So this is highly unusual, but I am publishing my second article in as many days for the first time in the short history of this blog. Yes, give me a trophy, I’m a millennial after-all. Why am I posting a new piece so quickly you ask? Because I’ve just had one of those moments that every person, every writer, loves – a moment of immense inspiration and hope.
I don’t get this feeling often, it’s a rare thing. And I’m running with this feeling now because writing can sometimes be a slog. It can be tough to remain motivated in this millennial blogging space because so much of what is thrown at us is very negative. It’s my job to remain up-to-date on the latest writing by, for, and about millennials. I wouldn’t be a proper millennial blogger if I didn’t. That includes the pieces published at media outlets that are usually unflattering, and exist just to tell me how lazy and deluded I am, and how no one will ever hire me – you hear that? EVER!
You know how a common unwritten rule in columnist-circles is don’t read the comments. Well reading all of these negative millennial pieces that are published every few months, or weeks, online is basically the same as reading the comments. You try to not let it get to you but overtime it does, because there is so much of it. It’s like a wall of propaganda trying to convince us how worthless we really are. Easy to brush off once, twice, ten times – but eventually it eats at you a bit.
That’s on top of the daily mental grind of trying to find work. Sometimes after writing the 6th or 7th personalized cover letter of the day, in which every detail is self-scrutinized over and over, writing a new piece for the ole blog is the last thing I want to do. But blogging is part of the process of finding work, so reading the negativity comes with the territory.
This brings me to the reason I’m so ecstatic at this very moment. Out there, in the ether, there is a baby boomer that loves us. Out there, somewhere, there is a boomer that gets it. And today I found him, his name is Cary Tennis. For those unfamiliar with his work, Cary is the advice columnist for Salon. I’m not the type to read advice columns but I often find myself on Cary’s because his answers always seem to connect to larger issues at play.
And today he did not disappoint with his answer to a distraught reader. As an aside, Millennials, Unite! – the headline of today’s column reminds me of the Bob Marley classic Africa Unite, also inspirational and arguing the same point, albeit for a completely different issue – organize organize organize.
The question Cary responds to, in part, reads:
Lately I have spent more and more time asleep, and I know this isn’t normal. I do it because it is far better to be asleep and unaware of my failures and fears, than to be reading how I am not good enough for people to pay me even poverty wages.
I have a wonderful family and they are supportive. But I am also 30, and feel I was lied to my whole life when I was told from childhood, “Go to school, work hard, get the best grades — and a great job will be waiting for you.”
Cary’s response to this millennial – who I empathize with to a great degree – is very empathetic itself. It’s practical, really cuts through all the crap, and gets to the bottom line. It’s brilliant. I obviously won’t post the entire response (go read it for yourself. No really, do it. I’ll wait. I’ll even include another link.)
Back? These are the highlights of Cary’s response:
It begins with the statement of a mass grievance: You were sold a bill of goods. You were lied to. You were swindled. There are millions like you. Why are they not in the streets? If they were, things would be different. There is a political and historical context for this.
Your condition is not unique; it is general. You are part of a class of people to whom this has happened. As such, you have political power.
And a few paragraphs later…
It’s as simple as that. So if you do not demonstrate by the hundreds of thousands, if you do not disrupt markets and streets, if you do not unite with other millennials and refine your message so that it reaches the people who need to be reached, then you will have been robbed and you will have done nothing about it.
When I read this I was sort of shocked. A boomer that’s actually not calling us lazy, entitled, spoiled, idiotic, high-expectation having, deluded, fools? This can’t be real, I must have fallen through some trans-dimensional portal to a world where people actually empathize with other people, and generally try not to be jerks.
Further, here’s a boomer that’s actually trying to help us solve a real problem instead of jumping on a high horse and castigating us for “not taking personal responsibility.” The questioner openly admits to sleeping more and more, most likely a sign of depression – full disclosure I’m not a doctor. Instead of shouting down at the person for being “lazy,” Cary genuinely wants them to get help for their issue. And he implores them to find free resources for that help – no snark, no judgement needed.
Want to know the quickest way to have someone shrink from the world and never find a solution to their problem? Tell them they’re worthless by listing all they do wrong. Cary never does that. Yet he still challenges the reader, and challenges every millennial in the same boat as that reader, to do the only thing that’s really left to do – form a coalition and demand changes.
In a larger sense this does two things, it changes the status quo through politics and policy, and it always ends up employing a large amount of people for the movement. If you have nothing else to do because you can’t find a full-time job, organizing is a full-time opportunity that provides many of the same benefits – networking, organizational skills, logistical skills, discipline, people skills, and more. If you are indeed lucky enough to get paid for organizing the pay probably won’t be good, rarely is it good. But you may end up making the same amount of money as you would working part-time as a barista. And you’ll gain work and life experience that would presumably payoff down the road.
Networking is probably the greatest benefit because individuals within a movement will start their own businesses, employ others in the movement, partner with others, connect their peers to other resources and opportunities. Organizing is both a means to an end (how we typically think about it), but also an end in itself. There are probably dozens of start-ups that were founded from the dust of the Occupy Movement, probably thousands of friendships and partnerships forged in the heat of that nonviolent battle.
Creating a sustainable millennial movement together is a solution to many of the personal problems millions of young people face. There are too many people like that reader, too many people like myself, too many unemployed, too many underemployed, too many stuck living with their parents, too many grinding, too many without opportunity, too many suffocating under the weight of student loans. There are too many of us out there, but just enough for a movement.
So we need more writers like Cary that support us. We need more boomers that love us.