I’m a Weirdo, but So Are All Millennials
After I found my voice in an after school poetry club in 8th grade, I embraced the weirdo label. It usually made people laugh. I was proud to be a teenager who loved black and white movies, quoting bits from comedians and wearing bright, almost neon pants to school and lime green or cherry red suits to the high school dances.
At the time, I used to think that I was one of the only weirdos in my school. I didn’t fit into any one scene; I was an awkward outcast in a sea of hormones and teenage politics. For a short time I had glasses and braces, so it’s easy to imagine what was happening in my world. Here’s a hint, I got beat up several times.
Compared to most of my peers, I was probably much more sheltered, in part due to overprotective parents (mostly my mom). The strange situation didn’t even occur to me until one of my best friends at the time (also the dude who introduced me to weed) pointed out the lack of privacy within the family domicile. The alarm in his voice still reverberates around my mind to this day,
“Dude, why are the only doors in your house to the bathroom, front and back doors?”
I remember stumbling over my words, attempting to explain how my mom and dad took down the doors to their bedroom, the study/computer room, the basement and the bedroom of my brother and I so we could “build trust” as they had once explained to me.
“Dude, it’s fucking creepy! Like you don’t have any god damn privacy unless you’re taking a dump.”
What a good friend, and not just because he smoked me up a few times. In some ways, it was lucky he was even able to make this observation since it was one of the few and far-flung times a friend visited me at my house in the first place. There reason for this was twofold; rarely did I feel comfortable bringing friends over because I knew my mom would often try to insert herself into whatever we would do. On the other side of the spectrum, my mom rarely felt comfortable allowing my friends over because she never felt the house was clean enough.
Like most teens, I did question and subsequently rebel against certain aspects of my parents upbringing. But, at that time, in my mind rebelling meant skipping after school tutoring to hang out with two bi-curious girls and roll around with them in a county park/baseball field, or dye my hair red so it would match the cherry red suit I wore to a couple dances. This isn’t even including the time I discovered their stash of VHS porn while looking for the N64 they hid, but that’s another story altogether. However, despite my mild rebellions, I still followed their expectations of going to college.
While I can’t speak for all millennials in terms of their parental relationships, I do take some morbid solace in knowing I’m not alone in terms of how many of the parents of my generation took an overly enthusiastic approach in lives of their children. Some might say way too enthusiastic.
Some (**conservative**) media outlets have even suggested that parents of millennials are to blame for my generation turning into so-called “snowflakes.”
Regardless, it's become increasingly clear to me that the vast majority of my generation are a large cohort of misfit weirdos and madcap oddballs. Metaphorically, one could say all of us were wearing braces and glasses when we arrived on the scene.
Perhaps some blame is to be tastefully placed on the doorsteps of our parents. However, I think the effect of their child rearing on my generation is overstated. Time will tell (not the magazine) how deeply that’s affected us as a whole. Also, new studies show that, at least when it comes to jobs, millennials are anything but narcissistic and/or lazy.
However, I think the greater impact on my generation is the attachment many in our parent’s generation placed on certain institutions, thanks in part to their blissful ignorance of corruption and/or complacency. In turn, when technological advancements (and therefore information and misinformation) began exploding into varying wifi connected tentacles consuming more aspects of daily life, their subsequent reactionary fears caused a lashing out at my generation.
It’s kind of like that time two years ago my current girlfriend and I celebrated my mother’s birthday by making a lovely, organic pancake breakfast for her, complete with handmade cards and a rich, chocolate smoothie. But later in the day she locked us out of the house because we were walking around the neighborhood instead of helping her decide what meals of Chinese takeout to get.
Before we go any farther, I need to make one thing abundantly clear. I acknowledge and recognize that I do not speak for the entirety of my generation, the so-called millennials (born between 1981–1996 according to some research firms). I can only speak from the experiences I had as a child and teenager growing up in my specific suburban area in the United States. However, I would like to think I know a little bit about Generation Y, not just because I am part of this cohort (as are the majority of my friends), but also because of various articles I’ve written about Gen Y in the past.
The curiosity I have about my generation mostly comes from the fact that there’s a lot of us. Like 83.5 million a lot to be exact (as of 2015), making us the largest generation to date (at least until gen z takes over). That’s a fact, but also one of the many labels my generation has been saddled with by sociologists and others who study this kind of stuff (all who happen to not be millennials). Sociologists and other data collectors have also doled out several names over our short lives so far, including “Millennials,” “Generation Y,” “The Me generation” or whatever. One would think in their research they’d have picked up on the fact that we don’t like to be labeled. Despite this my generation’s apathy of labeling, I too have given a name to my generation, labeling us the harbingers of change.
Harbinger’s of Change: Millennials, Gen-Y, Scorpio Generation or Whatever You Want to Call Us.
