Or how I dare to complain about my first world problems.
Being part of the millennial generation (the people born between 1981 and 1996), there are things I highly identify with. I know that I generalize in the first half of the text below, should you not identify with my words, then read it as if you would read the second half of the blog, my personal story.
The general opinion suggests that something is seriously amiss with the millennial generation. We have been the subject of critique and incomprehension. We have been called entitled, lazy, lost. Well at least they got that last one right, because we have the tendency of indeed being lost.
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, frustrated, burned out. We feel like slaves. Many of us started coping, looking for the best way to participate in the system without going crazy and still getting some reward. 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.
I have tried the former, I’ve had a little taste of job-hopping. But I’ve also quitted. Essentially, I’m lost since 2018. And I’m not alone, many millennials are having an existential crisis, a quarter life crisis. We are lost in our search for authenticity, for truth. We lost our trust in long term effort to yield results in the 9 to 5 system. At least I have.
Since graduating university, there is something I have been searching for, something I haven’t found it in my professional life. Since I do have trouble separating the former form my personal life (and why should I have to?), I have been missing something in my life in general.
At first, I thought it had something to do with my field. So, on top of working a job, I started following extra courses, went back to evening school. I jokingly called it ‘hobbies gotten out of hand’. More and more got dragged in in my search for that something, that fulfilment. I started this blog too. All things that I love. Then, there is social life. Friends and family that you want to see now and then. Again, all things that I love.
I’ve always been sensitive. As in that I’m easier overstimulated. Even after seeing people I love; I need some recovery time. Everyone who knows me, will surely be aware of my extrovert side, but that only means that I more easily spill my energy. Energy that I was only given so much of. Although I must condition that phrase. I have plenty of energy, but I have limited access to it. I have to ‘direction’ myself just right, like tuning in to a specific radio station. This ‘concentration issue’ was particularly problematic during my school going years. Turns out I can concentrate just fine; I only have limited things I can concentrate to.
Living in a country that never felt like home in the first place, gave me a hard time in charging my batteries on a regular basis. Even when I was living in the countryside, I never got enough fresh air and untamed nature to retreat too. There were always too many people around me, living a life that was going too fast.
Then there is this aversion to feeling enslaved, to being forced to life according to certain rules. A problem with authority even. The whole work philosophy of sit-still-at-this-location-from-this-to-this-time is lost on me. Lost on my productivity, my energy flow and my vitality. It makes me feel trapped, like wearing clothes that are too tight. I want an actual work-live balance, enough recovery time. And freedom, that too.
I have to find out what it is I stand for, what matters most to me? What am I going to live my life for? I want to invest and commit, as my authentic self, in something that will bring me that happy life. Employing energy that is in equilibrium with the results, the fulfilment it will yield. Something that is in extreme disbalance in the current society of employment.
I do not want to feel like a slave, working in a system that is has proven to be completely flawed and a total mismatch to my needs. I do not want to give my misdirected energy away to a goal I have no mental connection with. I want to flow, spiralling out all that I have to give, generously.
This is one of the reasons why I love being in the Westfjords of Iceland so much. It is a place that is in direct line of this searching of mine and so many millennials. So much great initiatives are to be found there, projects that dare to embrace new ways of working, of living. At the same time, it is a region of close-knitted communities. Isn’t a coherent society, the emotional fall-back system we all secretly want and need? The yin to the me-against-the-word yang so many of us hold.
While I haven’t found were my piece fits in the puzzle, I do foresee this new world. A world were new ways of working are possible. An innovative society that isn’t afraid to transition from the ‘time-for-money’ to the ‘energy-for-value philosophy’. More balanced, less hard.
But for now, I’m still in the middle of this millennial quarter life crisis. Opening possibility after possibility. Adding more and more options to my plate, afraid to commit and to choose. Afraid that I won’t find a way to monetize this dream of an ‘energy-for-value’ lifestyle. Afraid that I’m not good enough in anything.
I allow myself to have this crisis. Feeling al the feelings, the good and the bad, on my way home. Hope and fear, hand in hand, on my way to trusting myself. After all, haven’t we been taught, my fellow millennials, that we can become whatever we want to?
I was triggered to write about this subject after seeing this video by Teal Swan. She really pokes into the sore point and I want to thank her for that.