When the atmosphere of a graying newsroom becomes stuffy with boredom, journalists will often, as a tired crutch, harp on the millennial generation for some perceived flaw that all 80 million of us supposedly possess. This trend began to develop as soon as we were old enough to be justifiably held responsible for something, yet the common accusations are just as tired as we are of hearing them. “Lazy,” “spoiled,” “entitled” — my eyes are disrespectfully rolling as I type. “Self-centered” has been the latest tactic in an attempt to distracting argumentative Baby Boomers from real problems. A couple years back, Time magazine featured the “Me, Me, Me Generation” on their cover, expressing popular sentiment among our parent’s generation. The tagline read, “Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents.” How nice it must feel to perch on a self-made pedestal, waxing romantic about the “good ole days” while belittling your sons and daughters.
I’m supremely tired of being called lazy and entitled, with the excuse of little league trophies brandished as some sort of empirical evidence. My generation faces the most trying economic time since the Great Depression, the highest college tuition and the most crippling student debt, all with the lowest job prospects of all time. When my mother was my age, college wasn’t a necessity — two of her sisters didn’t attend — and a full-time job would guarantee the ability to support oneself. Remember that snide remark about living with our parents? Did it ever occur to the author that financial independence is becoming nearly impossible post-graduation? Unfortunately, the author and many like him exist in fond memories, but those times are not the millennial reality; my generation can’t pay for school with a part-time job like our parents could. A degree and a series of (often unpaid) internships are the only route to a coffee-fetching entry-level job. Even then, we vie for spaces with hundreds of other qualified candidates. We’re the most educated and competitive generation yet. We spend hours in libraries, jobs and extracurricular activities, fine-tuning our resumes and agonizing over our future security. Despite a pathologized case of “spread too thin,” my labor is patronized and my entire generation labeled slothful.
I could squabble back and forth with embittered Baby Boomers — they’d complain about the prevalence of Miley Cyrus and selfies, and I might have more worthwhile concerns about the devastating effects of global warming and student debt, but who’s to judge, right? Ill will arises from a generational clash, wherein each group views the world from an entirely different context. I can’t sympathize with a viewpoint that isn’t rooted in modern reality. Gen X tends to compare the lives of 20-somethings with their own personal experience, but this contrast is illogical. The sociopolitical atmosphere is so vastly different; juxtaposing the values of one generation against another is unfair. To deem one’s own generation superior is fitting of the “self-centered” label so lightly tossed around.
Despite circulating opinion, college is not a four-year vacation. Though my ability to attend college is a privilege that many do not have, that opportunity does not diminish the work I do while in school. Just because I’m not shoveling coal, building a railroad or doing whatever is traditionally considered “real work” — I’m being sarcastic, of course — doesn’t automatically qualify me as lazy or entitled. My university acceptance, my grades, my paycheck and my job offers are all earned. There are more millennials than Baby Boomers. We may have waned in our exuberance when faced with the uncertainty of our futures, but we have the potential to be the most influential demographic in the nation. We are the powerful, intelligent and ambitious youth of this country, and we are not to be dismissed.