The Way I See It

An open letter to GenX

Am I qualified to speak on behalf of my entire generation? Probably not. Am I going to? Yes, obviously. Is that a little ironic? Yes, obviously.

Dear GenX,

First of all, thanks for the fine advice about not bringing our parents on job interviews, being less entitled as managers, and trying to avoid the narcissistic personality disorder that we probably already suffer from/inflict on our elders. Really, your words do not fall on deaf ears. Pierced ears, maybe. Headphoned-ears, definitely. Deaf-er, but not deaf. We really do appreciate your feedback.

But, like any good blogger, I have some feedback of my own, in regards to Huffington Post's recent article "Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy," specifically.

The article introduces Lucy, the impressionable if not a little naive GenY that just wants a really high paying job that fulfills her creatively and challenges her intellectually. We all know Lucy. We all are Lucy, a little bit. That's just a fact. As a side note, I think I once drew this exact stick figure. It won all sorts of awards, and I received no less than 3 trophies and 350 compliments. That will be relevant later. (Spoiler!)


The article outlines three major factors as to why Lucy is unhappy. How did the author, one of your GenX comrades, know Lucy was unhappy? Because the author decided it, that's how. Besides, isn't everyone a little unhappy? Be honest. We're all a little unhappy. Lucy's unhappiness is just much stronger and sadder and in more desperate need of attention than everyone else's unhappiness, and, thankfully, the author steps right in to help. And by help, I mean invent three arbitrary "facts" based on personal experience that explain why Lucy is unhappy and, furthermore, why GenYs like Lucy will never really overcome that unhappiness.

As a Millennial aka GenY aka "Gen Y Protagonists & Special Yuppies" aka "GYPSY," I take issue with these facts. Sure, my rebuttal is based on personal experience, but I'm a Millennial, so what the hell do I even know about researching and follow-through?

1. "GYPSYs are wildly ambitious. The GYPSY needs a lot more from a career than a nice green lawn of prosperity and security. The fact is, a green lawn isn't quite exceptional or unique enough for a GYPSY. Where the Baby Boomers wanted to live The American Dream, GYPSYs want to live Their Own Personal Dream."

First of all, there is nothing wrong with ambition. The baby boomers that raised us didn't get to where they are without ambition, and the GenXs that followed didn't either. Cal Newport, a fellow Millennial, pointed out that Google's Ngram data shows the phrase "follow your passion" didn't really emerge in English literature before the last 20 years. I respect Newport's research, and I respect his article "Solving Gen Y's Passion Problem." Way to represent us in the Harvard Business Review, Cal. Seriously, good work. Mucho respect, loved the article, etc.


Now back to the point. Yes, I'm interested in finding a career that fulfills me. But I'm also interested in paying my bills because I'm really, exceptionally uninterested in being homeless. Those don't need to be mutually exclusive. Just because I want to like my job doesn't mean I've completely forgotten about financial security. I grew up just outside of one of the wealthiest cities in the United States, and because of that, a lot of my best friends have never needed to worry about being financially independent. But despite that luxury, I can't think of a single person that actually thinks the high-paid, fulfilling job of their dreams exists without a lot of hard work and experience. Sure, we want to have it all. Why wouldn't we? But are we the first ever generation to want it all? No, of course we aren't. We're just as willing to work to achieve our high-expectations as the last generation and the generation before that.

2. "GYPSYs are delusional. On top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better-- A shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn."

If you recall, I made a hilarious joke earlier about how my stick figure won all sorts of awards. Get it now? I'm a riot. I'm also markedly not special. Everything I pride myself on is completely subjective, and I learned that in 9th grade when I didn't make the all-state choir. I learned that again when I never once ran varsity on my high school cross country team, again when I got my first college rejection letter, and yet again when I started applying for internships and jobs. There will always be at least 10 people better than me, so I better make damn sure that there aren't 10 people that work harder than me.

Furthermore, I refuse to believe that entitled, lazy, "special" job candidates are unique to my generation. Maybe the author of this article hasn't been 21 in a while, but naivety is basically a requirement. If my generation has a hard time accepting negative feedback, it's because we're only twenty one years old, and we haven't actually had to accept all that much of it yet. We will learn to accept feedback as we work, just like everyone before us. Additionally, the author makes it sounds like GenYs invented career disappointment, and not a single GenX or Boomer ever once felt they deserved an interview, job, or promotion and the disappointment that comes when it isn't actualized.

3. "GYPSYs are taunted. Social media creates a world for Lucy where A) what everyone else is doing is very out in the open, B) most people present an inflated version of their own existence, and C) the people who chime in the most about their careers are usually those whose careers (or relationships) are going the best, while struggling people tend not to broadcast their situation."

If the author got legitimate information from legitimate GenYs that legitimately think everything reflected on social media is true, then I take it all back. I have a Facebook friend that constantly posts about his booming new-age photography/music business and says "namaste" a lot. That doesn't mean I think he's a Brahman.  We grew up on the internet. We know it isn't real life. And honestly, I really hope his chakras are as aligned as he says-- but I'm not about to lose sleep over the misaligned state of my own chakras. GenY didn't invent jealously, we just digitized it.

GenX, I mean it when I say that I appreciate your concern for my well-being. You know more than me because you've been around longer than me and you probably spend less time on Reddit. But I'd just like to clarify just one single but frustrating thing: Yeah, there are members of my generation that are selfish, entitled and whiny. A lot of people my age think they hung the moon. But there are members of your own generation that are selfish, entitled and whiny that also think they hung the moon. There are kids 20 years older than you that think they hung the stars and people 20 years older than them that think they invented the whole goddamn solar system.

Give us a little while to finish growing up before you condemn us to a life of artistic poverty. You were all here, at some point.


Kelly Fine


TL;DR: We're growing up. Everyone has to grow up.

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