For starters, I went back and forth on that subject line. Will people even want to read this after seeing “millennial” in the title? Ironically, that unconscious logic sets the tone almost too perfectly for this post.

Having grown up in a culture that has so rapidly changed with my generation, I’ve struggled greatly with the stereotypes that come therein. If I’m being honest with myself, aside from my birth date, I don’t view myself as a millennial. Boldness. Entitlement. Purpose. Confidence. I could go on, but you’re living amongst us, too. You know.

Growing up, I had plenty of friends, but I never had a sense of belonging. My parents divorced when I was 4. My parents couldn’t settle amicably, so I was sent to a therapist to help determine which parent would be the better fit. The therapist lied in court about who I wanted to live with full-time, and right then began a steep precipice with being able to trust others. I went on to live in a tumultuous environment while my other parent lived 3,590 miles away.

I’m sure you’re wondering—why is she recapping her childhood? We all suffered growing up in some fashion. I promise, it’s a critical part of the narrative and I’ll get there quickly.

When my family dissolved, I was spirited away from the one parent that I felt was a better fit for me. I felt alone, isolated, and played the "average" child around school and with friends. For the most part, my friends had parents who were actively involved. They had what they needed to be successful, at least from my perspective. I was embarrassed to admit what would happen at my house, why I didn’t have lunch, or why I didn’t have sleepovers, so I became a chameleon to create the illusion that I was one of them. I never expected anything because if something was going to get done, I did it. I didn’t have a disciplinarian or an encourager; I simply led with what I thought was the right thing (and bless my heart, I was wrong so many times).

Through this, I became extremely independent at a very young age. To the point that I pushed relationships away because I would get irritated and quickly shut down. I was so used to people going in and out of my life, I didn’t understand what it took to maintain healthy relationships. I began leading a life of what I didn’t want instead of what I did want.

When I began my career, that’s when I really started to notice how much my youth affected me. They [millennials] went into every meeting with a level of confidence that I was enamored with. When we had conversations around our career goals, they knew exactly what they were going to do for the next 20 years. And what I was enthralled with was their acceptance of failure. Was it because they had more experience? Was it because they knew things I didn’t? How were they so comfortable? Yet again, I felt like I didn’t belong.

As I matured, both personally and professionally, I would stretch myself so thin to fix anything that I believed had value so I didn’t have to watch it fall. I would do things just to get them done. It was the only way I believed it would get done. I remember an old boss of mine would make comments that I was an “old soul,” while complaining how their entire team was a team of millennials, and this enhanced my disdain with the association therein. Sure, it was meant to be a compliment, but it surfaced an emotion that I execrated: a sense of belonging.

With all this, what I would tell my younger self (and if I’m being honest, myself today):

  1. Things will always work themselves out. You don’t need to fix everything.
  2. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing if you’re fulfilled in what you’re doing.
  3. You need close relationships. Quality over quantity is key.
  4. Sometimes good enough is more valuable than perfection.
  5. Have a healthy level of skepticism but try to assume good intent when possible.
  6. Trust in others. They have your back more than you might assume.
  7. Trust yourself to be right. You’re smarter than you think.
  8. Celebrate your wins. You deserve recognition sometimes.
  9. Focus on what you want instead of what you don’t.

And finally, it was at this very moment that I realized—I am a millennial, and that’s OK. Things failed terribly in my life, and that’s OK. I missed out on having a traditional upbringing, and that’s OK. I’m still young and learning, and that’s OK. I belong, and I needed to stop questioning that in order to move forward.

Lastly, because I can’t end without a bit of humor. Even though the stigma is there, our [millennial] principles aren’t terrible. At least we don’t have to explain what the Tide Pod challenge was.

  • Great post Danielle.  Thanks for being so honest.  Resonates on so many levels.

  • Focus on what you want and not what you don't. That is such a powerful concept. You tend to get what you are looking for.

  • I love this.  Having raised two Millenials I can see a lot of what you've written in them and their attitudes, choices, and happiness.

    The other thing that sticks in my mind about Millenials is that they are justified in their description of being "The Skeptical Generation."  They're bombarded with news and facts that contain little or no truth.  They hear diametrically opposed opinions stated as fact.  And they turn to the Internet to generate a degree of input that may help them choose one statement or its opposite as "truth."

    So much of import lies in attitudes and feelings of my two Millennials.  Biology and anatomy no longer govern are allowed to pigeon-hole descriptions of themselves (or of others), and instead they "understand" that the present attitude or feelings towards potential mates effectively obsolete my male WASP  education.  LGTBQ are insufficient for their needs, and are far beyond mine.  Labels are unnecessary in their world, but remain a traditional and habitual go-to in mine.  And thus am I obsoleted until I give up my feeble old-man pigeon holing and accept anything and anyone, or until I learn their lives better.

    I'm happy they make safe choices and are nearly self-sufficient.  I hope they represent the worst of the world, while I fear they represent some of its best potential.

    Thank you for a Millennial story!

  • Focusing on the positive instead of the negative will always get you halfway there I think.  Try to see the glass half full not half empty.  I'm from the X Generation.  We were the latch key kids, the MTV generation, we were the slackers, cynical, and disaffected.  Many of us have the big entrepreneurial tendencies.  Researchers say we achieved work/life balance active and happy.  We are also the first generation to not have things better than our parents did.  Where the boomers always seeked the limelight and bragged about their accomplishments we often created "elaborate mythologies" around our achievements.  We created Google, Amazon, wikipedia, and Youtube.  We offset our not making as much as our parents generation, the boomers, did by women going to work too... it's what we did to do to survive.  I'm not sure we left the best legacy behind for millenials.  We made some things too easy with technology and it may have not been the best for your generation... for that I think many GenX are regretful in ways.

    But boy did we make some great music!  The 53x Pistols (had to edit that one for it to take), The Clash, The Cure, N.W.A., The Beastie Boys, RUSH, Iron Maiden... the list goes on.

  • You’re doing exactly what you should be doing if you’re fulfilled in what you’re doing.