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those idealistic millennials

Duck lip selfies. Always on their phones. Ignorant of history and politics. Hiding in safe spaces. Eating avocado toast. And that ubiquitous Starbucks cup. Arrrgh!

Let’s talk about those Millennials. They’re annoying, aren’t they? Thinking when they get an entry-level job that they’ll be senior vice presidents within a year. Living in our basements and playing video games into the middle of the night only to wake up for a late brunch the next afternoon. They’re aggravating, with their Casper mattresses, their SprezzaBox watches, bumper stickers, bespoke suits, and their damn sprouts.

Actually, I kind of like sprouts. They’re hard to find in the grocery stores unless you’re shopping at Whole Foods or Wegmans, but they’re crunchy and flossy and … foodie. And maybe the reason they’re so annoying and aggravating is because we don’t always want to hear what they’re saying because maybe they’re … right? sometimes. As the father of three Millennials, I can attest to the housing situation. I’ve got two over-eighteen-year-old Gen-Y children living with me right now. Because I invited them to do so. They cook and pay rent and lots of other adulting tasks, too. Most of the time. But they’re still here.

Yeah, it runs counter to the messages we were brought up with, doesn’t it?  My grandfather had four sons. When each one of them turned eighteen, he told them that by the end of summer after their Senior year, they’d get a job (offering to apprentice them as tool-and-dye makers), they’d be in college (which they’d pay for out of their own pockets), or they’d enlist in the military (and he’d give them a free ride to the recruiting station). Three of them went into the military. Two retired from it after twenty years. Two of them ended up with college degrees, one was a master carpenter, and the youngest learned to play guitar so well he could make you jump up and down or cry like a baby on command. They all did alright, is what I’m saying.

And me? I wormed my way through the rotten apple of college on grants and endowments, worked evenings in a mom and pop TexMex joint, married my high school sweetheart my sophomore year of college, had our first baby with her before graduation, then finished up the last semester after he was born. And I survived. I graduated with no college debt. Rent and utilities on a halfway livable apartment was around three hundred bucks a month. And there were jobs if you were a hard worker.

So why am I harboring two Millennials when by all rights I should be an empty-nester? Because college costs are fng ridiculous. Because housing costs are fng ridiculous. Because the job market is so specialized that a person cannot simply jump out of mom and dad’s nest, spread their wings, and fly anymore. Too many times, they end up hitting the ground. Hard. And these “new realities?” They happened on our watch. Under our noses, even. So I’m not saying this isn’t the land of opportunity anymore.

What I’m asking is “the opportunity to WHAT?”

That, I believe, is the question a lot of Millennials are asking themselves. It is a question I’m asking myself. We raised these kids telling them that they could be anything they wanted to be if they put their minds and energy behind a goal. But the goal posts keep moving. And they notice the unfairness.

I think a lot of them, most of them maybe, are tired of the vision of the American Dream that we handed them. We suggested alabaster cities full of happy people. They see YouTube videos of a floating island of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean and notice that their peers with the nuts and the guts to actually try to do something about it are mocked to derision by the same suits whose lack of ethics and foresight put that plastic in the ocean.

Our parents tried their hardest to put silver spoons in our mouths. We put plastic cutlery in the mouths of our own kids.

When Millennials tell us their fears about global climate change, they’re made to feel like fools for believing something so preposterous. When they suggest switching to sustainable energy sources instead of using up the last of the fossil fuels, they’re told the numbers just don’t work out, and oh by the way, that coal and oil is never going to run out.

I don’t think it is going to be long before they stop asking for permission to change the things they see that are wrong, and finally gain the upper hand. The day is coming quickly. I welcome it. Hell, I’ll even help.

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