“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – William Shakespeare
I had a little misunderstanding with a rather eccentric elderly gentleman the other night where he implied that all us millennials are vacuous uneducated freeloaders with no respect. Needless to say I set him straight and we came to an understanding in a calm and composed manner and all was well. After the dust had settled this man decided to come and reflect on some of the things he had said and actually stated that he, a man in his 80s, pitied us youngsters because we actually have it harder than ever before. The sad truth is, he was right, we won’t have the kind of opportunities our forefathers did, we have a whole host of millennial specific problems that the older generations don’t have to worry about. I don’t dispute that our grandfathers all had circumstances to face that we can’t imagine and as much as it sucks to be in your 20s, it must suck even more to be in your 80s in 1000mph 2016.
He expressed his sympathies by telling me: “You won’t get pensions, you can’t even bloody buy a house like we used to be able to for god’s sakes. Going to university leaves you worse off and everyone’s trying to be the next best thing. You couldn’t pay me to be young in this day and age, how do you win?” He hit the nail on the head there, they won’t pay you for trying to be the next best thing – that lack of payment results in you not looking out for your future and that’s a realisation that has resulted in us young whipper snappers feeling well and truly redundant.
We’ve grown up with the optimism and belief of our parents, teachers and peers both bolstering us and holding us down at the same time. Our parents didn’t want us to feel like we couldn’t do things so instead we’ve been told that we can do anything we want to if we try hard enough – this is simply not true. You can try as hard as you like to be a singer but if you don’t have a good voice – will you really win the X-Factor? Probably not. Our parents and their parents before them were taught that you work your way through life in whatever job you were assigned, regardless of if it was the job you wanted or not, buy a house and have kids – those with sky high dreams were regarded as rebellious innovators who were few and far between. Our parents didn’t want us to feel too stuck to dream big and become those innovators, which is a noble and loving cause but now EVERYBODY is dreaming big and expecting to make it because we’ve been told that we’re all special and that an insatiable thirst for success alone will carry you to the top.
I’m not saying that we aren’t special or deserving of a good life, but these days a good life is defined by how many 0’s are in your bank account and how hot you look pissing your money up the wall. These two key goals in our lives are largely what our collective happiness is balanced on and there are only so many 0’s and hotness to go around us all. We of Generations X, Y & Z are the biggest dreamers but we don’t accept that some of these need to remain as dreams and not as goals because we end up hating ourselves for not being as great as we’ve dreamt ourselves up to be. We want so much too soon and get angry and unhappy when we can’t have it. Is it any wonder mental illness is rife these days? I don’t believe it’s down to us being a bunch of drama queens (as it is often implied) but rather down to a burning desire to be something other than the perceived “norm”.
Is the antidote simply just to be happy with being an Average Joe? Possibly, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Can you undo years of build up to an imagined climax of success and money and happiness and fame simply through enlightenment? I’d like to think so. I’m guiltier than anyone of self-flagellation in the absence of all the success I’d planned to have had by now and I think acceptance is key to reversing some of the damage that excessive “pushing yourself” can inflict.
Does this all sound eerily familiar, dear readers? Cut yourself some slack, stop expecting and start accepting. Accepting that I am only 23 years young and I am not realistically going have my entire life figured out. Accepting that the odds are naturally stacked against me financially and that money doesn’t equal happiness. Accepting that I’m one of many smart, inspired graduates in the ever expanding talent pool but I am the only me out there – if someone doesn’t hire me, I’m still me for many other reasons other than “being the best ___”. Accepting that I’m great and unique irrespective of my achievements – these are simply extras.
Don’t give up, don’t stop giving a shit and don’t stop trying but do stop beating yourself up when you fall on your face – it’s going to happen, be like Madonna, accept it and move onwards and upwards.