Millennials to Boomers: Stay out of our way, and let us get this

     DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian addressed a lunchtime audience of about 50 entrepreneurs in December at First Round Capital in University City. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

    DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian addressed a lunchtime audience of about 50 entrepreneurs in December at First Round Capital in University City. (Emma Lee/for NewsWorks, file)

    Millennials. Generation Y. Whatever you want to call us, we’re the generation that seems to be on the cusp of reaching adulthood without ever actually getting there. No matter where you turn, new data continually affirms our ineptitude. We’re obsessed with success yet lazy, independent yet living in our parents’ homes, constantly plugged in yet entirely unwilling to pay attention to detail. No matter what the data brings, it seems that, in the eyes our elders, and the public — parents, professors, grandparents, bosses — we’re the generation that’s perpetually “not quite there yet.”

    But are we really?

    According to Pew, Millennials are more optimistic about the future of our nation — 49 percent of Millennials think the USA’s best years are ahead — but understand the reality of the economic challenges we face, coming of age in a post-recession society. We’re the best-educated group of young adults in American history, and even though our votes skew Democratic, we’re politically active: 19 percent of the American electorate in 2012 was made up of young voters. We’re optimistic and realistic, plugged in and tuned out. We care about pop culture the same way we care about political culture. Above all, we care. We’re invested in our future, in our nation, and in what will become of us.

    Rightfully so. Over and over again, we’re told we’re the first generation who won’t turn out “better” than our parents. We’ll be poorer, we’re told, unemployed when we graduate from college, bound for failure that we can’t accept because we got trophies in second-grade soccer league and, above all, unwilling to grow up and live without our parents. Yes, we’re not always as proactive, independent, or detail-oriented as we maybe could be — but that doesn’t mean we’re unprepared for real careers, in need of a leader, or endlessly narcissistic.

    In fact, we’re quite the opposite. We’re enterprising. Facebook, Snapchat, Reddit and Vox, to name a few, were all founded by Millennials. We’re highly invested in communities, building tools that make the world smaller and more accessible to most individuals. We value teamwork over moral superiority, happiness over economic success. We’re attuned to how technology can better our own lives and the world around us. We strive for meritocracy, not mediocrity. We volunteer because we feel responsible for making a difference. We’re tolerant and forward-thinking. We have serious potential — if only you’ll let us do it our way.

    The Boomers were born into a world where the memory of victory in a major world war was still fresh. They grew up in a world of rising individual influence and increased personal choice. Freedom of expression was encouraged. Every family, it seemed, had its own “rags to riches” story. Once-war-torn European nations were rebuilding. In their high school and college days, dissenting against the government by way of protest or the arts was rampant, leading people to understand their role in the way in which America was run. Participation in government was not only permitted; it was encouraged. The onset of increased economic competition and ideologically based foreign policy lines pushed rapid innovation. The planet was healthy. When the Cold War ended, as Boomers were starting to raise families and settle down, America remained on top. And that sense of superiority carried into every facet of daily American life.

    Not anymore. We Millennials are finding our own way. We finished high school and college amid the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The U.S. government is so partisan that it’s nearly at stagnation on even the most important of issues. Climate change is happening fast, and there’s no impetus for political action or change. Women still earn money at a deficit compared to their male peers, and no one seems to want to make a change. In grade school, we witnessed the first attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor and have spent the rest of our young lives grappling with its true impact. I cannot remember a period in our lifetime when the United States wasn’t involved in a war overseas. The world is more unequal than ever before. We constantly hear problems, but no one can seem to find any solutions.

    Doing things the way that they were “always” done before clearly isn’t working. So, with all due respect, Boomers, please cut us some slack. We’re not wallowing; to our credit, we’re finding new ways to do things. We can’t always listen to your ideas because, in general, we’ve been tasked with living with and fixing Boomers’ mistakes, from the economy to the environment. We might not implement your ideas in the way or at the speed you want us to, but that’s probably because we have our own. From go, our generation has been set up for failure and criticism. For once, take a step back and let us prove ourselves. Let us innovate, create, and dream big. And if we fail, instead of criticizing us, let us get up, dust ourselves off, and try again. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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