Columns

Corvese ’15: Stop talking about millennials

By
Opinions Editor

Someone older and wiser than us posts an article about what we delusional 20-somethings need to do to be successful. An angry and jobless 20-something responds with reasons why we don’t deserve the criticism. Our elders shout back once more about our entitlement and absurd desire to major in the humanities.

Does this process seem familiar? Of course it does — I like to call it the Millennial Criticism Cycle. Each and every day, a new column is published somewhere on the web that fires up members of Generation Y to defend ourselves as cogs in a system over which we have little control. There are responses, rebuttals and Buzzfeed posts full of GIFs.

In the end, neither side wins, and the cycle begins anew. It is a fruitless chain of events that does nothing to change the state of affairs for either group.

As much as our aggressors need to stop criticizing us, we need to stop retaliating. Talking about the attitudes of people born in the ’90s accomplishes little besides a mildly interesting cultural analysis.

In July, Forbes published the all-knowing article “20 Things 20-Year-Olds Don’t Get” featuring advice such as “Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes” and “Pick Up the Phone,” which sounds more like instructions my parents gave me in elementary school than actual guidance.

That same month, cartoonist Matt Bors wrote a comic for CNN taking the side of the millennials. The problems with the economy aren’t our fault! Student loans are bringing us down!  Though those points are certainly valid, they are hardly convincing enough for people of previous generations to cut us some slack. Animosity will always exist across generations, and no number of inspirational articles about American college students and our ambition will change that.

Think of it as a modern form of “these darn kids and their loud music!” On the business front, those from older generations seem much more occupied by scoffing at us from the windows of their corporate boardrooms than by fixing unemployment. I’m no economist, but there’s probably a better way to improve the U.S. economy than by berating college graduates who are only trying to connect on LinkedIn with everyone they’ve ever met. And given the significant lack of faith they have in us, what are the chances of any one of us becoming the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, anyway?

That doesn’t mean the millennials are free of blame, though. Plenty of us Generation Y-ers are responsible for precisely the criticism that X-ers and baby boomers pin on us.

Some of us rely on our parents for money. Some of us focus more on our dreams and passions than our resumes. And some of us prefer casual sex to committed relationships — much to the chagrin of our happily married elders.

But ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether these values are perks or flaws. At this point, there’s no use in arguing about them — especially since millennials are not a singular amorphous mass with uniform ideals.

Contrary to the belief of previous generations, some of us might be the hardworking, driven business people and future CEOs that they expect us to be, and some of us might be artists with smaller incomes. While some will graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, others will study comparative literature. In the end, success is determined by the individual, not by cultural expectations assigned to us by those unhappy with our generation’s performance.

Just as people need to stop preaching to 20-somethings about what determines happiness and prosperity, we 20-somethings have to end the collective defense of what determines our happiness. History and sociology books a few decades from now may lump us together with generalizations of our values and accomplishments, but we should not let those determine our paths as they stand now.

Perhaps I am just another bitter millennial that older generations look down upon, and perhaps I am only fueling the fire. But I hope that we stop talking about millennials. Sweeping generalizations are inevitable from both sides of the argument, but we must embrace the values we feel are appropriate in order to put our lives in motion.

And whether that fate is becoming a barista or president of the United States — well, that’s up to you.

 

Gabriella Corvese ’15 hopes this whole “passion and ambition” thing will get her a job and can be reached at gabriella_corvese@brown.edu.

2 Comments

  1. Nate Burgoyne says:

    this is totes cool and totes true.

  2. I was born in 1990 and I’m sick of people born in the 70s and even 80s acting like I was born yesterday. I’m almost 24 years old!

    I hear ya.

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