We’re currently alive in a society that increasingly accepts drug usage. Marijuana, though federally illegal, is being decriminalized and even legalized in many states. Molly, LSD’s granddaughter, is handed out like candy in rave/EDM culture. Breaking Bad made methamphetamines trendy and study drugs like Adderall are abundant on almost every campus in the United States.
Same-sex marriage is increasingly accepted, hip hop culture is dominant, multi-racial couples are being incorporated into the social norm, and identity in regard gender and sexuality vary as much as ice cream flavors in your local Trader Joe’s.
The internet has allowed us to connect with our favorite celebrities, access news at all times, Google our symptoms (but never WebMD), and blog about our lives for “likes” and “reblogs” to assure us that we aren’t alone in our feelings.
We –the millennials—are criticized for a variety of things from our financial and employment struggles to not having any driving force or cause for our generation to rally around. Previous generations had issues of war and drafts, civil rights, free love, and social policy change to unite for or against. Millennials are seen as being lazy and selfish products of the internet age and the previous parenting craze of “you can do anything as long as you work hard and do what you love!” that drove so many of us into enormous amounts of debt and a future in our parent’s basements.
I get their frustrations. What the older generations see is girls like me: flannel clad with multi-color hair and tattoos who are (painfully so) attached to our iPhones and what our friends are saying on Twitter. We go to private colleges that we can barely afford, earn liberal arts degrees, and try not to think about our future financial instability. We care more about our LGBTQ friends being accepted and able to get married than settling down with a family in the suburbs with a pension. We’re more interested in living lives full of excitement and self-fulfillment than stable 9-5 jobs with insurance plans.
From that perspective, we do kind of look ungrateful and fiscally irresponsible. However, we’re inheriting a country full of debt and a changing/dying idea of the “American Dream.” We’re redefining what it means to be an American and trying to work with the mess that was made for us to clean up. But what these older generations don’t see, is that we’re more alike than they think.
They inherited a world post-industrialization. That changed the American lifestyle completely. I’m sure older generations thought it all to be too much and too crazy, but we look back at it as a crucial turning point in our history. They inherited a world post-Great Depression, post-Vietnam, post-civil rights, and post-rock and roll. We look back and identify with the young people that responded to the issues and rules created by those before them. Each big movement had a response, mostly of young people who were criticized for their ideas and then praised later in history for their forward-thinking nature.
Same-sex marriage and LGBTQ acceptance/rights is our civil rights. Marijuana legalization is our echo of the flower-power age before us. Music festivals are back. EDM, though largely misunderstood by our parents and grandparents, can be argued to be our rock-and-roll. Single parent families and city life is replacing the nuclear family in suburbia ideal. Mothers staying at home is almost unheard of. Universal healthcare is our social security (as well as keeping social security in the first place). As the generation that most actively tries to serve those in poverty and address social issues, we may just be closer than ever to a free country. (Well, as free as we can be with corporate America more or less running the entire show.)
What I’m getting at is this: history is cyclical. Young people are always going to be judged by previous generations but we’ll always look back fondly of those brave souls who sought to change everything. Even with the cyclical nature of our past, permanent changes are made. America is changing- and doing so drastically. The only ones who seem to be adapting and molding our country into what we want (& need) it to be are millennials.
I’ll promise to put down my iPhone and get off of Instagram and talk to anyone who doesn’t get it, and I’ll kindly explain. I only ask that we aren’t immediately shut down for being broke and seen as selfish due to a system they created. We are the movers, we are the shakers, and when they’re long gone, it will be us running the show.
Take the time to understand. Take the time to listen. Listen openly, because you may just see a part of yourself in older generations and perhaps they’ll see themselves in you. While we’ll soon be taking over the world, we may want to try working together in the meantime.
But, as Bob Dylan once said, “Times, they are a-changin’.” Millennials hear this and gladly adapt to changing social norms and policies as we gear up to inherit the world. May we remember these days of inter-generational conflict and resolve to work with our future children and grandchildren to help this country progress, rather than criticizing them for being different.
There’s plenty of love (and other drugs) to go around.