I am a Millennial.
I was born unto walls falling. I was born as borders and limitations receded, a world that was shrinking and becoming entwined.
I was born into a truly changing world.
I took my first steps in days when my parents debated The End of History, an age of triumph and freedom that all but proved the experiment set forth by founding fathers unquestionably true. I grew as tyrants were stomped by a global force bearing colors of freedom, in a day when economies boomed toward endless boundaries. In these days, the Dollar was second to none, and, just as boundaries and borders shrank, so too were limitations of profit and monetary gain all but erased.
From youth I grew in a gilded age.
Within this globalized age of worldwide business and a World Wide Web, I learned of instant communication as not a privilege and convenience but natural state of being, a birthright of a technologically-superior society. All I’ve known is this age of advancement and breakthrough, growth and prosperity. Were it not for history, I might assume that this is how life has always been.
I grew older knowing no better.
And as Spartans of old were aged by force, for decades I aged under regimented education. To both Spartans and Millennials, during these years a powerful momentum grew within. For them, it grew toward the promise of certain war and dreams of glory in honorable death. For us, the momentum grew toward the promise of a world that needed our help — a world wherein our dreams would lift our wings to whatever ends we so desired.
To dream was to take flight.
From the structured education of our childhood, we Millennials raced on to commencement as if toward a cliff’s end, where upon breaching its steep edge would we jump and take flight, embarking upon the greatness we’d been promised. We were told our dreams were not figments of fancy, but undeniable reality not yet manifested in life. And so in cap and gown we jumped together to a world that awaited.
I was born to fly, and dared to soar.
Though quickly after jumping, we entered a world quite different. This world is one still controlled by a generation quite different: The Baby Boomers are a generation born from war. They came of age by way of assassinations, divisive movements, controversial war, and global crises — days when the very fabric of society forever changed. They grew up without innocence, disenfranchised and disillusioned.
The context in which we grew — like any other generation — has defined the Millennial generation and become an inseparable component of our being. The world we inherited has defined our collective nature. The regimented education that we grew within for two decades oriented us toward lofty goals and aspirations, ones that we never thought could fail. And truly, why would we?
“The Quarterlife Crisis”
Every generation is born of circumstance. While upon this reading our differences may seem so apparent, the generational gap between Millennials and Baby Boomers has spawned what some have called “The Quarterlife Crisis:”
“…Unrelenting indecision, isolation, confusion and anxiety about working, relationships and direction is reported by people in their mid-twenties to early thirties who are usually urban, middle class and well-educated; those who should be able to capitalize on their youth, unparalleled freedom and free-for-all individuation. They can’t make any decisions, because they don’t know what they want, and they don’t know what they want because they don’t know who they are, and they don’t know who they are because they’re allowed to be anyone they want.”
A catchy play-on of the “Midlife Crisis,” the Quarterlife Crisis is phrased to represent a young Millennial adult who, having recently entered “the real world” after college, confused and distressed about their life’s direction. But what the Quarterlife Crisis truly represents is a strong cultural gap between the Baby Boomer generation and their children, the Millennial generation.
In our young adulthood, the Millennial generation is desperate for a higher level of self-determination: the ability to freely following one’s grandest dreams – those dreams that, during two decades-worth of education, we aspired to fulfill – regardless of the possible financial impact (because to a Millennial, money has always been less a priority, for it has always seemed so abundant). Exacerbating the Quarterlife Crisis is the fact that the world of growth and prosperity that we grew into has recently come into severe balance.
For Baby Boomers, most struggles in life were on behalf of the socio-economic advancement of their families and their children. Having been so successful (in light of this economic crisis, perhaps too successful?), their children are now equally willing to struggle and sacrifice, but less on behalf of socio-economic ends, and more on behalf of fulfilling the goals and aspirations that adults were perpetually encouraging for years.
A Generation Gap That Keeps Growing
Were it only so simple to deny one’s Millennial nature and refuse that instinct to soar toward endless horizons. If it were a choice to deny this drive, a Millennial would choose easily to strive only for monetary sums and amounts of things, which are measurable and countable. For when dreams alone reside within one’s heart, they become a burden to bear. Such goals cannot be added up or compounded and society so often beckons physical proof of accomplishment.
Herein is not a series of complaints, but observations of a world that this generation has inherited. Further, to understand the generational gap might help pacify the Millennial generation’s collective confusion or “Quarterlife Crisis.” The problem lies not within our generation’s will to succeed, or our willingness to strive, struggle and sacrifice. The difference is a major generational gap, a difference in culture between us and that of our parents.
The means that we will use to fulfill our goals is the same, but the goals are drastically different, because we were born and raised amid such drastically different circumstances. Insofar as we are a product of our age, our predecessors mustn’t expect the Millennial generation to emulate their own behavior or values, but only hope that the end product of our dreams holds as much merit as we claim.
We’ve been born unto different worlds. And so, while human at the core, our Millennial culture demands that we yearn for something more. We strive for deeper meaning. We long to enrich ourselves and the lives of others. We demand to defy logic and boundary and the limitations of so-called reality. We are, if nothing more, a generation of flight.
Why would a child of this age strive for anything less?