“Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?”
– Bruce Springsteen
Apparently, the millennials are growing up. Turning away from the bright eyed wunderkins we were supposed to be. You know: tech babies incubated in dreams and shaping the world with perfect ideals, lining our pockets with love.
That’s what we were branded as, but we’ve decided we’d actually like some money. And growing up has turned us bitter.
The eulogies say we’re doing what the “bastards of 1969” [link no longer active] did before us—and, in a truly heart wrenching statement, “we’ve sold our soul for a carousel of internships, J-Law nudes, and the ice bucket challenge.” Good grief, Charlie Brown.
This is a dark night of the soul—the moment when we realize our era of free love happened voyeuristically, with anonymous partners through a computer screen.
Where we realize our dreams were most successfully played out in MMOGs or (worse, perhaps) via someone else’s work on Netflix.
Creatively, we’ve taken in more than we’ve exported. Isn’t that anathema to our original rally cry?
Wait…what was our original rally cry again?
Oh, that’s right…we didn’t have one. What generation does?
All the hot topic buzz about millennials, it seems to me, came from other peoples’ mouths. Older folks: folks who traded Woodstock for Wall Street long before our pip-squeak brains could even rub together enough neurons to form a thought.
It seems to me that they said we were going to go far, kid. That all the money and lacquered teeth and sandblasted pours meant that they could finally make good on that trade—sure, the older generation might have sold their souls, but they had produced us, and we were all Jesus savants, whose dreams and ideals could only be matched by our perfect uniqueness.
Then, of course, the money burned up in oil and bubbles, and now we’re all in debt to China, aren’t we? What we don’t owe the credit card companies and (behind or ahead of them) the bartender.
Oh, how far the mighty fall. Fantastic Prince Phillip, climbing a knotted tangle of hair before tumbling all the way down and losing his eyes to a thorn bush.
As though we were the first ones to do this.
As though we’ll be the last.
I’m sorry, but isn’t the real story of Woodstock as Hunter S. Thompson describes the 1960s in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “The high water mark—the place where that wave finally broke and rolled back”?
Sure, he was speaking about a generation, but he might as well have been speaking about youth in general. Eventually, we all break and roll back along with the tide.
Was our millennial youth inflated? Sure. Was it our fault? Hardly. Did we get something out of it? Time will tell.
Now Generation Z comes along, and I guess 80% of them have decided that they would rather make more money than find meaningful work. This while they’re still wandering their high school hallways. To their credit, they’re reacting to the world as it was presented to them.
At least we’ll be able to pass this on: through Bailey Knox, we’ve learned that sex doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with love. Through life we’ve learned that dreams don’t necessarily have anything to do with work.
And money (apparently) is what we use to fill that cavity we used to call a soul, as though the two were ever mutually exclusive, as though these generational obituaries weren’t happening decades too early, and weren’t frighteningly too dramatic.
To the historians of the future, I kindly ask: when you’re putting this generation to bed, and if we were a failed dream, wonder exactly whose failed dream we were, anyway.
For everyone else: there are lines in my face now, kids, and I’m afraid I’m supposed to see in them a kind of high water mark…