Defending Generation Y

There are a lot of articles and blog posts going around right now about how Generation Y is a bunch of unhappy, miserable people. Recently this article from the Huffington Post made the rounds on Facebook and was shared by dozens of my social media friends. Then I woke up to twitter people I follow once again complaining about how entitled, annoying and generally worthless Generation Y is. And, I’ve had enough. I am part of this generation, loosely those born between the late 1970’s and the late 1990’s by some sources, later for others. The lines are not clear on what people exactly make up this generation, but for the sake of this article, I’m including myself and my peers.

Like I said, I’ve had enough. Are there whiny, annoying people in this generation? Sure, there are. But you know what, there are whiny, annoying people in every generation. As far as I know, this is not a phenomenon limited only to people born as children of baby boomers. We are not the only annoying people on the planet. Are there people in this generation who see themselves as entitled, opinionated, worthy of all praise? Sure. But, again, that is not unique to this generation. So please, please, please stop saying everyone in this generation is worthless and a disappointment to the world.

Because, here’s the truth as I see it. For every one person who seems to give this generation a bad name, I can name more people who I know personally who are changing the world. People like my friends Vince and Stephanie, who decided that their responsibility is to go to Africa, meet the people there, and join them in their lives. They did not move to Africa to save the people; they moved to Africa to live amongst and with the people.

Or my friend Elizabeth, who is following her passions and works her tail off in not one, but two jobs. She works hard, loves deeply, and cares about others way more than herself. She doesn’t see herself as entitled to anything other than what she has earned, and she definitely is happy, joyful and leaning into her life. She may not be perfectly content in every area of her life, but she’s working toward being good with where she is right now, in this moment.

Or my brother, Cameron, who worked hard in high school, harder in college, and is in his very first post-degree job. And guess what? He’s still working hard. He gets up every day, goes to work, does his job, and connects with his circle of influence.

Or the girls I went to college with who are working hard being wives, raising families, working jobs and having friends. They don’t strike me as entitled at all. I’m sure it’s hard to feel entitled with baby spit, childhood tantrums, over-bearing bosses, busy spouses and complicated schedules. The only thing I think they probably feel “entitled” to would be a nap and a spa day (and I don’t think they’d be wrong).

Or the dozens of women I met at the influence conference, including self-starters, business administrators, entrepreneurs, writers, and more. They work hard every day to make their dreams a reality. They put in time after and before their “real” jobs. They ask hard questions of themselves and others. They give graciously with their time and resources. They don’t expect anything to come easy. And, if for a moment something does, they know what a unique gift that is.

Or take some time to meet my friend Allison, who works a full-time job helping others be better marketers, is involved and on the board of a civic organization, writes in her spare time, finds time to enjoy theatre and embrace all her city has to offer.

Or meet my friend David, who knows that the only way to change his life is to decide to do it. He’s lost a ton of weight, kept it off, works hard in a job that maybe isn’t exactly his passion, and still finds time to train for marathons, forge relationships, lead a group of high school guys, and stay connected to his family. There isn’t a bone in his body that is waiting around for all the good things to be handed to him on a silver platter.

And that’s just a few of the people in my world who are debunking the myth that our generation is nothing but needy and wanting. I’m sure those people exist. There are grumpy, unhappy people who don’t want to work for what they want in every circle and every generation, including mine. I’m just tired of them getting all the press. Let’s face it – there are businesses being run, classes being taught, children being reared, stories being told and lives being changed because of this generation. Let’s please stop saying there is all this bad and nothing good. That’s just a bold-faced lie.

And to the point in the Huffington Post article about this generation being told they could be and do whatever they wanted to be or do: that’s completely true. We have been told that. My family believes in my dreams and supports every one of them. They support the mistakes and the successes because they have shaped me. I was told that I could be and do anything and everything. But, I was never told it would just come to me. That commission to not dream small was always given with one important caveat that you seem to ignore: dreams take work. Passions take effort. But, if you’re willing to commit and work hard, you can be anything.

I pity the person who doesn’t believe that, quite frankly.

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2 thoughts on “Defending Generation Y

  1. I love your passion! Very, very nicely said! As a mother of 3 gen Y children (and an avid learner of anything related to generational differences/learning- I’m a corporate trainer) I really enjoyed your perspective and especially your reference to attending the Influence Conference. I’m very proud to say that one of my Gen Y children is the very special @thetinytwig!

  2. I enjoyed your article, keep them coming. As a fellow member of our much besmirched generation I agree that the incessant articles criticizing how lazy, entitled, and narcissistic we all are can get frustrating. Honestly though I don’t think the older generations really understand this generation much at all. I’ve often heard it said that we are a more isolated generation because we communicate more through texting, Facebook, twitter, ect. and less through face to face contact, but for us technology & social media are tools that bring people together and keep us connected with friends that would have drifted out of our lives years ago without those tools. Lastly, can we do away with the Gen Y label and go with Millennials. I think we deserve better than just being the next letter in the alphabet. I know that’s my own silly pet peeve but it’s always bugged me.

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