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Day 29 - What I Would Tell My Younger Self: Perspective From a Millennial

Community Manager

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.

25 Comments

Strange isn't it that feeling of not belonging. I am at the end of the Baby Boomers. Other then that statement I don't feel like I belong in that group. Can't identify. I had the same thing happen, people around me knew what they wanted to do I didn't and to some extent still don't. Yet I am grateful for what I have. Interestingly enough compared to many I had a Leave it to Beaver or Father Knows Best childhood. My parents worked hard to make sure we had a descent childhood. Yet there was so much to do taking care of the basic needs and the household that I do not remember a time where they were at any ball games or band concerts. But I never went hungry, I never was without shelter, and always got help with homework. While there was punishment doled out in spankings and soap in the mouth we didn't live in fear. Family was extremely important and that was demonstrated in how and with whom we spent our time.

When most of the families in the neighborhood were at the dads' end of season softball party we were at home entertaining each other, but could see and hear them because they were right next door. It was all our normal friends at a party that we were not invited to but got to watch.This went on for years with one exception when my dad played as a substitute for that season and we got to go. It was that FOMO thing on full display.

I know my parents had friends from high school and work, but they were scattered all over northern NJ. They were not people we saw with great frequency, but my dad in particular has maintained them as friends even now. I guess as a child I never witnessed what the inside of those kinds of relationships were supposed to be. Family was the source of a lot of leisure activities, but you were born into those relationships. I was a weird kid who yearned for a best friend, had no idea how to get one, and ended up doing some odd things because of it. I seemed to become friends of the parents more than of the kids. Which led to me also being called "an old soul" by many people throughout my life. Including my ex-mother-in-law. She marveled at how I just seemed to do whatever needed to be done. I still had fun I wasn't too serious for that, but I planned and executed those plans.

Anyway, so many things in your article DanielleH​ that I can relate to and could talk at length about. All I want to say to you is thank you for creating the community here you have, inviting me in to be a part of the MVPs, and if I could give you a thousand gold stars or trophies I would - because you have definitely earned them!

Level 12

I grew up being told I would be a failure which I believed for a very long time but when I went back to school 10 years after high school and found out I was able to achieve. I started to push myself for more.  Everything you have stated in the list in the article is so true and I just have to begin following your advise. I will print that off and hang it in my office as a reminder to myself no one is perfect, you don't know it all and you can thrive at what you do.

There is a quote that fits to some of your thoughts here:

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your

Life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t“

for those who want to know where it comes from and want to know more about it here you go:

Wear Sunscreen - Wikipedia

MVP
MVP

I love your honesty; your childhood backstory and your list of 10 things to tell your  younger self, but also that this is relevant every day.

It is a daily challenge to remind oneself of such thoughts and actions and I had to look up the Tide Pod Challenge, as that completely past me by.

I have a poster of the Done Manifesto in my Cube to remind me what is important. 

The cult of Done Manifesto  →  Manifesto ProjectManifesto Project

My Favorites are:

Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

Once you’re done you can throw it away.

Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

Destruction is a variant of done.

Done is the engine of more.

RT

I like

Level 11

I'd add to 8 by saying own your failures as well.

Celebrate the wins, but own your failures.  This will teach you humility, and people will respect you much more for it.

Community Manager
Community Manager

When you're surrounded by highly successful people that you look up to, it's easy to fall into that Day 27 - Compare & Despair limbo. I have to remind myself I'm still learning and hopefully one day someone else will see me in the same vein.

Community Manager
Community Manager

I love this. Especially Done is the engine of more. ​Thanks for sharing.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Absolutely, great addition. Failure happens more often than our wins so it's easy to focus our energy on what we're doing wrong instead of what we're doing right. I try to follow the fail and fail fast motto.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Ha, I'd be interested in their take on "interesting".

I have many aspirations now, more so in my personal life than my career. I appreciate the European lifestyle; Work to live. It's almost an expectation in America that we live to work. Seems backwards.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Oh, Tom. I always look forward to your random words of encouragement. They're always well timed. Thank you for taking time out if your day to send me messages throughout the weeks.

Level 9

I grew up in a very supporting environment.  I was very lucky to have a family that supported me.  My issue was believing in myself.  I so often sought after the approval of others.  As I have matured, I have learned to be more independent and to believe in myself.  I'm not a millennial, but I do agree with your list.

Level 10

Very good article.

I love the list, especially No 1. You don't need to fix everything, you need to let go sometimes, sit back and enjoy the ride.

I couldn't agree more with your old boss. The first time I met you in person I immediately placed you in a category with the other people in the room who "had their sh*t together". I never would have guessed we were so close in age. You wear your experience and your past very well, it has shaped you into a good person and an amazing leader!

MVP
MVP

That's a great list to follow (and the additions from others above). My life has gone through a lot of change in the last decade and this list would have made some of that easier to tackle.

And now, a clip from a local show called Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation...

Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation - Trust Me Button: Human Nacho - YouTube

Level 14

Outstanding article. I too am a millennial, but only barely. I find it painful admitting that. I feel nothing but shame concerning this generation. Nevertheless...

I feel like everything you said, happened with me as well, but in  A much healthier way. My mom left to work with my dad out of town when I was in high school. This forced me to become independent. I always tell people that it's the best thing my mom ever did for me. It fostered the need for stability and nurtured growth of independence. However, I've always had the quirk of not completely feeling a sense of belonging, but I attribute that more to a personality flaw than something caused by my parents. Thanks for the article and the list. #6 has been a tough one for me to accept.

I have been saying for years that Millennials get a bad rap. In general, their approach and their values to work are just very different than previous generations. Human nature is predictable with change. Something I read a long time ago that relates to the overall (and false) opinion of millennials and subsequent generations...

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

This was said by Socrates.

I say the kids are alright.

Although i am not a millennial media will always pick out the worst, doesn't matter who or what you are.   Millennial, Gen X, Y, Z, a baby boomer, heck even republican or democrat.  Doesn't matter your, race, if you are male or female, the idea is to work hard, and be your best.   You are right DanielleH​ it is ok to be what and who you are.  Its ok to have a messed up childhood and to have missed out on a few things, that really might not have been that great had you experienced them to begin with.  As someone who's parents were also divorced and then had my father die before i was 9, moved 14 times with 16 different schools (that is a longer story), all before i hit junior high, and ended up raised by my Grand Mother before it was all said and done, I surely can sympathize with where you come from and how hard work and not needing to chase down a person you may never needed to be in the first place, has left you with that great person and life experience you have today. 

Level 9

"Trust yourself to be right. You’re smarter than you think."

It took me a long time to get over what is now called Impostor Syndrome.  I think it is very prevalent in the tech industry.

Level 15

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

100%.

Level 20

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.

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!

MVP
MVP

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.

Level 13

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