A Conflicted Generation

by allisoncoyle

Millennials

Our generation is conflicted in every which way, from our religious and political beliefs to our most fundamental desire to live free and uninhibited lives. While I can’t speak for all millennials, I believe I speak for many when I say that we feel lost in a way that no other generation has felt in over a century.

In the early 20th century, swarms of Americans left their parents’ farms for greater opportunities in expanding cities. During the 1930’s and 40’s, Americans took pride in our rapidly growing industrial economy, giving women their first taste of work outside of the home. The 50’s and early 60’s gave way to the “American Dream,” during which time men were expected to work 9 to 5 jobs, while their wives were expected to maintain the home and raise their children. The hippies of the late 60s and early 70s offered an alternative lifestyle to the disenchanted youth of the day. Men and women were no longer forced into the societal box which the generation prior had constructed. The 80’s and 90’s proved the hippies of the 70’s correct, in that women entered the workplace at record rates, no longer shackled by visions of marital grandeur.

And here we are, my fellow twenty-somethings. Women are now equal in the workplace (don’t even come at me on this or I will cut you), men are no longer expected to be the sole breadwinners in the family, and, furthermore, it’s becoming less and less taboo to forgo marriage altogether. So the question is, what is our generation’s conflict? What great injustice do we face? I don’t believe we have one.

Yet therein lies the conflict…we are conflicted in that we have no major conflict.

A person in their 40’s or 50’s might read this and think, “What a bunch of spoiled brats. They complain because they don’t have a problem to fix.” This is where I believe our generation is uniquely lost. Previous generations were liberated by the changing times. They had a social cause to rally behind. Women were excited to enter the workplace. Men were liberated by the idea that they could chase their dreams, unencumbered by a family.

Our generation is aimless in that we have the world at our fingertips but know not what to do with it. Whether we like to admit it or not, conflict, in some ways, is a great motivator. People, Americans in particular, are driven by the idea that something cannot be done. So what is a generation to do once everything has, theoretically, already been done? We are in good company. Lincoln’s fellow statesmen often complained that they had no great conflict, as the Founding Fathers had already established the greatest country on Earth. Little did they know the great battle that was to come. Perhaps we’ll be fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to live to fight a great battle, whether it be literal or metaphorical.

But for the moment, we’re in limbo.

I often read articles in which the author, presumably in their 40’s or 50’s, chastises millennials for being lazy, uninspired, and unmotivated. Without going into the countless variables (cost of living increases, college tuition skyrocketing, etc.), I contend that our generation is not lazy but simply overwhelmed. While I’m incredibly grateful that my parents have allowed me to live with them for so long, I feel as though they expect the world of me, which is largely why I’ve decided to shun the field of politics as a profession. I don’t have the longing to achieve greatest in my bones as they wish I did. I want to live a simple life. I want to live in a small cottage in western Montana and raise a family out in the country. I want my children to be happy with what they have. I want to play with my kids and teach them how to farm and fend for themselves. I don’t want to raise my family in a metropolitan area, where they’ll be inundated with messages of over-consumption and greed.

Our focus, I believe, should be examining the idea of happiness and contentment. We all have a different vision of happiness. For some, it IS a large home and a fat income, and that’s fine! Lol. I’m nothing if not pro-capitalism! But if your vision of happiness is living a minimalist lifestyle in a small home in the country, you should be encouraged to chase that dream as well. Just because you don’t dream of conquering Capitol Hill, that doesn’t make your dream any less valid.

Determine what happiness means to you, and go for it.

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