Friday, February 26, 2010

What Generation Do I Belong To Again?

(Disclaimer: This post enters rant territory.)

I re-watched this recently.

The first time I saw it was between middle school and high school. I remember wondering if my life was going to be like that when I graduated from college. (College graduation seemed very far off when I was thirteen.)

I also thought that Ethan Hawke was dreamy. ^-^

This time around, I thought mainly that he needed to wash his hair. :-o

It's a very fun movie (fun especially to see a very young Ben Stiller and a Winona of the Jo March days, before shoplifting became part of her identity), but I realized that at this point in my life, I couldn't really relate.

I'm not like this. My friends aren't like this.

Most of my friends had a plan after college. Some (like me) funneled into the publishing industry. A few of us worked for family or for family's business relations. A couple signed up for Teach for America or Teaching Fellows programs. A bunch applied immediately to grad school, or followed a significant other to grad school. Even my friend who is most like the Ethan Hawke character - ie. openly hostile to authority - got a scholarship to study graffiti in China.

Even though I know it happens, it's unfair to say that we are lazy. We do stuff. We try. We get our hands dirty.

And if we feel that it isn't right for us, we leave.

So far, half of my friends have left their jobs to pursue other opportunities. I can see how most employers don't know what to do with us. Especially if we are competent and hard-working, which many of us are. We are a hire-able, hard-to-keep generation.

We ask for more than our parents did. We are willing to put our noses to the grindstone, but when we're miserable, we can't trick ourselves into believing that it'll get better if we only work harder. We want our jobs to be fulfilling, not just good for monetary compensation, not just good for prestige.

We demand work-life balance. My friends don't have families of their own yet, but most of them are already planning for them. Many of our parents were workaholics, because they were taught that you must provide for your children in a financial way. We want to provide for our children emotionally and financially. That includes organizing our careers in a way that will let us be home by 6 to help them with their math homework, if needed. And not being so exhausted on the weekends that we are too tired to play with our kids.

We're also long-range planners. We talk about what our lives will be like when we are our parents' age. We discuss the trajectory of our lives, where it has taken us thus far, what we have learned, where we might possibly be going. Among close friends, and people we're sure won't make fun of us, we talk about fate and destiny and "what we're meant to be doing" in non-ironic terms. We may get bored after five minutes of inactivity, but we also daydream about our lives decades from now.

We also plan to make a difference. We don't like the world the way it is. We want to change it. We are opinionated about what we don't like, and we are experimenting with our own lives to see if we can improve the world.

We also believe we can do it. We're arrogant that way, and I won't apologize. We grew up with much change and much fear. Technology advanced the pace of life rapidly when we were toddlers, and 911 occurred while we were adolescents. Change doesn't bother us, and fear won't stop us.

Though young, we have lived long enough to realize that change is inevitable. Why can't it be for the better?

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