Dear Baby Boomers: Lay Off Gen Y. Kthxbai

Okay, I woke up to this article in my Facebook news feed and it pissed me off enough to have me gnacking an irritated response to it while making breakfast. So I figured I’d throw my bone into the vast sea of opinions about this topic, if only to get it off my chest.
Summary of the article if you don’t feel like reading it: “Gen Y’s are entitled, unhappy, and self-centered.”

1. Everyone is the hero of their own story. That’s a fact. We are not being selfish a-holes because we believe we’re the center of our own universe. You believe the same thing. (unless you have children or a very close family/friend circle, and in that case your center of the universe may encompass multiple immediate individuals.)

2. I’m just wondering… In the previous eras of 20-somethings, have older generations so obsessively measured and re-measured and hashed and re-hashed and bickered and debated over how happy young adults are and how happy they have the right to be? I’m sure parents have always obsessed over the happiness of their next generation, but did the internet always provide SCIENTIFIC DATA to measure their child’s success and their child’s happiness by? Have anthropologists and sociologists always gotten such press with their studies on happiness and success metrics? Is our generation really that uniquely self-centered and miserable, or is it just that you’re paying so much attention to 20-somethings now than you did 50 years ago?

3. Is the generation before us REALLY that much happier than we are? The divorce rates, the unemployment, the sluggish recovery after 2008- are you really so sure that the 30-40-somethings are that much happier than we are? It doesn’t really look like it.

4. Why would you vilify us for expecting what our parents expected: that is, to do better than they did? Laden by student loans from having to get graduate degrees to flip burgers, the international competition for the jobs we were promised, and the looming financial burden of paying for aging baby boomers, we’re not going to be doing better. And when every American generation has done better than the one previous, and we’re not, we’re going to feel like failures.

5. Where are we supposed to look for examples of being happy with less than everything? A common situation I’ve been finding myself in:
“So, I’ve been thinking lately that maybe I don’t need to be a statistic of female CEOs and have a Mercedes and live in Berkeley and wear business casual to a little gray office every day in order to feel validated that I’m not a waste of space.”
“No shit, dude. You can be whoever the hell you want to be. Now hold on, I’m having this great Twitter conversation with this amazing startup guy, and can we talk about this later because I have a ton of emails to respond to.”
There’s this strange dichotomy of “obviously you should be okay with a life that’s not crazy ambitious but just happy” and “but if you are okay with that, you’re not really going to be a cool ‘successful’ kid, just fyi”. How do you validate your own sense of what you need when everyone is telling you that you shouldn’t be happy with anything less than what everyone else has?

6.You raised us this way, bitches. You were the ones who fought to get us into the bilingual elementary schools. You were the ones who sent us to SAT cram courses, who heaped medals on us and made the word ‘achievement’ meaningless, who pushed us to get that GPA so we could get into the best possible colleges, all to reflect on what a fuck-yeah parent you were. And you told us that someday we could spend our lives in the idleness that we wanted when we were children, someday after school and grad school and that career we were promised we should have. Someday we could actually have time to do whatever it was that we did as kids that we were too busy being validation for your parenting techniques to do. So now you want us to stop moaning over how we’re scratching our heads and trying to figure out how to validate our lives when we’re failing the American Dream, how to still make a difference in the world, and find a way to be happy outside of all your little strict metrics? Just shut up. Seriously. Go back in your minivan, drive away, and let us kids be kids.

And I’d like to end on a general comment, a plea if you will: Stop talking about us. Stop measuring us. Stop worrying about us. Stop pointing fingers and whispering about what selfish a-holes we are. Because you know what, there’s Syria, there’s women getting stoned and beaten to death, there’s widening class gaps, there’s global warming and mass extinctions, there’s a shitload of problems that ACTUALLY need to be dealt with. One of the nice things about my generation is that I see many of my peers (if they can afford to) go into non-profit work or turn down cushy office jobs to try and make a difference. We’re bumbling at it, but so were you. My generation is more keenly aware of the world’s state than you give us credit for, and we’re going to do our best to clean up the mess your generation left behind. It’s just that posting too many depressing news articles in our facebook feed makes us look like total party-poopers.
So lay off. And talk about something that matters.

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About jesspherron

A UX designer, illustrator, and animator residing in the Portland area, documenting the lessons of the highs and lows of being an artist.

4 responses to “Dear Baby Boomers: Lay Off Gen Y. Kthxbai”

  1. jennifer herron says :

    Your first few points are great – I agree that society is focusing in (in supposed research driven ways that usually don’t hold much validity) on certain qualities that were not such a big deal when I was young. I wonder if the focus is a symptom of a high expectations place on Gen Y to help “fix” the critical issues that have been left on the table by the Baby Boomers. Hmmm, something to look at. There’s nothing like having high expectations to create bitter disappointment. Add in our societal dependency and love affair with “data” and that author suddenly has a “Position” from which to preach…

    There’s a great TED talk by Courtney Martin called Reinventing Feminism that speaks to this dichotomy between the generations.

    I take issue with number 6 – since this b…ch didn’t raise YOU that way. 🙂 Personally, I would like to hear you speak from your own experience – not generalize out to all the Millennial’s, Gen Y or however folks want to refer to your generation. Your position is a “we vs. they” stance and it also signals to me your contempt for the way you were raised. Yep – that’s what happens when you generalize for a whole generation.
    So, for me, a follow up to this would be to hear about the tangled up, confusing, mixed messaged world you grew up in and how you make sense of if now.

    Every new generation has to deal with the older generation’s lack of understanding. Is the answer to tell them to fuck off or is it to try and connect and learn from each other?

