The Problem with Millennials…

A couple weeks ago, as we were driving home from who knows where, my daughter started a conversation with me about millennials and the unfair treatment they receive in the media and the greater society. The impetus for this discussion was a spot run by the morning radio deejays in which they spent their air time slamming the entire millennial generation. I had heard the radio spot that morning, but as with much of what the morning deejays say, it only registered as background noise.

The truth is, the deejays were not being very kind in their talk about millennials, which seemed odd since this generation likely makes up at least a portion of their listening audience. The gist of their discussion centered on how millennials have become notorious for being lame and useless, lazy and entitled, and living in their parents’ basements. The deejays claimed these young adults don’t want to work; they whine all the time; they expect rewards for showing up; the list goes on…. The deejays even had people calling in to tell their own stories of dealing with this particular group of individuals. To be blunt, the feature was rude, and demonstrated more about the adults who were perpetuating the generational stereotype than it did about millennials.

My daughter then raised an incredibly insightful point. “Mom, it was your generation that made millennials this way. Your generation was the one that raised us and gave out the trophies. You can’t now blame millennials for expecting to be rewarded.” This parenting truth of is one I see played out often as I go about my job, a job that involves working with millennials.

[Let me briefly say, I am not now—nor have I ever been—a helicopter parent. I have increasingly allowed, encouraged, and even required my children to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for those decisions. Have I failed in more ways than I’d like to admit? Absolutely. But I would definitely not be considered a coddler.]

Perhaps my own aversion to coddling is due to the fact that I have been working with young people in one capacity or another for most of my life. I have dealt with more parents than I can count, and I have seen parenting behavior that makes me cringe. Every now and then, I experience parenting that is worth writing about, but I usually keep my thoughts to myself.

But on this day as I drove, my daughter’s words hit me as the raw truth. We cannot expect children or young adults to behave in a way that we have not trained them to behave. If we have done everything for them and constantly protected them as they have moved through the world, of course they are going to wind up back in our homes where they feel protected, comfortable, and … well, at home. And then there’s the fact of the frightening economy into which we are attempting to launch these newly minted adults—many of whom are already drowning under the weight of student debt.

So for a moment, think back to your own youth. Remember when you were a teenager, and your parents—their friend, the world, etc.—complained about you and your friends? When I was a teenager, we (as a group) were supposedly lazy and mooched off our parents. Sound familiar? Maybe young adults haven’t really grown lazier and less motivated, but adults simply need a place to lay blame, and throwing young people into one stereotypically lazy group is easy.

What would happen if we started treating kids as individuals rather than lumping the entire generation into one humongous group? Maybe the fundamental problem with millennials is not millennials, but rather our attitude toward them and our lack of expectation for them. Perhaps, we have forgotten what it is like to be young and floundering as we pursue our dreams. Perhaps we have forgotten that with increased responsibility comes increased independence, and we fail to give kids enough responsibility to facilitate positive growth and development. Most importantly, we have forgotten that when we are senior citizens, today’s young people will be our surgeons, our lawyers, our politicians, and the creative minds that will effect positive change in the society.

So it is my belief that young people need two things: opportunity and mentorship. When I was young and just starting out, someone had faith in me to do a job and to do it well, and they gave me a chance. [As I look back, it was more like a string of someones who recognized that I was good enough, smart enough, skilled enough to do the job.] We owe it to these kids to give them the same chance to prove what they can do.

As a teacher, I have experienced the incredible passion, determination, eagerness, and conviction that millennials possess. Take a chance on a young person; reach out and offer your support. My guess is, they may need some encouragement and guidance along the way (as we all do), but there is little doubt the time you take will be worth it.

{Photo illustration by my amazing daughter}

Time’s Apprentice

I am an apprentice of time. This fact was made obvious to me this morning when I turned the calendar and found the words—right across the page all bold and bright—Imagine the Possibilities.

