and how to teach others to use it. Instead of fearing change, we are often the employees who push for change because we are able to see how it can benefit us. Is it true that some of us spend entirely too much time on our smart phones & seem barely capable of holding a real conversation? Yes, but I truly believe this isn’t the norm. I have tons of friends & coworkers of my generation who are fully capable of carrying on in-depth conversations with people of our own & other generations. But we also know how to use our smart phones to help us navigate a new city or find the closest WalMart or CVS. Really, how can you say that’s such a bad thing?
3. Yet another reason I’m proud of my generation is for our critical thinking skills. Gone are the days when people believe anything someone says just because they said it. No, we are the generation raised on science & because of that you can’t just expect us to follow you hook, line, & sinker without a lot of good facts to back up whatever is you’re trying to “sell” us. These are the days of Google & you better believe that when we’re shopping for a new car, we’ve already looked up the Kelly Bluebook value online, not to mention user reviews from previous buyers. Basically, it’s a lot harder to “snow” us. If we’re interested in religion or philosophy, you better believe we won’t be satisfied with simple answers to complicated questions. And you better believe we will never stop asking questions & we’ll have no problem leaving behind anyone who tells us our questions are inappropriate or unnecessary.
4. I’m proud of my generation for working hard often with little reward. We are the generation who were raised to be believe we could be anything & that any college degree, no matter how obscure, would land us a well-paying job for the rest of our lives. The more insightful of us realized this was always a bit of a fallacy, but many of us believed it because for prior generations it was largely true. However, right around the time we were graduating from college is when the economy crashed & suddenly many of us were left with mountains of debt & useless degrees. Suddenly we are competing for the same jobs as our counterparts with “mere” high school diplomas. Because of our school loans, many of us are having to live at home with our parents or put off marriage & family plans. Many of us are waking up to the sad reality that we may never be as well-off as our parents. And that Social Security won’t exist for our generation (because the program is already financially teetering on the edge of disaster) even though we will pay into it for the rest of our lives. (While much of this is not true for me as a nurse, I do see it all around me in my generation.) Despite all of these obstacles, I see many folks of my generation creating successful careers whether they be in healthcare, teaching, advertising, network marketing, photography, etc. For example three of my favorite photography blogs are run by women who are all under 30. In fact I’m quite sure the eldest of them is 27 or 28 & they are all very successful. Even though we’re facing obstacles we may not have realized would exist, we are rising to the challenge & eventually employers are going to realize what a valuable resource we are.
5. I’m proud of my generation for leaving gender stereotypes in the dust. I’m proud of us for realizing that men & women can share the housework, that not everything has to be written in stone as “the woman’s job” or “the man’s job.” Yet I’m also proud of us for realizing that being a stay-at-home mom is just as legitimate & rewarding of a choice as having a high-powered career. And that stay-at-home dads are a legitimate choice too. Women can be doctors & lawyers, men can be nurses & teachers. Basically we can do all whatever we want.
I could go on & on but for the sake of brevity (HAHA, I know I am pretty much incapable of ever writing anything brief!), I’ll end with this.
6. Perhaps more than anything, I’m proud of my generation for realizing the one thing that I think older generations largely could not grasp: that what’s right for some of us isn’t right for others of us, that there is no ONE right path for everyone, & that the greatest thing we can achieve in life is just to be happy & chase our dreams.
I realize this post would be “better” if I had addressed each of the criticisms I listed at the beginning, but I wanted to list the reasons for which I’m most proud of my generation, not just provide arguments against vague criticisms, some of which are a bit superficial anyway.
Before you say that this post is trashing older generations let me be clear & say that I have nothing but respect for older generations. (For example, I’m one of those nurses who LOVES working with older people.) Obviously older generations taught us a great deal & laid down the groundwork for where we are today. For example, inter-racial marriage wouldn’t even be legal if not for the work of civil rights workers in the 1950’s & 60’s. I’m fully aware that every generation thinks those that come after it are going to hell. It’s just the way the world works. So I will go ahead & ask in advance that when I’m 40 or 50 or 70 or whatever & start railing against my children or grandchildren’s generation, somebody send me the link to this blog post & remind me of how much I hated being criticized when I was young. Please & thank you. 😉