Nobel Laureate Eugene O’Neill famously once said “There is no present or future-only the past, happening over and over again.” When people bitch and moan about millennials being the product of the “me, me, me 80s” and “caring 90s” and how we’re basically a bunch of entitled brats, I’d love to know what the War-time generations thought of the baby boomers. They’d missed the Blitz, sure what could they possibly know?!
Let’s start at the beginning- “millennials” is a catch-all term for people born between 1980 and 2000. There’s your first problem – you can’t really lump that many people into the one age bracket; there’s very little common ground or shared experiences worth discussing. The only things that spring to mind are the facts that very few of us will remember Live Aid and most of us probably ate way too many E numbers as kids. Another interesting classification that has been bandied about is “anyone who was between 10 and 20 on September 11th 2001”. As someone who had turned 14 less than three weeks before, that puts me firmly in the millennial bracket, whether I like it or not.
Traits expressed by this group are said to include much higher levels of narcissism and entitlement, as well as a desire for instant gratification. It’s ok though, we’re also ambitious to the point of cut-throat.
Some say it’s down to “hovering” parents (those who are hyper-involved in their offspring’s lives and achievements), and that we’re products of a culture where you got a medal for merely showing up. I can recall several sports days where I received no such medal (St. Colmcille’s GNS were not into churning out unproductive young ladies, it would seem).
I graduated from college in November 2009, having started final year the week Lehman Brothers collapsed. It was possibly the worst year in the previous twenty to finish college. All the dreams that had been dangled in front of us throughout our educational years like carrots on sticks were suddenly ripped away, leaving a bunch of confused (and frankly, shit scared) kids in gowns and mortar boards.
But you know what? We all survived. Some of us left for different shores. Some of us went back to education, earning postgraduate diplomas and Masters degrees. Most of us got jobs in different fields (with this one continuing to do the “media thing” here at Krank). We watched our parents, older siblings and friends cope with negative equity, job loss and all the other crap that came with the recession. We tried to learn, once and for all, what the hell a tracker mortgage is and why people seemed really relieved to have them.
I don’t pretend that millennials are the worst victims of the global recession -we’re not. Many of us remained relatively sheltered from it and are only coming of age as we’re turning the corner. Maybe the different styles of parenting and education that emerged throughout the 90s softened us up more than previous generations (I don’t buy that, personally). Perhaps we were ill-prepared for any global catastrophe that came our way and turned to our parents for guidance (and the odd loan).
But we didn’t create this mess. Very few of us contributed in any way; the majority of us were too young to have pounced on the property ladder as soon as we could because “you’ll never lose in bricks and mortar!” I don’t know anyone my age or even slightly older who bought property in Bulgaria, or who took out massive loans to do their Christmas shopping in New York.
But it will be us who pick up a substantial amount of the tab. It will probably be our kids too. As more of us join the ranks of PAYE and the retirement age climbs, we’ll probably be 70 before we can kick back and enjoy the pension plans we’re already being told to start paying into.
So call us narcissistic and irresponsible. Call us “The Peter Pan Generation”, if you like. We’ll be here, cleaning up this mess. In the damn fine words of Billy Joel, “We didn’t start the fire.”