Sometimes it may seem as though life is rough on us. Sometimes it seems like there is no way out. A lot of my writing in the past has focused on what to do when you are feeling lost. This is probably because feeling lost and overwhelmed is a recurring theme in my life and I know that I am not alone. If you are one of those rare people who has it all together, this blog is probably not for you. (If you are one of those people, please share your secret!)
Being lost has become common place for Millennials. Many of us are stuck in jobs we do not enjoy but allow us to pay the bills and buy just enough things to make us feel like we are doing well in life. Some of us have been looking for work for a long time and despite our college degrees and intrinsic feeling that we are special, cannot find anyone to pay us to do anything. Others of us are living at home with our parents because even with a job it is too expensive to live on our own. Many of us are starting businesses because in an insecure world being in charge of your career and your paycheck seems like the safest bet. Some of us older Millennials were way too brave for our own good and started families and bought homes, while keeping our fingers crossed that things would be all right, only to find ourselves lost in the trappings of an "American dream" that seems out of reach.
But we cannot complain about any of this because then we sound entitled. We just want too much. After all, generations before us hated their jobs. How dare we demand more out of life than a white picket fence in suburbia, a 40 minute commute into the office, and a TV to sit in front of at the end of the day? What is clear to many of us is that the old "American dream" is lost.
My parents were immigrants and so to them the "American dream" is what we should strive for, a "good" job, a nice house and a nice car are manifestations of success and of hard work. But as baby boomers their reality is very different from mine. We now know that even if we "work hard" we are not always compensated accordingly. Buying a home sounds unattainable or unappealing to many and even the jobs we would happily do, seem to elude us due to economic uncertainties. It is no wonder that so many of us are not buying homes, buying cars or even living on our own. Amanda Machado recently wrote a piece for The Atlantic detailing how Millennials are traveling in their 20's because we no longer believe we will have a safety-net that will allow us the luxury to travel after we retire. In the absence of readily available jobs, exploring the world seems like a good option for those of us that aren't buried in student loan debt.
Too many others all this meandering might make us appear lost. Those of us who are dealing with the uncertain (whether it is by choice or by necessity) may appear lost. But perhaps being lost isn't so horrible. My favorite blogger Penelope Trunk said that, personal growth looks a lot like being lost. She also says that uncertainty is opportunity. Uncertainty gives us a chance to fight back, to finally sit down and figure out what OUR dream is. In the uncertainty, we can let go of the trappings of the dreams imposed upon by our younger selves, our parents and everyone else. But there's a problem, figuring out what your dream is, is harder than it sounds. If for so long we have ignored our inner voice of authenticity and have instead focused on the voice that tells us to stick to what is comfortable we may not even know what we want anymore. But while we figure out our dream we have to make some cash and this is where Millennials have gotten creative.
The lack of traditional means of income has made us a more resourceful group. While many mock Millennial's "We" mentality, it has led to innovative ways of life. When I found myself dealing with financial troubles, I rented out two rooms in my house. While we have navigated a few of the usual house sharing issues (dirty dishes etc.) we have created a collaborative environment and often chat in the evenings in our communal kitchen. On the other hand, my roommates have the opportunity to live near the center of one of the most exciting cities in the world, Los Angeles at an affordable price. I'm not the only one embracing house sharing, sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing are centered around this idea. The sharing economy has seen a large growth in every sector from housing, to transportation to clothing. This phenomenon is reflective of what perhaps might be the solution to many of our #millennialproblems. In a world that has left us yearning for stability, perhaps embracing the instability by creating innovative ways to live is the only way to thrive.
Behind the facade of our filtered lives lies a quiet anxiety, a sense that the "real" world doesn't work the way we thought it would. Perhaps it's not that we are lost but rather that we are taking our time to make life altering decisions because we are aware that the choices we make in our 20's and early 30's will shape the next 30 years of our lives. While many may say that Millennials "doth protest too much," I would argue that we are simply adjusting to the world that we have inherited and letting go of the old measures of success. Instead of looking outward for validation we are looking inward and building a new sense of community. Rather than keeping up with the Jones' some of us are now sharing an Uber car with them, and we like it that way.