One In A Millennial

They may ask you not to believe everything that you read on the Internet, but I assure you that Shakespeare once wrote “Ah, millennials, thou art as lost as woke thou art!”

There are only a handful of things that make me more curious to sit up and engage in a discussion, or invite myself to listen in on someone else’s discussion, than the topic of my generation, (un)fondly referred to as the millennials in today’s world. I had to scoot over to Wikipedia to get the age range for millennials and it appears that the widely accepted defining range for the generation is those born between 1981 and 1996. So, if you were born within this range, may you relate to this post! If not, may you relate to this post harder because it is safe to say that everyone alive today has dealt with a millennial at some point in life!

What makes millennials different from the rest of the generations, you ask? I would like to think of it as a stubborn belief that nobody has experienced what we have, a motto that may as well be the slogan for every generation in the past and future alike. Here, though, I would cut us some slack and acknowledge the fact that millennials have indeed witnessed a disorderly life right from the start. We were born into a generation that lived modestly and loved simplicity. From there, we were catapulted into an adulthood where we were in a real-life Titanic scenario with hordes of people trying to stay afloat while watching the Roses of life single-handedly occupying large floaters, leaving you to struggle to stay alive in the sea of life. Did you see how I went straight from childhood to adulthood, without stopping at teenage? That’s because most of us had teenage years where we were either walking around like oversized, awkward hairy mammals (in guys’ cases, a general lack of hair may have been the problem) or as mini celebrities- there was no in-between. Add to that the pressure of studying alongside multiple kids of the quintessential Sharma Jis and you have before you a social quagmire that defined our life back then. Therefore, for the sake of our collective mental health, I will not be discussing teenage years.

As a millennial myself, I find that most of my adulthood thus far has seen me occupied with three main things. For the sake of familiarity, I would like to refer to these as the Deathly Shallows (someday, I will be able to write a piece without any Harry Potter reference but that day is not today). The Deathly Shallows are much like the Deathly Hallows, except that instead of helping you escape death, they make you miss out on life. Before I explain this, I will introduce to you the 3 Deathly Shallows- relationships, career, and politics. Ask any millennial how he/she feels about these things and you will be met with opinions that are hardly conjured on the spot. Each of us has had time to reflect on these Shallows and in all likelihood, each of us has a story (or three) to tell. It is also noteworthy that each of us believes with every cell in our body that these opinions come from a deep place inside our minds, when in reality, a wise man knows that life is about continuous learning and unlearning and opinions in time are but a picture from the shallow end of our minds (hence the Deathly ‘Shallows’). Going back to my earlier point, how do these Shallows make us miss out on life? Let’s wait a little longer and talk about each of these and perhaps you will have found the answer yourselves.

Where do I begin on the topic of relationships? A millennial, particularly in India, had likely been all too familiar with the arranged marriage concept in our culture but was also witness to the slow transition into the concept of love marriage. To a lot of us, the latter was something unheard of in our familial circles but we soon gravitated towards it nonetheless. With it came the gradual transformation in our relationships with our families too. We went from being scared of our parents to (hopefully) seeing friends in them. As we grew older, we realized the importance of family even more as we ventured out into the world, all alone, transcending borders and living by ourselves in foreign lands. It was not that nobody before us had done it. It was, instead, that this had become a norm for our generation. We were thrown into the world with endless possibilities and with that came the power to choose whom we loved. As millennial adults, almost all of us have been burnt in this quest for love. We are now in these times where the concept of “happily ever after” has started to look bleak. Somewhere along this journey, we were made to believe that love should be about accepting one as they are and vice versa. With me so far? Great! Now let’s bring the confusion into it. With every other lesson that we were learning from life, we also learnt that we must not “settle” into an unhappy relationship. The problem arises when we blur the lines between settling and accommodating/compromising. I have tried hard to understand why the latter has an unnecessary negative connotation. When two able, independent, separate entities come together, the rules are bound to change. Coexisting is a challenge- one that requires efforts from both parties, however, I see more and more couples throwing in the towel because they believe in a far-fetched concept of there being a perfect person who would not need them to change “anything” about themselves and will fit into their lives like those furry mops from the age-old advertisements that fitted into every crevice of your house. Millennial-centric flashback, that was, ha! Compromise is a part of relationships- one that tests us and keeps things moving. It is but a necessary element in any equation with multiple variables but somehow, we seem to have forgotten that. I am not condoning dragging out dead-end relationships, mind you! All I’m saying is that we have created this ideal scenario in our heads that makes us more susceptible to walking out on potentially salvageable situations and through it we have shunned the age-old idea of love. I recently came across this line, “Look at all the shit we’ve been calling love”, and I relate to it on a spiritual level. Give me some old school love, I say. We are so full of the fear that we must not let anyone disrupt our peace that we have swung to the far end of the spectrum and are forever dwelling on things that can go wrong. It’s like when you have a pet at home and you hear a frightening sound or just about any sound in the middle of the night, and you immediately assume that your pet has jumped off the balcony and its carcass will lie there forever. Similarly, now, when we convince ourselves to share our lives with another person, a part of us looks for ways to set things up for failure just so that we can go “I told you so” to ourselves, in a silent bid to reaffirm the school of thought that the smallest of disruptions can break us. It is not for nothing that millennials are the most directionless bunch, second only to deer caught in headlights. We spend so much time figuring out a way to understand love that we miss out on sharing those moments with our loved ones. For love steals from our life and we let it.