My generation has been labeled many things. Some positive, many not so much. In turn, and quite naturally, this caused…
I call us this because the majority of my generation have been at the precipice of these changing times, and have, at moments, experienced quite the push back from our parents generation as we have embraced many of these changes.
But before we go any further into the sometimes passive, sometimes regular aggressive actions that many in our parents generation have taken against my generation, there’s a memory from my childhood that encapsulate the awkward unawareness that both generations experienced when homes like mine were just beginning to install good 'ol noisy state of the art dial up internet.
The memory take place in either my freshman or sophomore year of high school, performing a play at my church. I helped write the play, along with Pat Robbins, another amazing and highly influential woman in my life. The comedic play centered around the story of Noah (and the ark), with jokes generously borrowed from Golden age TV icons like Burns and Allen, Jack Benny and also Bill Cosby (making the old people in the audience politely chuckle and occasionally guffaw like a laugh track) while many of our parents sat in the audience of the church basement using VHS recording devices to capture us awkwardly delivering jokes from the 1950’s - 70’s.
I emphasize this memory because it reveals a time when myself and my generation were beautifully unaware. This was a time when we were still ok with Church, Cosby jokes, and used VHS camcorders. The only thing missing from this scene is everyone wearing football helmets while chicken salad sandwiches with GMO veggies and antibiotic filled meat were served at intermission.
Clearly, much has changed since then. And that’s exactly the point! Much of my generation began maturing during monumental changes happening in society and technology. We’ve had to adapt to these changes at a very rapid pace, so it’s understandable if many of us are a little like
and have turned out a little goofy.
It doesn’t help that we (like every generation since beginning of history) have been given the “Kids these days” treatment. I can’t tell you how many times my maternal Grandparents and Uncle made some kind of comment about my hair being too long or my parents complained about those “gosh darn video games.”
Despite this, many of us to an extent, still followed the expectations of our parents by going to college to get a job to get a house to have kids and live happily ever after. We didn’t know any better, because their ideas of what it meant (to them) to "live comfortably," seemed like good ideas at the time. We weren’t thinking about megalithic mountains of debt (not were our parents when it came to the housing market) because we all sang the same song, that being "most jobs require a college degree if you want to get anywhere." I totally believed that at the time.
I’m not trying to mock our parents, my parents or the idea of going to college. I understand that my parents (and others too) were working with the best info they had at the time. It’s more of an admission that, despite our teenage rebellious natures, to an extent, we still relied on the wisdom of our parents. Like our parents, we were attempting to navigate the world in these fast changing times. At least in the beginning (pre- 2008 Recession), many of us still bought into the whole "American Dream" thing, at least that’s what it felt like as we were herded through university educational machine, a job promised to us once we were done, because we all sang the song "We have a degree, which means we’ll get a job!" I believed it. But then again, I’m a white dude, so I had the naivete to believe it, unlike the sisters in my generation.
But then once the housing crash and recession happened, coincidentally enough, the tune for some of us, including myself changed to "Well, maybe we should stay in school for a bit longer. Afterward you’ll get a job and make money.” Again, I was naive enough to believe that, unlike my African-American brothers and my sisters of any race.
However, as time has progressed, I’ve gotten the sense that my generation and my parents generation had two very different reactions. Where as my generation approached these events with a certain amount of curiosity, many in my parents generation saw what happened as a “blip” and attempted to go back to how things were.
I mention curiosity because, in some ways, it feels as though the internet was made for my generation.
But as the internet continued to evolve and social media was birthed into our screens, information became much easier to find and disseminate, perhaps much to the chagrin (and amazement) of older generations.
Sure, the internet provided a large platform for distributing information, but this was also during the time cable news was hitting its stride. Between the 24 hour news cycle and the internet, my generation had access to a flood of information, creating a time were dubbing “The Information Age.”
We’re the first generation to seemingly have instant access to information. Precisely because of our easy access, it’s no wonder then that certain, uncomfortable truths have been uncovered (or rediscovered) in our lifetime. In return, this has caused many in my generation to examine not only their place in the world but how we want to affect it. One could say that my generation is especially tired of all the disingenuous bullshit given to our parents who were told (and to an extent, believed) this is as good as life will ever get. Again, according to people who study my generation, they say people my age crave authentic, real experiences and a meaningfulness that goes beyond a brand name, and more often than not, includes traveling as part of that.
Think of it this way: The internet demolished certain dams that held back the waters of truth, which caused massive floods that revealed many of the skeletons our parents (and grandparents) thought they safely stuffed away in closets and attics. It wasn't just the internet breaking metaphorical damns. One could make the case that the 24 hour cable news cycle (started in 1982 by Ted Turner's CNN) created the cracks in the dam, and the internet was simply the water pressure that pushed these dams to the brink.
Naturally it’s taken time to sort through the wreckage. With this access to information, our eyes have been open to injustices and scandals in every part of the world. It felt like, and I would assume especially to my white friends, that a large portion of what we learned about in school was wrong. Or, at least it felt like we weren’t given the whole picture by schools and parents, especially those in my generation living in suburbs (with a majority white population).
