I am more than my occasional kale chip.

A Vindication of the Generation commonly known as “Millennials”.

Every generation has its negative stereotype.
The Baby Boomers gave us the flower children. And, you know, Woodstock.
 hippies
The Gen Xers gave us the yuppies with their glamorous family-hating lifestyle (as seen in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation).
yuppies
The Millennials gave us the hipsters: 27-year-olds with handle-bar mustaches and Santa Claus beards, decked out in their bow-ties and suspenders, munching on kale chips and sipping free-trade organic $6 specialty coffee served in a cup made of sustainably-sourced materials, ethically-consumed in a shop decked out in the latest rustic-“vintage” decor, as they complain of not being able to pay their $800,000 in student loans that were incurred whilst studying 18th-Century woodworking in Buenos Aires.
hipster-trio
Sound familiar?
My generation fascinates me. On the one hand, I’m amazed at how much we have changed the world in the short time we’ve been adults. It was Millennials who created Facebook and Google, after all. On the other hand, we’re stereotyped as entitled, out-of-work “snowflake” socialists who live with our parents and wonder why no one would give us our dream job right after graduation.
Of course, stereotypes have an origin somewhere. And perhaps there are some of us who fit this caricature. But that’s not the whole story.
Here’s the thing.
We are more than the $6 coffee we drink.

As they say in writing class, show, don’t tell. So let me illustrate with a sampling of the real-life Millennials that I know and love:

  • My brother: a tech businesses entrepreneur who works long hours at it to support his wife and kids. Not yet Mark Zuckerberg, but it wouldn’t suprise me if he gets there someday.
  • My coworkers: creative professionals who also volunteer in their downtime. One works for a dog rescue, one helps out at her church and is an active political campaigner, another helps young female athletes… you know, your typical un-selfish community-minded good citizens.
  • My college friends: genius doctoral students advancing immunology. A professor of Spanish literature. An evolutionary biologist. A clinical psychologist.
  • My closest friends: a family lawyer helping foster children and a teacher taking time off from that to raise her baby son.
  • My little sister: a Catholic FOCUS missionary  working at an Ivy League school bringing the smart kids to Jesus. (Shameless plug: click here to support her mission).

What about me?

I’m the slacker. My history degree wasn’t worth major bucks (nothing was in 2009, actually) so I went to work for my uncle at the family auto-body shop so I could buy a house (at 24) and get married (at 25). My spare cash goes to travel (mostly overseas), and I didn’t get my real job as a writer until age 27, 6 years post-graduation.
Yes, I’m still paying for massive student loans. No, I don’t regret it. Studying history, philosophy, music, art, and theology at Catholic University was a dream come true, and will forever affect the way I think and interact with the world. The friends I made there are brilliant people whose ideas, even the ones I disagree with, fascinate and inspire me.
In fact, every Millennial that I know personally is a unique individual who fascinates and inspires me.
Come to think of it, maybe the term “snowflake” is fitting. Maybe we should wear that badge with honor.
Maybe the world should take a look at us again.
And yes, I do occasionally eat kale chips. 😉
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