By Dani Kessel
When you’re a millennial, you get called all the names in the book. You’re called ungrateful, lazy, entitled, etc. But most millennials know that this is the furthest thing from the truth. The world has drastically changed over the past few decades. So, when I see posts about things millennials need to learn about the world, I either laugh or get really frustrated. Older folks don’t seem to understand the ways the painful realities that the millennial generation has faced.
So, here are seven of the most painful experiences that will make almost every millennial say, “YEP!”
1. Boomers infantilize us constantly.
Generations are grouped together based on age groups, common experiences, defining world events, and a collective consciousness (further filtered by race, gender, class, and other intersectional identities). The millennial generation spans from 1981-1996 according to the Pew Research Center. The youngest millennials are 23 (or turning 23 by December 31st of this year). The oldest millennials are 38. Yet, if you looked at news reports, you’d think we are all a bunch of children hellbent on destroying the world. Guess what? We are adults living in a late-stage capitalist society that doesn’t pay us enough to afford rent, food, and medicine. Minimum wage hasn’t changed in proportion with inflation. Meanwhile we were sold on the idea that a college degree equals a decent job, so we are now buried under student loans while coping with a 3 to 5 year experience requirement for an entry level job. So, tell me again why we are responsible for killing cable companies and restaurants? Sorry we can’t afford that luxury. Tell me again why we are entitled? Sorry we believe that we should be paid a living wage.
2. We have to choose between food and going to see a doctor.
When jobs don’t provide adequate health insurance or don’t pay enough to afford food, copays, rent, and medications, it prevents millennials from eating meals and going to the doctor for basically anything. It creates a much larger issue with ableism since people with chronic illnesses often can’t function without treatments and/or medication. Never in my life have I heard more frequently, “I can’t afford to be sick,” or, “I think I broke a bone, but it costs so much to fix,” or, “I’ve had a sinus infection for 2 months, but antibiotics are too expensive,” than when talking to millennials. One bad sickness can mean the difference between making rent or being evicted. Then, when illnesses get worse because we aren’t taking care of our health, we are piled under medical bills. We shouldn’t have to rely on the kindness of strangers to afford medical care.
3. We can’t trust delayed gratification.
You want to know why millennials aren’t buying houses? The 2008 Housing Crisis, the Great Recession, the stock market crash, the dotcom bubble collapse. If we could theoretically afford houses, marriage, kids, and other major life events (which we can’t), we can’t trust the economy. We can’t trust investments. We can’t trust the employment rate to remain stable. Underemployment (being overeducated and overqualified for a job, not receiving pay based on their skill level, or involuntarily working in a field unrelated to their education/experience) is a major issue even in moments of higher employment rates. The American Dream is a complete myth for millennials and Gen Z who are coming of age after us.
4. The world will fall to pieces before we ever get the chance to retire.
Children are starving. Rapists run free with minimal to no punishment. Our younger siblings and our children experience gun violence at alarming rates. LGBTQ+ people are getting fired and denied healthcare for their identity. Systematic racism jails and murders people of color everyday. Trans women are being killed, but nobody seems to care. There is still a major gender wage gap in first world countries. Girls’ education is under attack in much of the world. Anti-vaxxers are causing a resurgence in deadly but preventable diseases. The Amazon Rainforest, the world’s lungs, burned for months at the encouragement of the Brazilian president. And, global warming will hit an irreversible point by 2040. It will be a certified miracle if millennials actually make it to retirement (which we’ll probably never be able to afford anyways).
5. Small businesses among young adults are at an all-time low.
In the past 20 years, entrepreneurship among young adults dropped 10%. Millennials are terrified to take that risk. A combination of distrust of the economy, lack of money, and unbearable student loan debt causes approximately two-thirds of millennials nervousness and anxiety about starting their own businesses. These roadblocks prevent great ideas from coming to fruition.
6. People mistake our awareness and acceptance of things as our creation of them.
Millennials didn’t create nonbinary identities. First American tribes, Mesopotamians, Indonesians, Indians, the Ottomans, Native Hawaiians, and Oaxacans all have/had third, fourth, and even fifth gender identities dating back to ancient times. The concept of the gender binary is newer than nonbinary identities. Gender non-conforming people have been around all the way back to Hatshepsut and Joan of Arc and Gertrude Stein. Intersex people may now be able to recognize their sex on government documents in many places, but that term is over a century old. Before that, people with intersex anatomy were called hermaphrodites (in reference to the Ancient Greek god Hermaphroditus), dviretas in Indian, and androgyni in Latin. Unfortunately, until recent times, intersexuality was considered part of teratology (the study of monsters). We now understand this as a natural biological variation that doesn’t need correction that reinforces the false sex binary. Also, just because we are more vocal about mental health and breaking the stigma doesn’t mean depression and anxiety have actually increased. People used to be institutionalized for reporting mental illness and trying to get help. Nowadays it is safer to talk about these kinds of struggles. Pagan religions have been around longer than Judeo-Christian religions too and have nothing to do with Satan. Wicca, a religion gaining in popularity, is a neo-pagan religion comprised of beliefs and practices from ancient Celtic culture, ancient Roman culture, ancient Greek culture, and many other polytheistic beliefs. Most of the millennial generation isn’t completely rejecting Judeo-Christian religions; they are just making room for other religions too. Just looking at the chart below from the Pew Research Center shows a huge difference in generational values. The reality of being a millennial is being called a “special snowflake” or “social justice warrior” a million times over just for being inclusive.
7. We are blamed for the decisions of other generations.
Millennials didn’t create participation awards. In fact, we hated receiving them because they devalued skills and hard work. We weren’t the ones that took Home Economics out of the curriculum. We were students. We didn’t cause the Great Recession or the 2008 Housing Crisis. We just suffered the consequences of not being able to find decent work and not being able to afford houses. We’re getting blamed for killing the paper napkin industry despite the fact that we didn’t drive the environment to the bleak state it’s in. Sorry for not wanting to kill more trees. Also, I’m pretty sure us pushing inclusivity and equal rights is us trying to decrease the victimization and oppression of minorities that was caused by basically every generation before us. That is a good thing. Get with the times.
The fact is that millennials get all kinds of hate mostly just because we exist. While every generation gets hate once they hit the 20-30 age range, there are more routes to expressing it now that the internet exists. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing it. Millennials are adults who can’t afford to live in this sucky world we didn’t ask for. We’re tired of hearing that we are worthless. We’re tired of being discounted. We are tired of explaining ourselves over and over and over with nobody listening. For once, step into our shoes. And to anyone who skipped to the bottom of this article just to further disparage millennials in the comments section: okay, Boomer.