The ‘M’ Word: I’m a Millennial Get Me Out of Here

Sylvie explores what it’s like to be a millennial when everything seems to be… kind of on fire

Every generation has their trends, trials and tribulations, but blummin’ heck, this is a weird time to enter ‘adulthood.’ I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s it’s like to belong to one of the most studied, debated and talked about generations to date: generation millennial. Many people refer to young adults as a snowflake generation stuck in an arrested development, and newspapers reiterate that ‘if millennials stopped spending so much on avocado on toast and coffee, they could afford a home.’ But the economic and social climate is not what it once was. This is the time in your life when you want to go travelling, see the world, and begin to work out what you want to do, but Covid-19 aside, there are several factors that make finding your feet in this landscape daunting…

Every generation has their trends, trials and tribulations, but blummin’ heck, this is a weird time to enter ‘adulthood.’

Firstly, living costs dolla dolla. Many young people are flying the nest only to fly all the way back again three or four years later. Throughout the country households full of young adults (​3.5 million in 2019), are all trying to navigate this new, shifted family dynamic, and this isn’t easy for parents or ‘children’ alike. But, when you look at the stats, it’s inevitable – in the South West, the average price of renting is ​£800 ​per month and that’s excluding the cash you need to put the bread and butter on the table and maintain some kind of social life. I feel like I don’t have the right to get annoyed because I should be grateful to be able to be back at home, and I am, but I also can’t help feeling like a stroppy, hormonal teenager.

Times have changed since Generation Alpha –  more and more people have bachelor degrees, and they no longer count for so much on their own.

Secondly, when it comes to applying for a ‘job job’, there’s a catch-22. You need experience to get a job, but without a job you can’t get experience. Times have changed since Generation Alpha –  more and more people have bachelor degrees, and they no longer count for so much on their own. That’s not to say getting a job is not do-able, because it is – there are plenty of post-grad schemes and internships to get involved in. It just takes a lot of resilience and patience to keep applying to them, especially when you don’t know what you want to do. For me, and many others, the end of lockdown is as daunting as it is necessary, because I have absolutely no idea what might be next.

Thirdly, a large part of our work and social lives exist behind a screen. We may be, as Matt Fuller puts it, ​”a bunch of millennials who don’t know how to mail things”​, but when it comes to selling bite-size chunks of ourselves online we are pros. Whether it’s dating, applying for jobs, networking, looking for flats or even keeping friends; the reality is you have to spend a decent amount of time behind a screen before moving forwards in the 3D world.

Whether it’s dating, applying for jobs, networking, looking for flats or even keeping friends; the reality is you have to spend a decent amount of time behind a screen before moving forwards in the 3D world.

As quarantine has shown, people like to make a conscious effort to get out and about, and the time we have spent behind screens has been time spent reaching out to one other. This still doesn’t stop us yearning for the real deal; real faces, places and spaces that we value so much. Some people may be more addicted to their phones than others, but I think most people aren’t really ‘hiding behind screens’ – it’s simply where a large part of our lives exist.

The environmental crisis is the most intractable, overwhelming political issue society has ever faced, and it lies in the hands of some questionable leaders.

Finally, there’s the big one: the state of the planet. I feel the environmental crisis is the most intractable, overwhelming political issue society has ever faced, and it lies in the hands of some questionable leaders. Today’s political climate is so unbelievably depressing and ridiculous that we have to condense it into memes and sketches to swallow it. Nobody can ignore the desperate state of the planet (you’d think), but it frustrates me when older generations point out risks to global warming – it’s like they’ve had their fun and can now take their place as No.1 planet protectors in their old age. 87% of millennials ​believe that companies should address urgent social and environmental issues, and most are passionate, active, green-fingered environmentalists. ​However, I can’t help but wish I could see the world at an affordable price without feeling guilty. I want to escape, explore, and be young and selfish, but I can’t really get jet-set without getting climate anxiety. As Kermit says, it’s not easy being green.

Taking all of this into account, I think it’s fair to say that it’s time to cut millennials some slack. There is no use comparing ourselves to our parents when they were young, because the world was completely different. Perhaps it’s no wonder that people say our attention spans are so short, or refer to us as ​‘spoiled, entitled, lazy failures’​. Perhaps Blindboy (of Blindboy Podcast)​ is right in suggesting that if they made a Home Alone 3 where Kevin McCallister was left struggling to cope home alone in his thirties, it wouldn’t be entirely unbelievable. Technological anxiety, climate anxiety, social anxiety… anxiety’s our middle name. As hipster or superficial as we may seem, there’s a reason why young people are swallowing antidepressants as frequently as flat whites.

There is no use comparing ourselves to our parents when they were young, because the world was completely different.

But the thing is, we didn’t exactly create this world – we’ve just found ourselves in it. Considering everything, I really think that for the most part, we’re making the best of what we’ve got. Young people fill cities and towns with amazing, essential small businesses, many of which have a great ethos, they’ve founded forward-thinking community projects, they’re passionate about their craft, and, in spite of everything, they’re managing to stay enthusiastic, engaged and interested in the world.

I think our generation is filled with talented artists and incredibly supportive, resilient, caring, ethical, open-minded people. I’m aware that the term ‘millennials’ refers to a huge age range, and this whole blog is filled with sweeping statements, but as far as generalisations go, I have lots of love for and faith in my generation even if, from the outside, we look like spoiled teenagers. In short, I think this is a very testing time to enter adulthood, whatever adulthood means, and in the face of it all, we deserve to fill ourselves with as much avocado and caffeine as we like.

Do you agree with Sylvie? What is being a millennial like? Let us know in the comments.

All images by Sylvie Carpenter.

Support more young people to have their voices heard

Rife is Watershed‘s online magazine created for young people, by young people.

We offer paid internships and publish work by young writers, photographers, illustrators, and filmmakers from all sorts of backgrounds, helping them get into creative careers. Rife has reached over 8,000 young people through our workshops, over 220 young people have made stuff for Rife on topics ranging from mental health to identity to baked beans, and last year, over 200,000 people visited our website.

In these complex and uncertain times hearing from and supporting young people who are advocating for social change and contributing fresh perspectives has never been so important. 

Through supporting Rife you can ensure that this important work continues and that more young people have their voices heard.