This letter has been in the making for quite some time. I've been observing your generation over the years, which has various start/end dates, but let's say you were born between 1974 and 1994. A good many of you are in the workplace, eager to make your own mark upon the world. You are not the first and nor the last generation who intends to change the world. Each generation has their leaders, their milestones. I imagine yours will be no different.
However, your generation is different on many levels. You are definitely more politically aware at a younger age than my generation (Gen X). You were raised with technology and because of it, earned the name "digital native." You never dealt with such things as a typewriter or a life without the Internet. Others more experienced than I can delve into the scientific data on how this has affected you and your interpersonal relationships, but I can pass along a few thoughts. Digital has perhaps made your lives more accessible but not necessarily easier. I regret that your lives are less private than mine was at your age. I have no idea how I would have handled "cyber-stalking." God knows I had enough problems wondering if a boy liked me and dealing with bullies on the playground. If that "playground" was global, I think I would have refused to come out of my room until I was thirty.
I remember when the Gen Xer's came into the workforce. There was the natural head-butting with the previous generation, (the Boomers) who pretty much said to us, "Sit down. Cool your heels. Be patient. That corner office will eventually be yours but for now, work at the entry-level gig without complaint." My, goodness. How a few decades make a difference.
Now we have your generation entering the workforce with its own demands which include being handed the corner office before you hit thirty. Heck, you want it the second year you're working at an organization. Now before you get all defensive, I want you to know I don't hold you entirely responsible for such chutzpah. Your schools gave you fancy trophies for just showing up. You rarely had to actually win anything in order to be seen as "a winner." Your parents, determined to allow you to have "a voice" and develop a healthy self-esteem, told you constantly that you were a rock star.
Anyone who has watched the early auditions for "American Idol" know this is untrue. (And speaking of those horrendous auditions where everyone asks, "Where are the parents of this child? How could they let them make a complete fool of themselves on national television?" Well, the answer to that question is obvious: they lied to them.)
Yes, we realize you expect reward and recognition at every turn. Yes, we realize you believe you're above average. But guess what? That's not reality. Unfortunately, your parents and schools didn't really prepare you well for the cold, bitter world. You're going to meet a lot of people who could care less how hard you worked on an article. If it sucks, it sucks. Many managers won't care either that you really, really need to support your friend by attending a "Save The Box Jellyfish" protest rally and miss half a day of work. In their eyes, you're missing work. Period. And I wouldn't advise telling that manager she is selfish if she doesn't care about the jellyfish.
The other thing: knock off that huge chip on your shoulder before you really get knocked back on your keister by some crank who doesn't give a rip that you care more about the environment than Al Gore. I have both witnessed and experienced too many of you getting all huffy when someone points out that you're young and inexperienced. Believe me, I have a feeling that the generation that follows you is going to be even more touchy, so you'll understand when you're in your forties. But for now, refrain from blowing a gasket if someone calls you a "kid." Because you know what? You are. You've lived for perhaps two decades in what hopefully will be a full life and no, you don't know everything yet and if you were half as wise as you think you are, you'd realize that.
But youth is for making silly mistakes, growing, learning, laughing, and overall enjoying life. Pretty much everyone goes through the same phase - thinking they know it all, understanding they really don't know as much as they thought they did, and finally embracing the fact that they can learn something new every day and isn't that wonderful?
Everything has sped up over the past forty years. Believe it or not, there actually were families who didn't have microwaves and when dinner took at least an hour to make. But millennials think everything should be fast and if it's not, they get impatient. Please. Save your mental health by accepting that life won't happen on your schedule. You can't control everything and the faster you realize this, the more content your life will be. Savor the moment. Inhale your time slowly and exhale even more slowly. I find it ironic that the young want to rush to become older but then magically pass this point where life is rushing by too quickly. Ever see the movie "Remote?" Yeah, something like that.
You have more technological devices to help you become more productive. Resist the urge to allow it to dominate your life. I know. It's hard. What with computers, smart phones, netbooks, iPads - it's very difficult to disconnect but it's important to do so on a regular basis. Otherwise, you'll wake up one day to find you're 45, still living at home and thinking plaid pajamas are an acceptable outfit for the entire day.
If you've read this far without unleashing a Twitter fatwa against me, I applaud you. You've been known as an "overly sensitive" lot. That's not a compliment but it is understandable, giving all the fawning that has been lavished upon your sweet, fortunate heads. Handling criticism is a very important part of life. Not everyone is going to see you as the next savior for their organization or cause. But if you can shrug off the verbal jabs and plow through the obstacles as they arise, I have every reason to believe that not only will you accomplish what you set out to do, you will leave a trail of fire so others may follow.
Just keep your head straight and realize the world did quite well before you came along and will likely have improved after you've left. Live your life truly FTW.* Good luck.
*For The Win