My mind immediately started to do just that. It was as if the suggestion suddenly took on life and moved under its own power. I could see it like roots of a vine digging in and taking hold. So much power in a simple suggestion! Not only did I begin to imagine all that the month of May might hold, I actually noticed the thirty-one blank squares that were arranged beneath the word “May.” Thirty-one days when I can take on new challenges, learn new things, develop my soul, and become a better me.

Imagine the Possibilities! Yes, let’s do that. The possibilities are endless, and when we imagine them, it is as if they expand and grow and become more… well… possible. Imagine!

I am an apprentice to this whole time thing (does anyone ever really master time?). Maybe not, but imagine what could happen if we open ourselves up to time and to all of its possibilities!

 

Accepting my role

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I woke up on Saturday to a somewhat quieter house than normal. Only my youngest was home, and I had the brief realization that in another couple years, this—this quiet, this [relative] stillness—would be the norm in my house. When I went downstairs to the kitchen, I found W finishing up breakfast, dressed in khakis and a t-shirt, the beginnings of an outfit chosen for the day’s job interview.

Now, I am good at telling myself I am prepared for this whole growing up thing. After all, I have already been through this with my oldest child. He graduated from high school, left for college, and last week, I dropped him off at school for his second semester. He is doing great, making his way in the world. He is growing up and becoming an amazing adult—and I couldn’t be prouder.

But this?

Perhaps I’m not ready after all. It was one thing when my oldest was making all of these successful steps out into the grown-up world. But my youngest? I never said they could ALL grow up….

It’s times like this that reality hits. These children were only mine for a brief moment in time. That was what I signed on for, though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. As their mom, I was responsible for getting them to the point of launch—raising them into independent (or… semi-independent) young people who are capable of venturing into the world, making good decisions, and becoming increasingly self-sufficient and integrated into society.

I have done that, and I will continue to do that. I will support them through their growth, their challenges, their stumbles (and falls), and their u-turns and redirects. I will be here for them in whatever they need as they gain exposure to the world and establish a foothold.

As their mother, I have been here for them when they’ve needed me, and it is my goal to be here as long as I can. They will continue to need me, but my role changes as they change. And I’m beginning to understand that more and more, I am just along for the ride.

I may not be ready, but my kids… they are well on their way, taking on increasing responsibility. I probably wasn’t ready for many of their other milestones either, but that didn’t stop them. So like it or not, I will step back, let them go, and enjoy the ride as I see what the future has in store!

Lessons from a challenging week…

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It was a crazy week in my life. I have to say my life because it wasn’t specific to my house. It wasn’t focused on my family. It wasn’t only at work. It was my life. Everything I touched became completely crazy.

I could say that I encountered some bumps on my journey this week, or I could say that a mountain appeared on the path in front of me. I prefer to think of it as some minor speed bumps designed to get me to slow down. To reevaluate. So I slowed down, and I used this week to gather some lessons to share. The good, the bad, and the silly.

  1. You don’t have to stay positive, but it will certainly make the tough times more pleasant. All of us, in our lives, will encounter a bumpy road every now and then. As I look back on my week, I am picturing a child on a bike, hair blowing back with the speed of travel, feet off the pedals, legs outstretched, and a gleeful smile on her face. Staying positive will help you make the most of the moment.
  2. You might be presented with a hill or a mountain or a sheer rock face, but believe in yourself. Whatever happens, life goes on. Put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.
  3. Sometimes, cookies will take the edge off. When one of my coworkers called and asked what she could do to help, without a second’s hesitation, I joked, “Cookies! We need cookies!” I arrived the next morning, and on my desk I found—you guessed it—cookies!
  4. If you don’t occasionally put your own needs first, you will be useless to those around you. This is a lesson that I am constantly struggling with. It seems I spend my days addressing the needs of everyone around me, but when it comes to simple things like sleep, deep thinking, relaxation, etc., I don’t make myself a priority.
  5. Here’s the thing about hills… you can’t see through them. Things may well be more beautiful on the other side. Once all the crazy, negative energy settles, we will see where we are. I am going to keep climbing and see where life takes me. At least I can enjoy the view along the way!
  6. No matter what happens, you are not alone. There will be people who will offer to climb with you. Sometimes, they might simply walk by your side and keep you company; sometimes, they might carry you. Take them up on their offer. Life is better when you share the trials as well as the triumphs.

