Millennial Guilt – Time To Stop Being So Hard On Ourselves
Guys, welcome to my first ranty post. It’s been coming for a while now, but one more passing comment pushed me over the edge. So strap yourself in and lets hope I make sense.
That “comment” was yet another person in their twenties saying that sometimes they feel guilty for spending all their time travelling, because society expects them to be in a steady job with a baby on the way by now.
I’ve been seeing so much of that lately – people who I see as killing it, doing what I thought our generation was expected to do, worrying that they’ve got it wrong.
I naturally fell into the life that they feel pressured to have. I live with my boyfriend of more-or-less 7 years and our pet cat. I went straight from high school to uni and got my degree without taking any breaks. I’ve been working full time since graduation, and even traded my fast-paced, free-champagne agency life for a 9-5 with a clear progression path. And I’m happy. But every day I feel judged and questioned – cue the “but you’re so young! no need to settle down! you haven’t lived until you’ve spent a year overseas!” comments.
And I start to feel guilty, thinking I’ve being doing life the wrong way and not making the most of my youth or something. Maybe I should quit my job and move to Thailand. Meanwhile they’re feeling guilty thinking maybe they should leave Thailand and get a 9-5 here.
I’ve read a few articles about how this is because no generation has ever had as much pressure to succeed as millennials. But I’m calling it.
The rules are more relaxed than ever – the problem is just that not only do we need to succeed like other generations before us, but we’re the first ones who are allowed to make up our own definition of success. And we need to stop letting it be a problem.
We’re the first generation who have been able (and encouraged) to do whatever the hell we want. The doors have been flung open and we’ve been told to go out and follow our passions. Some have crashed and burned, some have soared, and then there’s the group (who I dare to say take up the vast majority) who are sitting in the middle – doing alright, but often with a severe case of the-grass-is-greener. Have we made the right decision? Should we have taken a gap year? Maybe that last date could have been the one. Will taking the job with more money make me happy?
I think there are three main reasons for this:
1. We’re not told that it’s perfectly normal to not have a singular passion in life. Or just not know what it is yet. Or that it’s great if your passion is family. Being told to follow your passion is what causes people to stumble blindly into tertiary education and drop out after a semester, or get upset when they’ve spent six months being bad at a hobby they don’t enjoy that much. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t follow your passion. But chill guys. If you’ve found some sort of life’s purpose, you’d know it and chances are you’d be following it (note: I don’t think I have a passion. but I feel like I’ve been hovering around it for about five years. I’ll work it out eventually.)
2. We’re told “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” and “build your dream, or someone else will pay you to build theirs” and somewhere along the line we decided that we’re supposed to love every second of our job. But what’s wrong with having a comfortable job that you enjoy most of the time, and gives you more money and time to spend on the stuff you do love? But if you do find your dream job (or are living the dream of not working at all) then holy shit how awesome is that? Stop worrying about if you’re doing it right.
3. We’re all using completely different measures. The other day I was getting frustrated because people I went to school with have started buying houses while I can’t afford one. Until someone pointed out to me that those people feel like they “should” have gone to uni like I did. Why? I’m 22 and I don’t need a house. They don’t need PR degrees. If you’re happy, don’t downplay your own happiness because someone else has something different. There’s no point comparing your successes to the model on Instagram if you work in vastly different industries.
Getting a magazine shoot wouldn’t mark you being at the top of your game as a lawyer, just like winning a tough case wouldn’t help her on her mission to walk at fashion week – you’re both awesome.
It’s time we start embracing the fact that we’re allowed to make up our own definition of success. Stop second guessing ourselves and thinking that Daniel from high school math class is more successful because X, Y and Z. Stop feeling guilty about what you haven’t done, and instead of give yourself a pat on the back for the paths you’ve chased so far. If it turns out you really, really don’t like they way you’ve gone – turn around and do something else. With no rules, we’re all winning 😀
Have you felt the millennial guilt, one way or another? Would love to hear your thoughts!