Opinion Columns & Blogs

Stop dumping generational baggage on millennials: We’re working with the tools available

Rory Appleton
Rory Appleton sflores@fresnobee.com

“You young whippersnappers don’t know how good you have it. In my day, we walked 15 miles in the snow – uphill, both ways – to get to our full-time jobs with benefits and diverse 401k options.”

That’s basically what we millennials hear every time a teacher, parent or otherwise established “adult” talks to us about our generation.

We’re lazy because we refuse to go work at jobs that aren’t there.

We’re entitled because we want help paying for the unfathomable amount of debt we amassed while getting the college educations we were told from birth were required.

We’re leeches who spend every second away from our part-time food-service job, unpaid internship and rigorous course schedule taking selfies from our parents’ couches.

One millennial, a TV news reporter from Texas named Alexis Bloomer, chose to crystallize these beliefs in one rant. The video appears to have been triggered by a single rude act and went viral, with 42 million views as of April 29.

But first: What’s a millennial?

It varies, but the typical definition is someone who became an adult sometime between 2000-2010. If you’ve ever looked at an adult younger than you and shook your head in disgust, the odds are great that they’re a millennial and you are not.

On the totem poll of worldwide discrimination, the plight of the millennial is quite low. We understand that. It is nowhere near as serious as racism, sexism and religious persecution. But we, the most educated generation in history, are keenly focused on ending all stereotypes and discrimination, so why not attack them all at once?

As I am writing the 1 millionth opinion piece defending millennials from our baby boomer and Generation X oppressors, I’m tempted to use the most common defense: It was our parents’ generations who ruined everything. They caused the recession. They made us go to war in the Middle East. I saw “The Big Short.” I know what you did to the housing market we’re now expected to enter into in order to get off your couches.

But that’s shifting the blame – one of the most common millennial stereotypes.

It’s much simpler than that: We are just spokes in a generational wheel that has turned for centuries. Most of the claims made against us are the same ones our grandparents laid on our parents, as our great-grandparents had done before. Those hippies President Richard Nixon wanted to go out and get jobs are now telling us the same thing.

Furthermore, generalizations are wrong. To say that a group always does this or doesn’t do that is inaccurate regardless of the context. There are some lazy millennials and some who have already changed the world. The same is and always was true of any generation.

And a lot of us have manners, Alexis. Manners have always been a reflection of upbringing – not age. How a person was raised will always be a major contributing factor to personality and success.

When I got out of high school, I wandered. I tried vocational school and full-time work, but I clearly needed a college education to succeed.

Five years later, I got a job in my chosen field right after graduation. I would not have gotten that job if I didn’t spend 60-80 hours per week for more than a year writing for two freelance gigs, as a part-time Bee reporter and taking classes. I would not have known that was required – not suggested, required – for my gainful employment had I not seen all of my friends race through college in four years only to find out that most entry-level positions required two-plus years of experience.

I chose to stay at home because I was frightened of student-loan debt. I wanted to be free from debt until I decide to get married and buy a house – the American Dream. I need every advantage I can get. I will pay into Social Security every day of my life without receiving any of it.

My friend, Bekah Work, graduated from high school as a valedictorian at 16, then attended college on a full-ride scholarship. Four years later, she was $12,000 in debt. Her scholarship didn’t keep up with rising tuition rates. She will carry that debt as she and her husband, Gary, a Navy veteran attending community college, buy a house and start a family. His military training on a nuclear carrier would land him an entry-level job somewhere, the government said, but that hasn’t quite panned out.

Of course, they want some government assistance. Hasn’t the government’s purpose always been to help people?

Yes, we use technology to escape reality at times.

And yes, we can be a bit childish. We have a serious, bordering on unhealthy fascination with the Kardashians, Kanye West and Beyoncé.

But cut us a little slack. The world is different than when you came of age, and laying the same hangups on us that your parents did on you helps no one.

Rory Appleton is a reporter for The Bee. He can be contacted at 559-441-6015, @RoryDoesPhonics