Our parents* worked hard to give us a better life. Now stop holding it against us.
If you have read an op-ed piece in the last 10 years, you’ve probably come up with some variant on this phrase, “ millennials… who have been spoiled …sports coaches who bestowed trophies on any player who showed up.” (source).
If you read these op-eds, you will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that this generation, my generation, the so-called millennial generation, has been hopelessly spoiled, completely ruined, entitled, weakened by these $3 plastic trophies given to us by loving soccer coaches at the end of a season. For the record, I only received one of these participation trophies, and you know what? I proudly displayed it for years in my bedroom, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise pathetic athletic career. Don’t worry, two years of trying out in for the varsity soccer team, where participation trophies are not given out, demolished any sort of athletic self esteem I had.
And while I liked that little trophy when I was 6 and pretended I would one day be Mia Hamm when I was 10, by the time I turned 21 I had realized that the $3 participation trophy did not mean that I was entitled to a 100k starting salary, a brand new house, or an iPad.
A couple years ago, I attended an event at Gonzaga to listen to a poet-activist speak. After she read her poems, she opened the floor for questions, an opportunity one woman took advantage of.
“Would you say that today, this generation here, is completely self-entitled and interested only in themselves and not others?”
To which the poet replied, “well, no. No, I wouldn’t.”
She pressed on, “But this generation doesn’t get involved in social issues. They don’t hold protests, they don’t have rallies, they don’t march in the streets. They’re lazy. They don’t care.”
I had to laugh. I was sitting with my Jesuit Volunteer housemates, eight people who had given up a year of their life to service this community. I was sitting in a room full of Gonzaga University students, a school which requires participation in service for all students, a minimum many improve upon. I knew hundreds of other people also serving for a year or more around the country in the world.
No, we weren’t into marches and rallies. We decided to do something a little more useful.
The act of bashing the generation that comes after your own is nothing new. The one calling us lazy entitled kids was criticized for their long hair and peace signs. So while the act is not exactly original, and I’m sure I will relish the day when I criticize my children and employees for being too lazy to drive to work and teleporting instead, I would like to address a few concerns.
We know we have it easy. For the most part, we grew up with shoes on our feet, a vaccine for polio and smallpox, in a post draft world that had already put a man on the moon. We aren’t complaining.
But please don’t forget, we saw our high schools shot up during Columbine. We watched the towers fall as we turned fifteen. Our classmates entered wars we wouldn’t win as we graduated from high school. Five months after finished college, our country entered the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Unemployment was the highest it had been in decades.
We’re criticized for wanting well-paying jobs. Some of us need them, as college costs have tripled in the past thirty years as have housing costs. Real income has increased by a much, much smaller amount. We’re criticized for wanting jobs that mean something, after years of being told we need to change the world. We’re criticized if we take a low paying job in a high rent city and we’re criticized if we move back in with our parents. We’re criticized when we are ambitious, and told that we shouldn’t be so entitled.
We’ve had a hand up, we’ll admit it. But we’re here now and we’re willing to work hard.
Let’s not forget one important fact. It was the boomers who gave us those trophies. They had studied childhood psychology, remembered their youth, and decided it was a good idea.
We’re not kids anymore. We aren’t expecting trophies for showing up to work. It will be enough for you just to stop calling us lazy and entitled.
*this is in no way directed to my parents, or my husband’s parents, or any of the wonderful people who helped raised us. We appreciate all the opportunities you have given us and think that they will help to make us good, successful people. God willing and the creeks don’t rise.