If we would listen to the general opinion, the mainstream wind blowing through, then it would seem that something is seriously amiss with the millennial generation. They have been the subject of critique and incomprehension. They have been called entitled, lazy, lost. At least they got that last one right, because we have the tendency of indeed being lost. We are the people born between 1981 and 1996, yours truly included.
In our childhood, we have been subjected to some weird parenting. Although we love our parents very much, they did some strange shit. It was a time of unsupervised playing on the streets, of unhealthy food, of sleep training, of bicycling without helmet. There was a lot of innocence and ignorance about the dangers and consequences that we do see today.
At the same time, we were very much controlled in other ways. School became the most important thing in our life. There was an enormous pressure in getting good grades, following certain fields of study, getting that high degree. It would promise us a solid future. With a good job, good money and a nice house. Happy, trustworthy, successful, respected.
It was those specific things that were regarded as the good things in our parent’s adult life. They taught us that consistent hard work would pay off. Besides, it was an upbringing of punishment and reward. Hitting was still normal, as was getting unhealthy snacks to reward good behaviour. We were taught that there would be a reward if we did as told, that there would be happiness and appreciation. If we didn’t, there would be consequences and pain.
We, the millennials, believed our parents. They obviously knew the path to a successful live. So, we went and behaved like society wanted. Besides school, there were other expectations too. A series of extra-curriculum activities, hobbies and a wide social life.
But then we came into adult life. Straight in a time of financial collapse and into a world of environmental disaster. Previous generations, whom we trusted so much, had exploited our planet to collapse. Furthermore, we quickly learned that hard work in the workplace, didn’t yield us the results we had been expecting. We were getting none of the emotional or financial appreciation. Many of us couldn’t afford a house or a loan at the bank.
We were recruited and incorporated to work for a 9 to 5 system that was ruled by our parent’s generation. A system that didn’t work anymore. A system to which they are still holding the strings. We were slowly being swallowed by the rat race.
Still, we kept working hard. We didn’t give up just yet. There were more extra courses, more hobbies, more friends to maintain. We struggled big time to find any work-life balance. Our ingrained perfectionism drove us further and further into the ground of wanting, of longing for that appreciation, that reward. Ultimately, we became the burnout generation.
For this we are shamed. Didn’t our parents give us everything? Are we too weak to handle life? Even if it had been presented to us on gold plater? Not only are we called weak and lazy, we are criticized for not achieving the goals placed upon us. Even though we did everything that our parents told us to do in the first place! To make it worse, we have social media. Making us feel like we are all alone with our struggles, mistakes and disappointments.
Many millennials are angry and frustrated. We feel like slaves. Many started coping, looking for the best way to make their participation in the system, liveable. Many became job-hoppers.
Then there are some that didn’t want to take the bullshit. They decided to leave the system and started writing their own rules as entrepreneurs or digital nomads. Many millennials are having an existential crisis, a quarter life crisis. We are looking for authenticity, for truth. We lost our trust in long term efforts in order to yield results in the 9 to 5 system. We want freedom, value in life.
What is it that you stand for? What is it that you want to live your life for? I believe it is time for a brand-new system. An innovative society that isn’t afraid to transition from of the time-for-money to the energy-for-value philosophy.
That is why I love being in the Westfjords of Iceland so much. Their energy is a direct match to this searching. It is a place that holds an air of promise, of possibility, of things being actually achievable.
So many great initiatives are to be found there. From small entrepreneurs to a base for digital nomads, all of them living by their own rules. It is a place that has put remote working on the map of Europe. Part of this has grown out of necessity, to avoid small villages from dying out. These small places are the perfect setting for a new beginning. As if brainstorm had a geographical location. It is a region of close-knitted communities. The yin to the me-against-the-world yang that so many millennials hold. Isn’t a coherent society, the emotional fall-back system we all secretly want and need?
While I haven’t found were my piece fits in the puzzle, I do foresee this new world. After all, haven’t we been taught, my fellow millennials, that we can become whatever we want to?
Text: Ellen Wild