Certain so-called family staples of our parents generation like Ringling Brothers Circus and SeaWorld have seen their share of scandals in recent years. Even good 'ol American pastimes like Baseball (steroids) and Football (concussions) weren’t immune to the floods of truth.
As I said earlier, even the educational institutions weren’t immune. Since my time in school, it turns out much of what my generation has been taught, especially in history classes, is built on racism. Like Columbus Day. Though, to be fair, in some states it’s more so than others.
What makes the whole thing fucked up is the fact that when we were young, our parents taught/encouraged us to tell the truth and be different; that we were all special and unique, like snowflakes! But then when my generation began doing stuff on our own accord (like innovative tech ideas attempting make life more simple), we found ourselves being yelled at and put down through clickbait headlines accusing my generation of being murderers.
Or as my generation attempts to shine light on past injustices (like marriage inequality, workplace inequality, animal abuse), we’re being yelled at by misleading headlines accused of murder!
And if one were to read the clickbait headlines at face value, it would seem as though my generation has a metaphorical blood-lust for killing off things that our parents and older generations hold dear.
- Like going to the movies.
- Like traditional cable TV.
- Like Video Store Rentals.
- Like malls and department stores.
- Like American cheddar cheese, breakfast cereal and mayonnaise.
- Like taxi services.
- Like printed newspapers.
- Like church.
- Like college football AND professional football.
Personally, I think these changes were going to happen whether it was Gen Y, Gen Z or an Armageddon style asteroid crashing into the earth.
The problem that many of these blaring clickbait headlines seem to ignore is that the driving force behind these changes are NOT simply because my generation sees something as old/obsolete. We’ve done our research. Some might say way too much research that sometimes leaves us a little like...
Believe it or not, people in my generation are considered to be the most educated and best informed generation to date. Apparently, we love data! We love data so much that we sometimes put it in our put-downs and brushoffs of older generations.
As Nicole Spector pointed out in her NBC News article,
“This is a pattern we see time and time again among millennials, across all consumer categories: They shun a time-honored commodity (that maybe wasn’t so great in the first place), and open their hearts and wallets to what they deem a better alternative, be it for health, ethics, experience, budget, or all of the above.”
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise then that, thanks to all this information, we might make choices that aren’t just budget friendly, but also healthier for us, at least when it comes to food processing and healthy alternatives. So it’s no wonder that between 24-28% of millennials (depending on what you read) consider themselves vegetarian or partially vegetarian, which is a larger percentage than any previous generation.
It's no wonder then that many in my generation are either using Facebook less or leaving it altogether. I think many of us still remember when Facebook could only be accessed if someone had a “.edu” email address. It made Facebook a place to connect with friends, we didn't have to worry much about trolls, data hacking or people being as asshole-y. At least it didn't feel that way to me.
We’re also a weirdo generation because we are one of the last to know of a time before MCU dominated the box office. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks that’s weird.
My generation has also been called lazy by numerous clickbait headlines. Which is weird because many in my generation actually work more hours than older generations.
But what makes all this much more strange to myself and the rest of my generation is that, for the first time in history, my generation is actually worse off than the previous generations, at least in terms of financial and occupational success. One could point to the fact that my parents generation is stealing from many within my generation, due to the fact that, as Chris Tomlinson’s Huston Chronicle column explains,
“The U.S. federal debt totals $22.5 trillion, or $66,000 per person. This huge debt, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is a relatively recent development, coinciding with baby boomers reaching political maturity.”
Though, whether that’s a symptom or one of the direct causes of the fact that my generation is in awful financial shape remains to be seen. Here’s a hint though, probably both.
But, as an article on howstuffworks.com points out, this also depends on how one defines “success” and “worse off” in the first place.
Some could say my generation is redefining what it means to be successful, though it’s not like we had much choice in the first place.
So, to summarize: the majority of my generation is a bunch of weirdos because we were encouraged to be different and unique, then our parents and grandparents complained about us acting out these differences while we lived in a time where many were unaware or ignored the extent to which corruption and racism permeated various parts of society but we were encouraged by our parents to be uniquely ourselves and tell the truth, then when the information and data to do both became easily accessible to my generation we were yelled at and ridiculed by institutions our parents cherished all because we were trying to innovate and make life better though it didn’t really matter anyway because our parents generation has been creating an economy that leaves my generation worse off, which is the first time in history something like that has happened.
Brycical is by no means an sociologist. He doesn’t even hold a degree in psychology. But still, like many people, Brycical isn’t immune to noticing certain patterns about how the world apparently “works” for some. So Brycical writes about it, hoping more will notice these patterns and feel inclined to also speak up and let their voice be heard. Feel free to read more of the patterns Brycical notices on Medium, or consider checking out his website at www.thebrycical.com to learn more about Brycical himself.