I do not know about others, but for me, work is something that gives me a purpose stronger than most other things. It is a territory that I get to call all mine as I steer it in any direction that I fancy. The fact that we, as millennials, set out to explore uncharted waters and found ourselves all alone for most practical purposes, we have always had career marked as a high priority goal at all times. If the sheer competition and rat race was not enough to rattle us, we became the one generation of office-goers that has now witnessed two colossal hits of economic downfall within a span of 12 years. If you go back to the defining age range for our generation, you will see that most of us were working professionals during both these times and had to witness the recession brought upon by the collective deeds of mankind. Taking one for the team, as they say. A direct result of economic uncertainties coupled with a desire to shine amidst the swarm of competitors is that millennials are nearing burnout faster than ever. We are the generation clocking in 14-15 hours of work-shifts on routine basis. We are the generation setting new standards for workaholism. We are the generation that is the living proof of how easily replaceable we are in the corporate world yet how much we have to work regardless to make our mark. This is likely the reason our generation may have an overall lower lifespan. I think this is a fact that most of us are familiar with (may even be in denial about) and yet we ignore the inevitable truth and toil day in and day out. We may not all have responsibilities of a family or other financial liability and yet we bust our rears because this is the ONE thing that is ours. Career is no longer about having something that adds to life. For a lot of us, it is what takes up most of our days and most of our nights because how else does one become successful in this ever-changing world? For work steals from our life and we let it.

Politics and millennials have a very strong relationship, likely due to the belief that our morals dictate our political views. We are the generation that has seen rapid political movements that have brought about radical changes too, be it related to the understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQ community, defying racism, or even questioning democracy. Millennials found at their disposal the seemingly harmless weapon of social media and were soon enslaved by it. We are the generation that prides itself in having opinions, even if they are often based on Instagram stories (well, the mainstream media does not help much, in all honesty). We are the generation that stands up for what is right, even if we fail to take subjectivity into account. We are the generation that strives to be liberals and fight for a free and peaceful world, even if we fail to see the irony in using two of these words together in the same sentence. Politics is the topic that we perceive as a yardstick for assessing one’s moral inclinations. We are witnessing a highly discernible divide within our generation on the concepts of right and wrong. There are those who align with the liberal policies and others who side with the conservatives. Even so, we are left with a group that’s unable to feel at ease on either side. That’s the one that I relate to- the moderates. Social media has turned us into armchair activists, perpetually scouting for causes that we can get behind. Our voices are now heard on a global scale, thanks to the metaphorical doors opened to us by the smartphones in our hands. When it comes to subjects like racism, it is easy to know which side one should be on. The real conundrum arises in articulating one’s beliefs. In the many recent cases of political uprising, such as the racism against the black community in USA or the apparent lack of secularism in the mistreatment of the minorities in India, I saw how people took to social media to express their dissent against the clear lack of sound policies by the governments concerned. This is acceptable and necessary too. However, what I saw next was how the dissenting side rationalized the use of force or riots as a means to protest. The few of us who may believe in a cause but not to the extent of justifying what we feel are inexcusable measures are quick to feel like outcasts. If we choose to express our disapproval of the riots, we are met with a dozen arguments about how a community that has faced suppression for long is bound to erupt after a point. If we choose to seal our lips on the matter instead, we are perceived as apolitical and reminded with much fervor that not choosing a side is akin to placing our trust in the oppressors. It surprises me how those who claim to protest against the bullies are the ones that are often unintentionally (or not?) bullying us into making a choice. It eventually becomes a dilemma wherein it is no longer about what you find wrong but more about how it is wrong for anyone to find someone else’s ideologies wrong. As my friend would say, “People seem to have forgotten that one can disagree without being disagreeable.” While I stand in solidarity with everyone who has suffered at the hands of racism and unfair policies and I staunchly believe that #BlackLivesMatter, I also believe that #AllLivesMatter (without downplaying the need of the former). On an individual level, we are taught that our anger is our responsibility and we must not harm another through it. Similarly, as a community, it ceases to make sense when we fight death by killing another or fight damage by destruction of property. I agree that it is only a small fraction of the protestors who resort to such means, however, that fraction needs acknowledgment and appropriate condemnation. The ideology that because one suffered, the world must burn in penance is as worrisome as dogmatic conservative approaches. When one makes this argument, you can often hear them being reminded of their privilege, that is how they speak from a perspective of a person who has not faced such struggles. To them, I say, each one of us is privileged in one way or another and yet we can voice our beliefs. A self-proclaimed liberal who believes that rioting as a means of protest is justified is saying so from the comforts of his home that is quite likely unaffected by these riots. A person condoning destruction of property is likely someone who has never owned any property to understand the impact its destruction can have on a multitude of people. In such scenarios too, I am reminded of just how hardwired we have grown to the idea of moral righteousness and that we are now living examples of the phrase “Holier than thou” when in reality, each of us is only as holy as the next one. As they say, “do not judge someone just because they sin differently than you”. We spend so much time in this moral tug of war that we forget to use these moments to live. For our morally-loaded political mind steals from our life and we let it.

As a generation, we are imperfect, just like any other. The one thing that sets us apart, in my opinion, is the fact that we are perhaps the loneliest of the lot. Somewhere through this all, we were fed the idea that nobody may match up to us enough to fit into our lives and minds forever and we have been carrying that lie like a beloved truth all along. Our career, our relationships, and our ideologies play a wicked game of passing the parcel and every day we open one parcel a little more to see what it carries inside. That parcel becomes our task for the day as we use it to keep our minds occupied. And just like that, the Deathly Shallows steal from our lives and we let them. On days when no task pops up, we have enough social media to keep us asocial.

They may ask you not to believe everything that you read on the Internet, but I assure you that Shakespeare once wrote “Ah, millennials, thou art as lost as woke thou art!”