Millennials are bursting onto the work scene in ever growing numbers these days, which makes them a growing percentage of the work force. Having been born before this generation, my social media and news feeds are frequented with articles, blogs, and statistics about how we are going to be in trouble if we pass the torch onto this new generation. I admit that sometimes I have to agree with some aspects of the articles, but other times I stop to wonder, “is that what adults thought in the 60’s when the anti-war, hippie movement emerged?”
While conversing with professionals in my day to day life, I have heard many stereotypes about millennials. These include things like they aren’t prepared for the real wold, they are used to being rewarded just for showing up, they don’t understand what hard work means, or they don’t know anything without the help of Google. One day it dawned on me, maybe millennials aren’t going to follow in our footsteps, but maybe they are destined to blaze a different, much needed path which could bring cohesion to our sense of humanity?
Let me explain. In addition to my numerous other jobs (Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, Doctor of Psych) I also teach at my local community college. This past January, National Geographic released an issue about gender identity, gender dysphoria, and other gender issues. I thought this would be perfect to use as material for my class. So when the time can, I assigned one of the articles to read expecting them to come to class ready to discuss. It was a great class discussion. The students had lots to say about the article, and the stories told within it. Towards the end of the discussion, I asked them, “So how do you feel about this topic as an individual?” I got a lot of blank stares. So I rephrased my question to, “What type of emotions did this stir up for you?” Still nothing. Then someone spoke up to inform me that they didn’t have any strong emotions attached to the topic, because it was just another part of life. The class concurred.
I was stunned. The topic that was currently causing nation wide outrage over bathroom usage, hate crimes throughout the world, and overall distress for so many in my generation had already been integrated into the identities of so many millennials. They really didn’t think twice about gender identity because to them it was a spectrum that everyone fell on and was a natural concept for them.
After that class, the next time I was listening to someone voice an opinion about the future of our country being at risk if we are forced to pass the torch to the millennials, I interjected with a few thoughts. Maybe we aren’t doomed after all. Perhaps their legacy will not be like ours. The economy might change, the governing practices might be different, and perhaps our history of being a world power will dwindle because leadership skills are not their forte. But maybe their legacy will be about bringing us together as a nation. Instead, maybe the US will follow in the footsteps of progressive European nations that accept their citizens for who they are and what they want to be. Perhaps the millennials will prevent our nation from tearing itself apart through sexism, racism, and biases.
Millennials might not have the same work ethic as previous generations, but different doesn’t always mean less. They are more focused on happiness within themselves, acceptance of others for who they are, and focus more on relationships instead of the success driven mentality. They might have a great impact on this country though their humanitarian approach to societal issues, which honestly this country is desperately lacking in. It seems that the pendulum is swinging.
Wouldn’t it be great to see an exponential increase in inclusion among our citizens? I bet we would see a drastic decline in mental health disorders. Depression and anxiety would decrease, we would support each other in a more collective environment, and the first world loneliness would all but disappear. Some of these are very lofty dreams of mine, but it still opens up the “what if?” possibility. What if change is on the horizon, and as whole humanity will be better off because of it?