published Sunday, August 11th, 2013

A love letter to millennials from an angry Gen X’er

By Mary Fortune

Hey, you know what I do not like? These articles I see everywhere insulting and belittling millennials. Who is writing these articles, anyway? Members of Generation X or maybe even baby boomers must write these articles. Neither of whom have any room to talk. Because we are no bargain, you guys.

Boomers especially. Y’all look awfully comfy to the rest of us, with your Medicare and your Social Security and your pensions. I’m pretty sure I won’t see much of that magical security as I stagger toward the mirage of retirement. And these millennials everyone is so busy calling narcissistic, self-involved, entitled brats? They won’t see it, either — and it’s largely built on their backs.

Granted, millennials aren’t the first generation to land on the receiving end of another’s poor planning. But when Gen X realized how it was all going down, we got kind of surly. We got a little cynical. We got disillusioned and we invented grunge and we went to see “Clerks” (again) and, granted, there are only like nine of us, so we’re easily overwhelmed, but we pretty much just threw up our hands and met behind the gym to sneak a smoke.

Millennials had the bad luck to come up right behind us, all wide-eyed and stunningly numerous in the midst of this underwater, overextended, laid-off, bailed-out, outsourced, globally warmed, dead-end-war-zones mess they’re now left to clean up.

But did they get surly? No, they did not. They got creative. Idealistic. Inclusive. The got entrepreneurial and earnest and OK, yes, they fell pretty deeply in love with themselves and we all had to hear about it on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr or whatever.

But hey, here’s another word for self-involved: Young. They are young, you guys, and we were young, too, and do you know what we were when we were young? We were self-involved. Just a synonym for young. No one writing any of these articles is breaking any new ground by observing that young people are narcissists. Biggest non-story ever.

And you cannot tell me you were not self-involved when you were young. I will not believe you. If you think you were not self-involved when you were young, you’re just old and forgetful — perhaps even deluded.

They’re good kids, you guys. They are. But they are kids.

And I know what chapter of the millennial-bashing narrative comes next: They are so obnoxious, with all this wanting people to be nice to them. They all got trophies for just showing up, and now they want everything handed to them.

Well, there is nothing wrong with expecting people to be nice to you — with hoping they’ll be encouraging and helpful — especially when you’re young. We should be nice to them. And we should not act like it’s some big imposition.

When I was a college student, when I was an intern, when I was a stumbling puppy of a newspaper reporter, so many people were so nice to me and I would have gotten nowhere and accomplished nothing without them. I was clueless and deeply in need of help, and the grown-ups helped me and no one accused me of being an entitled brat for needing help. This is why old people like us exist. We’re supposed to help.

So boomers and Gen X can crow all they want about how they turned out fine even though they got paddled in school, or no one got a prize unless they actually won, or they had parents who were never home or who stood over them and made them practice the violin until their fingers bled. Yeah, we’re all so tough and amazing because we got treated like garbage when we were small and powerless and in need of compassion. Great story.

But you will not convince me that there is any value in making young people feel bad. There is nothing to be gained by withholding praise and guidance and support.

And yes, we should enforce some standards, but those standards should be based on these ideas: Treat others with kindness. Help any time you can, in any way you can. Be useful. Be compassionate. The only time we should come down hard on them is any time they don’t exhibit that behavior.

And we should start by exhibiting that behavior ourselves.

Contact Mary Fortune at thirtytensomething.blogspot.com.

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