The millennial myth

Column by Hallie BeardOpinion Editor

Hallie BeardAt 4 years old, my mom’s grandfather was orphaned and started work in the fields.

Her father never completed fourth grade because of his farming responsibilities. In her words, education for him was “too important to do badly.”

Her mother married at 15, had her first child at 17 and continued to have children for the next 20 years. 

I never met my maternal grandparents, but I know they were superheroes. Incredibly smart, strong-willed and kind, they were testaments of how powerful the human mind and body is. They raised six children, including my mom – who is the bee’s knees, by the way – but they never had it easy. Like many rural Kentucky farmers in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, they often struggled to make ends meet.

Conversely, I sometimes look at my life and am disgusted by the privilege I have. I’m in college, I don’t have a husband or children to provide for (though I don’t mean to construe that as a burden) and I always have food on my plate.

For that reason, I can understand why my generation – the millennial – is criticized. Compared to my parents or grandparents, I’m utterly spoiled and have many more opportunities than they did at my age.

However, I don’t believe all the criticism we receive is warranted.

Last week, journalist Alexis Bloomer posted a video called “Dear Elders, I’m sorry” on Facebook, where it garnered millions of views, likes and shares. Many friends shared messages of agreement of why millennials “suck.”

Bloomer made unevidenced statements about our generation as a whole, such as, “We’re just existing. We’re not really contributing anything to society,” and “Everything that used to be frowned upon is now celebrated.”

There’s a laundry list of logical fallacies to catch Bloomer on: hasty generalization, appeal to authority, bandwagon and more. But in terms of rhetoric, the language she used was so vague that I couldn’t pin down one piece of her argument that could be proven. My only conclusion as to why she said the things she said was that she was told them by the elders she was apologizing to.

If that’s the case, maybe those elders’ ideas of contributing to society means working sooner (instead of being students for so long) and marrying at a younger age. Given the social norms that shaped their understandings of success, it’s understandable.

But we can’t be held to those norms – this is a new era, dominated by new conveniences, beliefs and economies. And while some older generations may see us as self-centered or lazy for not doing the same work at the same age as they did, I think many are appreciative of our situations.

My grandmother didn’t graduate high school or go to college, but she was an avid reader and wrote beautiful poetry. If she were alive today, I think she would be overjoyed that her children and grandchildren had educational opportunities she didn’t, or had the money to buy computers and books or instantly access a wide variety of information.

I think she would be thankful to know that her work and her daughter’s work have allowed me to enjoy studying and focusing on my career plans and that I’m stabilizing myself in order to pave the way for my (future) children to be successful as well.

Youngsters will always be criticized for their tastes and behaviors, no matter what year it is. But if elders actually celebrate our opportunities as I believe many do, could it be that the “lazy millennial” is just a myth we’ve perpetuated ourselves?

1 Comment on "The millennial myth"

  1. If it's so popular of a topic that you're writing about it, how can it be a myth?

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