Oh… and bring the cookies. They might come in handy!

Journey

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Recently, I have been feeling as though my life is spent attending to the needs of everyone around me—children, adults, felines, etc. I have lost touch with myself—the very things that make me who I am—and sometimes, I feel as though I am in danger of bursting into a million tiny pieces and floating off in every direction. I imagine my children’s initial shock at the explosion, like a ‘poof’ of something disappearing in a magic show, and then the scramble to gather the pieces. But it will be too late. I will be gone. As this image fills my head, I catch myself wondering whether ‘spontaneous explosion’ is a thing that can happen to humans.

Last evening, in my need to get out of the house for a few minutes of peace, I went on a journey. Okay… I lie. I took out the trash. But for me in my condo association, “taking out the trash” means a quarter mile walk to the dumpster. It’s usually a nice evening stroll, though if the trash is particularly heavy, it can be tedious. Last night, the trash was light.

My daughter had just come in from a walk and said she had seen a turtle laying its eggs by the side of the pond. As I approached the pond, I wondered if I would see the turtle. Because of the summer heat, the pond is covered in a thin, green film of algae, swirled by the breezes that sometimes play across the water’s surface. The pond is so evenly covered that it is reminiscent of the first skin of ice that appears each year when the cold sets in. The algae though, it makes the pond seem neglected, dirty.

Further down the path, I enter a thick grove of trees—the darkest spot on the journey to my destination. I am a week too late for fireflies, I think, though it isn’t quite dark enough outside to tell for sure. Last week and the week before, the fireflies danced under these trees.

On the walk back toward home, birds are flitting near a toppled and rotting tree stump left behind by a severe storm several years back. The smells of forest remind me that there is a drought, and in my mind, I am transported to the year I lived in northern California. There, the scent was similar—dry and dusty—but was tinged with eucalyptus and Manzanita. As I pass the pond once again, a bullfrog sings his mournful song.

The walk was not long, but the noise of the day has been replaced by the soft sound of my sneakers on the pavement and the night noises of nature. The last streaks of light are fading from the sky as I duck under tree branches hanging low above the walkway. I breathe deeply of the air that is beginning to cool down, and my mind is clear. The clarity may only last a moment, but I am ready to go back to work.

I open the door to my house and step inside, feeling just a little less likely to spontaneously explode.

Soul Reclamation Workshop

This weekend, I will be joining my friend Kate and several others for her “Soul Reclamation Workshop.” I have written with Kate before, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to do so again this weekend. If you are not busy, or if you are looking for something to jump-start a new direction for your writing, join us! You won’t be disappointed!

 

https://wishingstone.wordpress.com/retreats-and-workshops/soul-reclamation-spring-2016/

Ultimate Optimism #atozchallenge

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As I make my way through life, I have been collecting nuggets that I carry with me like badges. These are things I seldom whip out and flash around; instead, they are personal, trophies won through the experiences I have gone through—the struggles, the pain, the joys, and the triumphs.

One of the most useful nuggets I have acquired is ultimate optimism. Really more of an outlook on life—an approach to life, if you will—than a trophy or badge, I have had optimism since I was just a tyke. Maybe eight or ten. In fact, the only way I would have made it through some of my trials and tribulations is to hold onto the firm belief that things are going to get better.

When I am working with students or counseling my children, I will often refer to current challenges as “a bump in the road.” In the grand scheme of things, one day, as you look back on a situation from a different perspective, you will find that the trials, they really were just passing moments in time.

And at that point, when you look back on all you have been through, you will realize how strong you have become. And hopefully, you will realize that you, too, have the tool of ultimate optimism that you can draw on.

Because the truth is, things are going to get better.