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November 18, 2012

I can’t remember who I was talking to. Maybe she was talking about her lazy son or he was talking about his useless niece, but either way, I listened as she said how ungrateful and incapable the current 30-something generation is. I heard that they didn’t know what hard work was and that their pathetic idea of living is staying in to catch up on the latest season on Netflix. How dare they waste time, raise a generation even worse and feel entitled to more than they’ve earned?

This kind of victimizing talk isn’t new, and we’ve all heard much worse, but that doesn’t make it alright. Even without the beastly generalizations we’re dealing with, why do we always think that we’re the only ones that have it right? Is this ageism some distorted version of the grass is always greener on the other side? Are we just perpetuating the same cycle that had been applied to us?

I know the comment wasn’t directed at me, after all-I’m only 20-something, but it stuck with me enough to garner a little research, and it turns out it hits closer to home than I thought.

There used to be only one generation every 20 years, one name to describe everyone. The 1900’s started with the Lost Generation, continuing on to the Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, and eventually the Baby Boomers. But once Generation X hit in the 1960’s, things were changing fast and suddenly people weren’t satisfied with only one title or even a few.

Apparently I am a Millennial, part of Generation Y, an 80’s baby. They call me a New Boomer, an Echo Boomer, Generation Next and Generation Net. I hear I am a ‘post emotional’ Trophy Child who is expected to win at competitive sports and ace college exams. I’m told I believe older generations had better morals and I’m much closer to my parents than they were with theirs. They’re right when they say my helicopter parents raised me as part of the Global Generation and that my narcissism requires both my home and my work life to be meaningful. I’ve even been dubbed the Peter Pan Generation, because I never want to grow up and I’ll likely move home like the Boomerang Generation predicts. And all the experts agree; Generation Me exhibits an abnormally high sense of entitlement.

I’m not sure how to feel about all of this. I admit much of it is dead on, but why do I feel like it’s something I have to admit? I get the sense that I should be justifying myself, explaining how living at home is only temporary and how I could have done without all my sports trophies. Why, when I read those descriptions, do I feel guilty, like I’ve let someone down by being a Millennial? Is my birth something I have to overcome?

It gets worse for the next generation. I read that Generation Z (for walking like Zombies while holding their phones out) is just about to graduate from high school and is expected to flounder once they hit reality. Generation Text and Generation Always On knows that the economy isn’t in the best shape, but this high maintenance iGeneration NEEDS the latest gadgets and isn’t prepared to settle. I knew a few years without YouTube and my phone isn’t clued to my thumbs so I can’t be classified as one of these Digital Natives, but, like everyone else my age, I’m glad. I can’t help but look down on these kids, mourning their dependence on technology and worrying about their in depth social profiles. But why do I worry? I’m really not that different, I like the internet, I’m post-graduation floundering, I think Zombies are cool; this Pluralist generation is very close to mine, why then do I feel so superior?

I know this judgment isn’t something reserved for generations; my brother still remembers the class below him with distain. He calls them the 4th graders, because when he was in 5th grade they didn’t show the proper respect for the grades above them, namely his. And he heard the 3rd graders were even worse. We’ve all agreed with the “kids these days” statement at one point or another, do we really all believe our world really been getting progressively worse?

And what about being a 20-something? I know most people hate to remember their teen years, and worry about crossing 30, but I routinely still feel like a teenager, and many times I wish I could feel some of the same things I felt then. Why do spend so much time differentiating myself when I’m really not that different?

So I guess leaves me back where I started, confused about what being part of a generation means. I hope I don’t really believe that kids these days are getting worse and I definitely don’t believe that we necessarily get it right as we age. Things change with time, and I’m okay with that, though admittedly a little afraid. So yes, I am part of the entitlement generation, and it can mean whatever I want it to. It means I’m vain enough to miss my old self as I grow up and that I’m afraid to take a wrong a turn somewhere and miss my path to the awesomeness I know I’m capable of. It means I will work to get things I want and that my greatness can inspire others to do the same. Generation Me means I choose happiness and I will never stop trying to find more. What does your generation mean to you?


P.S. when I was 12 I sang along to this song as Generation X, not Generation Next. I didn’t understand generations then either… But I’ll always love GIRL POWER!

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