Confession time: Today Emily and I were at H-E-B getting our groceries for the week and, upon seeing this magazine on the rack, I began to rant and rave to her like a mad man.
I’ve realized recently how much of a pet peeve this sort of thing is for me. You probably know the story. People in Em’s and my generation (known as “Millennials”) are self-absorbed brats who think the world owes us everything, while at the same time are some of the most lazy members of society, unable to secure employment or make it without our parents doing everything for us, include putting us up for a place to stay, but at the same time, hey! they know their way around this darned confusing internet thing, so they will save us all! This is the typical thing you’d hear from some political pundit whose guest today is an older fortune-500 owner who is just so shocked at how unprofessional all these recent college grads are and he just can’t hire any of them so it’s really hard to run his business and such.
But I recently read an article which pointed out that every generation has been called the “Me” generation by some magazine. Just google image search for “the Me generation” and you’ll find gems like this one:
Or this one from even further back…
So here’s my question: Is my generation really the “Me” generation or is the older generation just bitter about being called the “Me” generation? It’s what you would call “agism” and the it never goes away because we never stay the same age. So my generation will probably grow old and do the same thing. But isn’t it a sad and unfounded accusation?
First of all, any educator who has taken a course in human growth and development will tell you that humans are neurologically hardwired toward selfishness for the first two decades of their lives. The section of our brains that governs our ability to make reasonable, others-aware decisions is actually still not fully developed until age 21. So most of what our generation is accused of is actually just developmentally appropriate behavior. Granted just because a 4-year-old isn’t hardwired to share doesn’t mean you don’t bother to teach her to share. We should still teach right values to all generations and hold them accountable, but you don’t tell a toddler that she’s not a generous person just because she acts like a toddler.
Secondly, are these accusations of entitlement necessarily the Millennials fault? Yes, I understand that a large portion of young people still live with their parents, but maybe that’s because they can’t get a job. It puts me beside myself when I see wealthy business owners on TV talking about how Millennials are lazy because they live in their mom’s basement, and then (in the same breath!) proudly declare that they refuse to hire any recent college grad. My question to you, Mr. Suit-Man, is how did you get to where you are today? Was it because you graduated college and were just immediately ready to run a fortune-500? Or is there a possibility that someone gave you a chance? My guess is that someone offered you a job knowing that no ideal employee becomes ideal without experience and mentorship.
Lastly, even if this generation is entitled, what are you going to do about it? Part of the professional world is older professionals getting down and dirty in mentorship. By sitting back and complaining about young people, aren’t you being just as entitled as them? Expecting that the world owes you a fully competent employee?
In closing, I guess you would consider me an exception to the rule. I am in my mid-20s, have a solid marriage, am financially independent, have a masters degree and a few years experience in my field, live a simple lifestyle, and am not in debt. It wasn’t easy. I had to fight to find a job. Say no to my parents offering me money, when I could’ve really used it. But I didn’t get to where I am today because older men accused me of being lazy. I got here because they believed in me. I got here because older men put their arm around my neck and looked past all my youthful inconsistencies. I’m here because they looked me in the eyes and said, “You can change the world. You have what it takes. It’ll be hard work, but I believe in you.” I’m here because those people were the “Them” generation. The truth of it all is that every generation will have those who are “Me,” and those who are “Them.” Yes, a lot people my age do have entitlement issues. But sadly, there seems to be fewer and fewer of those older mentor types who are willing to stick it out with us. I’m one of the lucky ones. So, you can call me the “Me” generation all you want, but I tell you I am part of Generation “Them,” which transcends age. I will go to work Monday morning and look into the eyes of my 7-year-old students and say “You have what it takes,” and some day when my peers call my son lazy and entitled, I will say to him “You are the hardest worker I know, buddy. You are the toughest man I know and you will change the world.”