    Another question – what is it about our culture’s data driven nature?
    Why don’t more people actually back track into the data and see just what kinds of studies were done to establish these metrics and facts?
    Most of the time, it doesn’t statistically add up. And yet, we see “research says..” and we buy in, hook line and sinker. And then we rant about stupid articles as if they represent a whole generation’s viewpoint instead of the one person who wrote it…

    🙂 just sayin….

    • jesspherron says :

      Good points and questions all. And though it’s true you, my dear mother, did not raise me that way, you were not the only adult to have raised me. The parents of my friends and my peers, along with the teachers, had a strong influence on me, especially since I was in that culture all day at school growing up and only saw you for a few hours in the evening. So I do intend to speak from personal experience- although the fact that you and dad would kick me out to go play in the woods as a kid is something I hold as invaluable today!
      Another thing which I didn’t address in the post, is that I’m only generalizing for a very SMALL portion of my generation and yours. I mean, we’re talking about the children of the parents who could AFFORD to helicopter their children. Yet what about the vast majority of kids whose parents don’t have that luxury? I’ve seen much fewer articles about them. The fact that that working class majority of Gen Y is looped in with the smaller wealthier Gen Y segment -and so their problems and sins are all dumped in one bucket- is grossly mistaken generalization as well.
      I agree that the answer of communications between generations shouldn’t be “fuck off”, though some of my post was definitely in that vein. Quite a bit of my own anger was in reaction to the accusatory prejudice I feel directed at me whenever I read one of those articles that’s like the one I linked to. When there are articles in Time and, well, every magazine or newspaper at some point, about how entitled Gen Yers are, how do I communicate? How do I explain? Why should I have to? I’m not sure, other than by doing posts like this.
      About data-driven culture: Good question there. The simplest answer that comes to mind is that it’s too much work -both mentally and physically- to actually go and dig up the real facts. It takes too much critical thinking to actually pick apart a “study” and find out if it’s bullshit or not. And most people would rather have quick answers, regurgitated to them by the popular media as “science”, with some footnote that they’ll never look at.
      I apologize for generalizing your whole generation. 🙂 I know you’re not all crazy and you don’t all think we’re spoiled brats and you’re not all uber-controlling. But I felt compelled to be accusatory in return to the accusations I felt leveled at me.

  2. Nana says :

    The fact that you feel compelled to address the commentary about your generation is admirable and passionate. I like that! I, of course, am older than the “baby boomers”, so I will not take offense at the prospect of a huge financial burden that looms over the young people today. If you look back at the history and time frame of the period when Social Security was first designed, it was only conceived because of the Great Depression and family’s, communities, churches could not do anything but have soup kitchens to assist the jobless, hopeless, state of our nation. Of course, then we had WWII and mother’s went to work to replace the husbands, fathers and sons who went to Europe and Asia to stop wars which would have changed all of our history forever.

    That was the world I was born into. We felt fortunate to have a home, we grew our Victory Gardens, saved foil and string, rationed our sugar and flour and even had to have coupons to replace shoes. My grandmother sewed the family clothes and “cut down” the grown up clothes to make new ones for the younger ones. My favorite coat was “camels hair”, a luxury in those days, and I didn’t mind that the buttons were on the “boy’s side”, because it was warm and beautiful.

    That was a long time ago. But then we had McCarthyism, communist threats (so we were told) and many taboos. I think in our hearts we all “knew” what was right and honest, but it was very difficult to speak out. My generation were all expected to be as paranoid and narrow minded as our peers. I was fortunate to have a family that did not submit to the common propoganda, and grew up believing in the rights of everyone to pursue their dreams and believe in ourselves, first and foremost. We knew what was “right” and what was “wrong” and railed against the new priorities. We are NOW labelled the “most repressed” generation, and that may be the way hindsight has labelled it. We know better. We also had a “Draft” which compelled young, healthy males to serve in a military and fight in Korea and Vietnam.

    Today you have such an excess of “REALITY” and SOCIAL NETWORKING, that the younger generations to mine, are so intense about, so conforming in their need for the latest “devices” that they sometimes fail to stop and just enjoy their life. Relaxing is more than texting. Posting and talking about everything is not the same as tasting the food, immersing yourself in a book, enjoying the solitude of a forest, the color of a sunset, and all the beauty that is around us most of the time. So why worry about the multitude of opinions of self professed “experts”…another generation is approaching and will have some new “title”….and honestly, what does it matter?

    Your OWN REALITY needs no label. You ARE the talented, beautiful, intelligent, energetic, and sensitive person you ARE. Life IS what you make it, and the measure of your success is how much you enjoy every day. You are SO fortunate to have all those wonderful years ahead of you to explore the universe and the unpredictable course you have chosen for your own future. One persons view of things is hardly relevant. The only validation your generation will ever need is how you feel about yourselves. You are probably the most exciting, interesting, and unique generation MY generation has ever witnessed. KEEP IT UP!

    • jesspherron says :

      Thank you Nana! And I don’t think I say it enough, but I always enjoy hearing about how it was like for your generation. Maybe I need to do more of that, as mom mentioned- instead of griping about how my generation is being talked about, find out more about the previous generations and understand better the situations you were born into. I sometimes can’t believe how fortunate I am, to be born in this time, with a good family, with financial security and no bombs dropping on our heads- and not having to use coupons to buy new shoes. I think that’s part of the reason why I feel almost ashamed that I’ve seen so many articles about my sliver of Gen Y. There’s still such a huge majority who are not as fortunate, and I’d rather be finding out more about them than naval-gazing and griping about tiger moms.
      I’ll call you soon and we can talk more!

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