Who here wasn't the smartest kid in high school? Well that was me. Who here would have LOVED to choose between Harvard, Brown, Yale, Dartmouth, and all that?.....actually not me. But who felt the pressure anyway? Let me guess? You too? Recently, I was watching the "Operations Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal" on Netflix. It brought back harrowing memories for when I would be up late trying to write some 30 page paper to turn in at my college prep high school where everyone hoped to be "picked" for something. Some award, some achievement, some form to be "popular". Although I wasn't involved in any of those scandals or any other type of admission scandal, I just remember what it was like going to high school from 2001-2005 and how important college was to... my boomer parents. I feel like most millennials felt this way. The need to succeed. (should I start making t-shirts with the hashtag #isurvivedboomerparents) Whether it be the best athlete, get highest SAT score or beat out all the girls for the lead in the school musical, we were taught the pressures to compete with our fellow classmates to do well at basically anything and everything (like Student Body Government, which lured me for the free food only). Our parents put the pressure on us, which in turn made us put the pressure on ourselves and in all honesty, to no fault of...well ALL involved. That's how boomers were raised and that's all they knew (and know). Now i know that people scold millennials and say things like "You all have such a problem with Boomers." The truth is, we do and I think our issue is a very valid one. We are stuck between chasing the American dream and be anything you want to be...as long as it's what your parents say you should be.
As millennials, I believe we grew up with the best of both worlds. We grew up playing outside (like our boomer parents). Running around with our friends, riding bikes, rollerblading, getting muddy and TV was something that we did on the weekend at sleepovers. (Unless you were cool and got to play video games- i, sadly, was not cool) Rarely do I remember watching TV during the week. But, as millennials, we also got the most amazing discovery known to man....AIM....just kidding, we got the internet, but in general, AIM and being able to chat with our friends about who was going to see what movie and what Sara bought at the mall this weekend while she walked around holding Johnny's hand was the best news you could get before someone put up there super cool away message. Our parents just didn't understand as they had come from this totally unrelated era. This may have been a reason why they wanted us to succeed in corporate America so badly because they saw opportunities with technology. But, i saw it more so that it just was how the wheel had always worked. I doubt they expected that when we actually DID go to college and that most of us went to normal schools, picked normal majors (you know the ones that are a shoe-in for those ladder climbing jobs) that a crash would happen and we would be moving right back into their house asking for lunch money.
Everyone says we're the "lost" generation. Well, it's not like "whoops? where'd they go?" We're right here. We've been right here. But no one wants to take the time to really understand our feelings and what's happened. No matter what decisions we have made in the past based on our educational choices, we got fucked. There are a ton of books about it, podcasts, articles, you name it. We have been studied. Our boomer parents seemed to care more about what they thought was better for their kids than actually taking the time to get to know their kids when they were younger. I mean, of course it's easy to get your kids involved in activities or if you're a working parent they are home and it's harder to spend one on one time with them. And if your kid was involved in sports, then you'd push them towards a scholarship. Good luck if it was the school play. To them, that's not "a real career". That school play is going to get you a studio apartment in Koreatown for $1600 a month with street parking, hoping that your wheels don't get stolen off your car every night. That school play is going to get you dog walking jobs, DoorDash delivery jobs, temp agency jobs, with the occasional Workout Girl #2 in a Beachbody fitness promo video and other random commercials. But are you doing something you love? I digress... They wanted to pave the route for you. That's where i think they made the mistake. (i'm not talking ALL boomers fyi). As millennials, we didn't have the resources that Gen Z has that allows them to be open about mental health, therapy, identity, etc. Many things were shoved under the rug. (All of us hanging out with these lumpy rugs).
So, here we were, listening to our parents, going the corporate way. I mean who doesn't love doing their third un-paid internship at 26 years old, living over their parents garage, while their friend goes off to law school to be another cog in a wheel only to make you contemplate if you should study for the LSAT or the MCATS or some four letter word test and get yourself more in debt to "make something" of yourself since clearly this internship isn't going anywhere and you only make coffee and file paperwork anyway...
Boomer parents have never understood the "freelance" lifestyle. The idea that you can make just as much money being a Photographer, Chef, Graphic Designer, start your own accounting firm, and so many more jobs that make more money than sending behind a desk pushing paper. Just because they don't understand it doesn't mean it's not real. I actually have to remind myself as a millennial that just because I don't understand Gen Z sometimes and their TikTok videos and all their technology, it works for them. But i think millennials are more accepting of that and flexible because we had to go through a lot of psychological abuse (more on that later).
Fast forward to 2020, just as some of these merry millennials have become un-merry again due to the Coronavirus, they have now lost their jobs they have worked hard to finally get, possibly move back home with their parents, and the self-esteem that was there might be gone. Can you relate? Because I really felt it this past year.
I have kind parents, but a part of me feels like I will never accomplish what they did in their careers. Because of this high bar. I feel as a millennial we were taught to seek that validation, especially in our careers. Not all millennials are meant to live and die by the 9 to 5. I believe there are a lot of millennials that have paved their way to do their own thing. I believe in all of you un-merry millennials looking for your way back to being merry.
So, if you feel lost in the world, don't be afraid to ask for directions sometimes. Maybe from a fellow millennial, maybe from a Gen Z. Maybe they can show you something new (maybe on a cool app we're only starting to half understand). Meanwhile, I'll be dissecting "Why Everything I Do In My 30's Is Still A Problem For My Boomer Parents" at the beach and tell you about it on the next post.