Dear Baby Boomers: An Open Letter from a Millennial

Dear Baby Boomers,

You have some strong opinions about Millennials, don’t you? It feels like we can’t turn around without seeing another article about how we’re lazy, a comment about how we’re too sensitive, a snarky meme about how we all need trophies.

You make fun of us for those participation trophies we got as kids, but we didn’t exactly buy them for ourselves when we were five. Naw. Ya’ll bought them, Baby Boomer parents. Not us.

Funny thing is, those participation trophies weren’t such a bad thing. Because they taught us the importance of contributing, that half the battle is showing up, rolling up our sleeves, and contributing however we could.

But don’t get me wrong, we’re also an ambitious lot. We know the difference between participation awards and legit awards, and we crave the real ones, the accomplishments and achievements. We have access to so many incredible opportunities, but it’s also paralyzing. That’s a lot of pressure to handle.

When we sit around and play video games, you may see laziness, but it’s how we handle stress. Instead of, say, smoking. Mmmhmm. We know what you did. And we, more than past generations, value health and fitness. (Probably because healthcare looks like a mess and we see the impact of negative health choices on our elders.)

But we are stressed and we’re trying to find ways to deal with that.

millennial-postBecause when we were still trying to understand the world, we watched buildings in our country crumble, people dying before our eyes. In our lifetimes, “terrorism” became a common word. We’ve basically never known a time where we weren’t engaged in some kind of war. And the top stressors for any adult are jobs, the economy, money, and relationships. Since the economy tumbled while we were trying to ent
er the job market, it’s not surprising we suffer from more anxiety and depression than previous generations.

We’re also more connected than any other generation. So while you can browse your newspaper, maintaining appropriate distance from the news of the world, we connect with it because it happened to someone we “know” on Twitter and we’ve read personal accounts shared on Facebook. We don’t have the benefit of distance, so we end up personally connecting with every major tragedy in the world. Tell me you don’t realize how exhausting that could be.

And yeah, a lot of us live with our parents, but that’s likely due to financial issues, not a lack of desire for independence. Millennials are on our way to being the most educated generation, probably in part because a lot of jobs require a college degree. (It’s that achievement thing you taught us—get a good education to score a good job.)

But college degrees aren’t free. And those financial burdens are no doubt contributing to the decision to wait until later in life to marry. We know what financial burdens can do to marriages and family. We watched it happen and we saw Generation X suffer as the first significant group of kids of divorce.

Because we’re educated and informed, we see the long list of things that have gone wrong in the past and swear they won’t happen on our watch, which is a lot of responsibility for people who are worried about losing their jobs and trying to pay off student loans. To you, we may look like a generation of Don Quixotes, tilting at windmills, but we’re trying to encourage change however we can, to express dissatisfaction with our current situation and make it clear we want a better world. Maybe it feels like a long time ago, but you Baby Boomers know a thing or two about protests and demanding change.

millennial-post-2So yeah, on the surface we may seem entitled and lazy and overly sensitive, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find a generation capable of incredible change because we’re so connected to the world and aware of our incredible opportunities. We’re not going to look like you or act like you, but that’s a good thing. The world we’re inheriting is entirely different from the one you Baby Boomers inherited.

We know we don’t have it all figured out. But if you assume we’re just silly kids, you’re selling us short and sabotaging yourself in the process. So share that article if you must, post that snarky meme if it makes you feel good. But know that we see you. And we’re your hope for the future, whether you like it or not. One day the world will belong to us, and we’d rather have your help than your judgement.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go order myself a trophy.

With love,

Just a Millennial

She’s more

If you saw this woman at the Olympic games, what would you think?

Anna Sofia BothaAns Botha (Lloyd Burnard)

You’d probably think she was someone’s grandmother, right? And you wouldn’t be wrong. This 74-year-old woman is, in fact, a grandmother. Even a great-grandmother.

And that’s what officials saw as they turned her away from restricted areas, likely assuming she was confused, an elderly lady misdirected on the way to her seat.

Yes, she’s a great-grandmother. But that’s not all she is.

Anna Sofia Botha (also known as Tannie Ans Botha) was in the stands last Sunday, watching South African runner Wayde van Niekerk win a gold medal and smash a world record no one had been able to touch for 17 years. She was beaming with pride.

Because she’s his coach.

A Namibian who started coaching in 1968, Botha is described by her athletes as an “amazing woman,” a woman who sees her athletes as her children, looking after them like family. (You can read more about her here and here.)

So much of an athlete’s ability can be attributed to the combination of intense hard work and genetics, but undoubtedly a portion of their success is due to the work of their coach, the person who recognized their potential and encourages their abilities, enabling an athlete to make the journey from good to great.

But until van Niekerk’s incredible finish and subsequent publicity, when people looked at Anna Sofia Botha, they saw a great-grandmother, an older lady at the Olympics as a spectator, instead of the coach of a future gold medalist.

Just like when a commentator looked at a female gymnast and saw a girl writing in her diary instead of a world class athlete making notes on her performance.

Or when another commentator looked at a successful swimmer and saw someone who should’ve made a different choice about her career instead of an intelligent woman choosing the future she wanted.

But we’re humans—we make assumptions about a person the moment we meet them. Our subconscious biases kick in and we reach conclusions, sometimes before the other person has even said a word. It saves us time; it keeps us from having to invest mental energy in a stranger.

But sometimes those psychological shortcuts lead us to underestimate talented human beings, revealing unfair judgements we refuse to release, even when we encounter opposing evidence (like Botha’s official credentials that should’ve allowed her access to restricted areas).

No matter how we try to reduce them to a simple identity, people are more—more than what we see, more than our biased assumptions. And until we acknowledge that reality and are willing to question our assumptions, coaches of Olympic champions will keep being turned away at the door.