Millennials! I don’t know about you, but as a young person, all the argument about whether millennials are the most spoilt, snowflake generation yet gets boring after a while. So when my (older) friend shared the “THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS GENERATION!” video on Facebook (yes, it shouted at me there too!) I gave a little sigh and eye-roll and checked it out to see how wrong it was.
It was fifteen minutes long but I found myself gripped. I watched it all, then I watched it again. I’m at university and surrounded by other students who are mostly nearly a decade younger than me. Often I do feel like I’m from a different generation to my student peers. But, I had to admit, there was so much in this video that was true. There was also so much of myself in this video and so much that tallied with what I see on campus, what I experienced when I helped lead a young team of volunteers at work, and what I saw as a youth minister in the last few years.
If you don’t have time to watch the full 15 minutes of the video, the general premise is that we are growing up with a generation who are unprepared for adulthood, and when they get there, are overwhelmed by it. We live in an instant-gratification society, where people want everything now and are unaware of the hard-work needed, working away at the bottom before the mountain of “success” or “making-a-difference” can be met.
I see this adulthood-crisis backed up in the number of light-hearted memes that complain about adulthood or that joke that “adulting” is hard, boring and complicated. I get it, it’s humor, but I think there’s truth behind it. I’m writing this from the perspective of being on campus every day, so maybe I’m overwhelmed with it more than others, but when I read this article from the Washington Post, I realized I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. There’s so much negativity about growing up, getting a job and moving out, that I also wanted to present my case for why adulting can actually be awesome!
I can’t wait to get back to work once I graduate. Having a job, even if it feels basic or mundane, gives you a sense of purpose in the mornings, a structure to your week, and a sense of dignity and respect. Some of the more “difficult” jobs I have had in the past have been made truly worthwhile by the camaraderie of being part of a team, of carrying a job through to the end together and knowing that someone has your back and that you’ve got theirs.
Tax returns and figuring out your bills will never be fun, unless you’re weird like me and like to organise paperwork a lot. Sure, getting a job can seem daunting but adulthood isn’t all about being a wage-slave. Saving up for things you want is good, being independent is good, and being able to contribute to society with your wages is good. Being able to buy others gifts, donate to charities that you are passionate about, cook yourself food and put a roof over your head with money you earned is highly satisfying and gives you a real sense of freedom.
I’m going to sound like a giant nerd here, but I love responsibility and its one of my favorite things about being an adult. When you’re a kid, no one trusts you. No one trusts you with the knife in the kitchen, or walking across the road by yourself, or being in the house alone (with good reason obviously!). But it can come as a surprise as an adult to realise you can do things. You can be given a load of responsibility as a young person and do a great job of it. More importantly, responsibility gives you the understanding that if you don’t show up and do a decent job, things will go wrong! It helps you realise that you are needed, you are necessary and it is worthwhile doing the very best you can. It makes you stand a little taller and see your place in the world a little clearer. Opting out of responsibility with the false hope that it will give you an easier time sets you up for a life that is dull and flat, without any self-recognition of your own worth.
Ok, I know first-hand how difficult this is. I am in the position where I don’t currently know how I will ever own a property. I have also had the loving support of parents who have let me move back in with them when times have been rough. But I have to gently say to anyone in the position to move out and wondering if they can do it: you can. It is worth it, even if you’re living on a shoe-string, even if you won’t be able to afford the luxuries of home. The freedom to come and go, make your own choices and be imaginative with life-on-a-budget is worth all the downsides. You get to choose what and when to eat, how you want to decorate (even if you look back and cringe) and it allows you to establish your own traditions and cool little quirks with a lot of fun along the way.
When you’re on your own in the big wide world, your mistakes feel a little more…risky. You don’t have so much of the support system around you to pick you up if you fall. But what you do discover is that the end of the world doesn’t happen if you fail. You don’t have to let everything crash around you if you make a mistake. You discover so much more about yourself than you ever thought you had and the untapped inner resources that you hold! And there’s also nothing better than the elation you feel when your friends help you out when you’ve messed up or made a mistake…not because you’re their kid and they “have to” but because they really care about you and want to help you.
It baffles me when I hear people say that they wish they could be a teen again. Erm, weren’t we all there at high school together? It sucked (for the most part!). All I ever wanted was to be out of all the teenage drama. Adulthood gives you a greater sense of perspective on your place in the world, and the importance of others in your life. It’s quite easy to be selfish as a child. Travelling, meeting new people, sharing a house with others from different cultures to your own for example, expands your horizons so much and challenges your views in a good way. Worries about whether you’re popular enough, or hiding your own nerdy hobbies or shrinking into yourself so that you don’t stand out in the crowd are all relatable teenage struggles which are so painful at the time. But they mercifully dilute as adulthood brings a greater sense of perspective, allowing you to find freedom to simply be yourself.
I know that as I get older I realise how much my parents did, and still do for me, and each realisation comes with a little gulp at how much I took for granted! But being an adult means that I’m in the position to be able to give back to them. Even though I know they loved me unconditionally as a child and don’t ask for any payment now, it’s still great to be able to show my gratitude! Whether it’s simply getting the bill when we go out for dinner, accompany my mum to an event for moral support, or sharing advice with my dad, adulthood comes with its reward of being aware enough to see where gratitude can be given, and having the ability to do something about it.
I can only speak of my experience as a Cradle-Catholic here- but no one ever explained to me that one that one day I would have to take my faith into my own hands and own it myself- because otherwise I would lose it. And when I left home aged 16, I didn’t really want to bother with being responsible for my own faith. But neither did I want to lose it. When you leave home, it might simply seem like luck as to whether your faith survives or not. I decided that I would grapple with my faith after all, and I realized that figuring out what I believed, what I thought, and what my challenges were about my faith wasn’t just one big hot mess of confusion. It was something worthwhile and satisfying to do, and it would be one of the most important things I would do on my way to adulthood. At the end of the day, it isn’t your parents or your godparents that have to understand your faith, as important as they can be in your journey. It is you, and your relationship with Christ that matters, so engage with it!
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