Don’t generalize us, because the juice boxes are long gone

By Nick Shook
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It’s morning, and I’ve just sat down to a breakfast of eggs and oatmeal when I receive a text from a friend with a link to a New York Post column.

“Your thoughts?” the text read.

Oh no, I thought as I scanned the URL before opening. Not another Millennials column.

The piece, titled “Millennials need to put away the juice boxes and grow up”and written by New York Post critic/columnist Kyle Smith, was just the latest organized rant against the newest generation to enter the American workforce.

Smith has a gripe, of course. Millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — are frequently considered to be the most unlikeable generation currently living in the United States. And yes, while many of my peers are entirely unappreciative of what they have, I have to say I am tired of being generalized.

The basis for Smith’s rant was a four-minute song called “Stressed Out,” done by a duo known as Twenty One Pilots.

The song starts with a bunch of wishes for things that the two don’t need (because they clearly have what they need to and have already reached mainstream success): better sounds no one’s ever heard, a better voice to sing some better words, some chords in an order that is new, and the removal of the need to rhyme every time he sings.

It echoes what you’ll hear and see from plenty of Millennials, a group that includes individuals who also often reach the point of apathy over minuscule obstacles with one feeble phrase: “I can’t even.”

I’m not playing the blame game. That would be too Millennial of me. But some accountability should fall on the shoulders of these parents, who belong to generations held in such high regard. Those who Smith glorifies for their hardships in his column, writing:

“At 17 or 18, members of the greatest generation and the baby boomers were handed a union card, or a rifle. Generation X? A latchkey, then a dreary joint-custody plan.”

I can’t argue that life was nearly as easy then, especially for the greatest generation. They were off to war, often without a choice. But the idea that because divorces were at an all-time high in the 1970s and 1980s, those kids had it tougher because they grew up in split homes doesn’t resonate with me.

My parents divorced when I was a year and a half old. I have no memories of them together. All I ever knew was “a latchkey, then a dreary joint-custody plan.”

Pile on two unhappy remarriages, including one that was rife with domestic violence, and guess who couldn’t wait to be an adult?

This is where I veer far from the prevailing idea of what a Millennial is: spoiled, entitled and realistically unequipped to handle life’s pressures. Hence, “Stressed Out.”

If I had any musical talent, I’d write a rebuttal song titled “Toughen Up.”

I’m $50K in student loan debt, and I’m not sitting on my hands and waiting for someone to come solve my problems for me. No, I don’t #FeelTheBern, and I don’t want a bombastic politician to promise me Utopia. I was born in 1992, not yesterday.

That takes me back to folks yearning for what they don’t have.

Rapper Skee-Lo’s “I Wish” — a song released in 1995, and one the Atlantic mentions in the piece that apparently inspired Smith’s criticism of an entire generation — is indicative of a flaw that has plagued humans throughout the course of recorded history: the yearning for more.

Skee-Lo wishes he were taller, a baller — so the pretty girl in the neighborhood will notice him so he can call her. But what Skee-Lo fails to realize, even in the hypothetical nature of his fantasy that is his song, is that while he’s focusing on what he doesn’t have, he’s taking for granted what he does have: evidently good health, the ability to rap and enough connections to even land a record deal, or time in a recording studio to record, produce and release what would become a hit.

The difference now is those who don’t work hard enough for what they want, who want it given to them on a silver platter, have a voice thanks to social media. Any common Twitter account operated by a Millennial can offer the same mindless junk: selfies, complaints about not being tan or thin enough, and endless comments about loving pizza.

(We all love pizza. That does not make you special.)

Social media is both innovation and the scourge of educated society, because instead of surrounding ourselves with quality people and tuning out the nonsense, it’s practically inescapable. If you want to be in the know, it’s hard to avoid the inanity.

And I get it — Smith is a critic and columnist. He’s paid to write hot takes and fire off a crescendo to leave an entire generation up in arms.

This brings me to my final point, and the one I’ve been out to make this whole time: don’t generalize us.

Don’t generalize anyone.

I despise being generalized as a Millennial, especially when I don’t reap the benefits, like the freedom to quit my job and backpack in Europe because if things don’t work out I still have a bedroom back at my parents’ home where I bunked from age 8 to 18. My mom redecorated soon after I moved out. I have a great relationship with my parents, but I’m not welcome to move back into my childhood homes, because I’m an adult with my own bills, responsibilities and job. It’s not an option, and I don’t want it to be one.

I value hard work and have no problem paying my dues. I respect my elders. I’m perceptive and take mental note of the habits and behavior of successful individuals.

I’m out to take your job, but only when I’ve earned it — not when someone places a call to a top-floor, corner-office suite to make a change in my favor.

I have great aspirations, fueled largely by my parents often lamenting their shortcomings — where they could have made a better decision and how life might have turned out better for them. I’ve learned from their mistakes and have carefully planned and executed steps on my path to success.

I’m not taking any shortcuts and I won’t be put down by someone who hasn’t taken the time to get to know me, or many of those belonging to my generation.

This is because I, as well as many of my peers, put the juice box away a long damn time ago.

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