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