Dear non-millennials, aka esteemed adults aged 34 and above,
It has come to my attention that it is now fashionable to voice scathing observations of millennials – young adults like me who apparently ponder life through rose-tinted Instagram filters and munch on overpriced avocado toast.
Earlier this year, a video of motivational speaker Simon Sinek went viral. In it, he lamented about how millennials are supposedly unique in our social media addiction, thirst for instant gratification and unmet expectations at work.
Then property magnate Tim Gurner chastised us for splurging on avocado toast and coffee. Mr Gurner, who barely exceeds the millennial cut-off age by a year, seemed to suggest that affording one’s first property is as elementary as cutting down on cafe expenses.
Then just this month, job site Monster.com published a survey which found that nearly 1 in 3 Singaporeans quit their first job within a year. Most cited lack of professional growth and desire to earn more as some reasons for throwing in the towel so soon. Cue more hand-wringing and head-shaking from non-millennials.
All told, these seem to paint an unflattering picture of our generation: A generation that is entitled, spoilt and easily bruised – a basket of organic strawberries shriveling in the face of a stiff breeze.
Indeed, so much millennial trash-talking has led to a not-so-peachy public perception. A quick Google search of “Millennials are” turns up autocomplete suggestions such as “Millennials are lazy” and “Millennials are the worst generation”.
Even Google is throwing shade.
Sure, many millennials have been fortunate to grow up without witnessing war and enjoy creature comforts like laptops, faded jeans and pumpkin spice lattes (thanks to parents who want more than anything for us to be happy).
And yes, perhaps we are a tad reliant on our phones for the answers to everything: For knowledge we have Google; for love we swipe left and right; for self-validation we feed on Instagram and little red hearts from our followers.
But does mean we should be consistently dismissed as a cohort that’s beyond salvation? Certainly not.
For to attack and judge us for our choices, however shallow, unorthodox and problematic they might seem to you, is to prematurely jump to conclusions without hearing us out.
Sure, leaving a job in the first year may seem like a fickle and irresolute thing to do. But our reasons can be as valid as they are varied.
No one is asking to hold your hand or sit on your lap to learn the ropes, but is it such a bad thing that young people are keen for greater guidance and unwilling to settle for a workplace that makes them unhappy?
You may say that back in your day, rookies always expected to suffer and things eventually got better, so grit your teeth, grow a backbone and earn your stripes. But I do wonder if prizing such obligatory hardship is tantamount to closing an eye to corporate inefficiencies, sloppy leadership and welfare lapses.
After all, jolly employees make thriving companies, so instead of blaming millennials for their flakiness, could we look closer at what’s happening on the ground and figure out a way to make everyone – millennials or not – happier?
As for extravagant indulgences, generations before us have had their fair share of avocado toasts too. The only difference is that they went by other names: luxury cars, Rollerblades, Walkmans, even shark’s fin soup.
Were these items always necessary and cheap? No. Were they nonetheless definitive of an era and held dear by many? Most definitely.
For all our avocado-topped privileges, life isn’t exactly a bed of roses for us either.
Salaries have not risen in tandem with cost of living, getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job these days, and social media has mounted immense pressure on body image and self-esteem. The list goes on.
In no way am I making excuses for millennials. I have observed young colleagues who have exhibited appalling work ethic, like shirking responsibilities so they can rush off to dinner with friends. I have also witnessed peers who order avocado toast and, behold, eat only the avocado.
But for every black sheep, there are hundreds of white fluffy ones that can do more than put you to sleep – if you only bother to look closer.
The fact is, like any other generation, we should be understood not as a monolith, but as an ensemble of individuals who bring different things to the table.
Some of us win Olympic medals and singing competitions, others are solid interns who deliver sick video edits (thanks Claire).
Some of us savour avocado toast as we design your website, others prefer to nibble on kaya toast as they write this column.
So engage us for what we are, don’t dismiss us because of some preconceived Internet stereotype.
Listen to what we have to say, because how we think will, for better or for worse, determine what’s to come next.
We too, are prepared to listen to you, because as much as generation gaps are here to stay, we have much to learn, the same way you learnt from those who came before you, no matter how sheltered and mollycoddled they once thought you were.
Years from now, when my peers and I become elderly folk who miraculously have no wrinkles in our photos, we will probably sneer at teenagers and their lack of appreciation for avocados and hashtags.
Until then, however, the future is ours to shape. And we sure as heck can’t do it alone.
A 29-year-old millennial