By Lillian Mongeau
It is with very mixed feeling that I sit down to write this letter to you. On the one hand, you are my parents, my mentors, my teachers—the adults who have guided me through childhood, adolescence and that awkward young adult time that comes next. Without you, I would not be who I am today.
Also, y’all have done a lot of good in the world. The sexual revolution was awesome. Thank you. And second wave feminism gave me a career I love, an open door to all the sports I want to play and a husband who actually thinks of me as an equal partner. Wearing pants, taking birth control and running marathons have all been highlights in my life that you have made possible. Oh, and also Lynyrd Skynyrd. And Jon Stewart. And Denzel Washington. And Sonia Sotomayor.
Though, if I’m being honest you’ve messed up some too. I mean, that whole “We live in a post-racial society” line has turned out to be utter crap. You left a lot of us looking like idiots when we hit college spouting that one. And you kind of dropped the ball on fixing health care and the environment. I mean, seriously with global warming? I know you knew about it because you were telling me about it when I was nine, so no pretending you were caught with splooge on your intern’s dress. We know you knew and yet you did…almost nothing.
And look, we’re not perfect, us Millennials. I will come right out and say it: We and we alone are responsible for the beanie baby glut of 1996. Also Barney. (Sorry about that.) And not all of our accomplishments thus far are obvious winners. Is anyone grateful for Facebook? Twitter? Legalized marijuana? Unclear. We’ll get back to you in ten years. And we are really messing up our herd immunity with all this vaccination resistance nonsense.
But we are trying.
When you told us race shouldn’t matter, we listened, and we elected Barack Obama. Man’s not perfect, but he’s pretty great. We also listened to the whole “free to be you and me” shtick, and we were the engine of change that propelled gay marriage to the Supreme Court. You’re welcome. We know you wanted us to apply that principle to everybody, even if we had to drag some of you there kicking and screaming. And who doesn’t love Jimmy Fallon? Am I right?
The point is, we grew up trying to please you. You told us you weren’t like your parents; that you wanted to be our friends. You told us we were unique little snowflakes and we could make the world a better place if only we tried hard enough. And we believed you. Not only did we listen and nod along while you told us these things, we fought two frickin’ wars for you. We went to Iraq and Afghanistan and we fought and died and came back maimed on your say so.
What I’m saying is, have a little respect. We’re trying. And maybe we’re not perfect. Maybe we’re a tad obsessed with selfies at the moment (not that you wouldn’t be if you were our age again, with skin like this) and busy inventing redic slang words that work best in texts. But give us a little credit. For the effort, at least. For becoming teachers and doctors and non-profit founders. For trying to move forward and fix a few things in the face of a long list of things we probably can’t fix.
The point is, what we don’t need from you right now is another essay kvetching about how selfish Millennials are. How we’re just focused on making enough money to go out to fancy dinners while foolishly not buying homes and cars and all those other trappings of the middle class lives we’re supposed to want. Please, stop and think about the time and place we’re living in. The stagnating wages. The soaring cost of housing. The impact of carbon monoxide on our planet. You want us to buy cars? What!?
We may be dealing imperfectly with the world around us, but it would be nice if you could keep in mind that this is the world you handed us. Finances are shaky, food supplies teeter on the brink of impending environmental disaster, everyone who wants one has an assault rifle and either computer hackers or some sort of plague threaten to crash the whole system at any minute. Thanks for all that, and now you’ve had your turn.
Now, it’s our turn. We are the majority of the workforce as of this spring and we are going to need to take your jobs over the next decade or so no matter how painful that is for everyone. We are going to have to take control, because we are the new grown-up majority. It would go better if you helped us. Because we still need your advice, your love and your guidance. What we do not need is you making smart-ass comments about how insipid we are. Not helpful.
We are your children. It is the future.
This is our time.
Lillian and her Millennial husband live in California, for now, with their collection of outdoor gear. When she isn’t spending time running or skiing or quilting, Lillian works as the West Coast correspondent for The Hechinger Report.
Editor’s note: I met Lilly through The Oregonian’s Community Writers program, a forum for a dozen citizens to write about a topic of their choice for 12 weeks. We liked Lilly’s contributions so much that we asked her to continue as a semi-regular columnist writing from a Millennial’s perspective. Since then, I have seen her find her calling as a full-fledged multimedia journalist.
Tomorrow: “Transitions” by Al Rodriguez