The me, me, me generation; the go-nowhere generation; the lazy generation; the cheapest generation; the Peter Pan generation; the unhappy generation. Millennials, you're probably all too familiar with the less-than-flattering nicknames for our generation.
Despite the fact that millennials are growing up and making a name for ourselves, Generation Y (people born around the 1980s and 1990s) continues to have a negative image as a self-entitled group of whiners who all think that they're special — when they're not — and believe success should come easily when in fact "you can become special by working really hard for a long time." Never mind that this stereotype fails to address that the economical, pardon my French, sh*tstorm we happened to fall into straight from college complicated the postcollegiate job hunt. But I digress.
Don't we have any redeeming qualities? One of my friends, Nahshon Landrum, put it quite eloquently in a Facebook post:
Here's my love letter to Gen Y: You deserve awesome things. You are special. You have ideas that no one else has thought of. You have a combination of abilities and experiences no one else has ever or will ever have. You are also kinda lazy. Go get everything you think you deserve or don't complain if you decide to settle. Continue to publicly celebrate your successes and correct your errors. There is absolutely no reason to let a generation of people who REFER TO THEMSELVES as the "greatest generation" lecture you on inflated expectations or opinions of yourself. Now cut your hair and go get a job.
So I want to counter all the Gen Y haters with my own list of positive attributes about millennials, though I know they don't apply to everyone. (After all, I'd hate to make a sweeping generalization about a group of people.) But here are some things I've noticed about my peers that make me proud to be a part of Generation Y.
- We're widely accepting of homosexuality and gay marriage.
- We're really just more accepting of all kinds of people. No matter what color their skin is, how they dress, or what religion they are.
- We have a black president and it's no big deal. In fact, we voted for him.
- We're a tech-savvy generation of Harry Potter nerds, software engineers, and gamers. Being intelligent and geeky is cool, not a stereotype.
- We care about helping others, whether that's taking volunteer vacations, joining the Peace Corps, or serving with Teach For America. Because we're so exposed to the hurt in the world through the Internet, I think our generation more than others has a true heart for doing good.
- Sure, we Google anything and everything. But that's also because we love to learn and have intellectual discussions about everything from Syria to Breaking Bad.
- We're quite self-aware and willing to make fun of ourselves.
- We aren't afraid to reach for our dreams, start our own company, or even quit our monotonous day jobs for lesser-paying ones that (gasp) make us happy.
- We're less concerned about conventional success and money and more concerned with finding enjoyment and being fulfilled with our careers. Why this is considered a negative Gen Y trait, I don't know.
- Couples are more progressive. More women are becoming breadwinners and coparenting with their partners.
- When it comes to to our jobs, we're quick to learn and highly adaptable. Oh, there's a new social media site? I'm on it.
- We're funny! Thanks to Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media outlets, humor is a virtue. And that makes the world a happier place, don't you think?
- We're more environmentally minded — recycling, composting, eating organic, taking public transportation . . . the list goes on.
- We don't just accept the status quo. We will challenge the system if there's something we could improve on.
- We've thrown out antiquated, sexist dating rules and gender roles. And in doing so, we've freed ourselves from the traditional ideals of marriage and family to create our own love-filled relationships.
- Are we cheap? If that means staying within our means by thrift shopping and DIYing instead of going into debt like our parents by buying new cars and houses, then yes.
- We're not worried about discussing taboo topics like abortion, and we're willing to hash things out instead of just shutting up to keep the peace. We get plenty examples of this on Girls, which was created by the both hardworking and talented Gen Y-er Lena Dunham.
- Having a more global perspective means we're redefining what's "popular" in the worlds of entertainment and beyond. We've broken free from the pop-music box.