Last week, my good-friend-almost-sister, S__ K__, texted me last-minute to rearrange my plans that week and hop on an S.E.A. ship to sail from San Pedro to San Diego. I never say no. We got on the ship, and the first thing they told us at the crew meeting was, “There are no passengers on this ship, only crew,” which translates into my having no idea what I’m in for and developing a rash of rope burns and being reprimanded for saying “rope” instead of the correct term, “line.” At one point, a very gruff but nice woman walked behind me and said, “Do you always run with your shoes untied?” This meant, “Tie your damn shoes in double knots and stop offering me your peanut butter-filled pretzels when I’m trying to work.” It took roughly ten minutes for me to realize that I was not a sailor. Also, I’m now afraid of hard work. But let me clarify…
I started working when I was 14 at a Steak ‘n’ Shake in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I started off at the drive-thru and in portioning, and I can still boast today that I can hold a handful of frozen onion rings in my hand and tell you if it’s more or less than 8 oz. (Note: I haven’t tried this lately, but if you have access to a handful of frozen onion rings and a scale, I’d love to perform this party trick for you.) The woman who trained me was in her twenties, had a kid, and also had a little crown she would sometimes wear that said, “Drive-Thru Queen.” She ordained me her princess. I took that job seriously. I took every job I’ve done seriously, even the one where I sat in that dark office all day, hand-typing DO-NOT-REMOVE tags for SpringAir Mattresses. I remember our location of S’n’S always winning a bunch of service and excellence awards, and while we had our share of goofing off, we were all hard workers and proud of what we did. That was back in the 90s.
I was born at the tail-end of 1981. And in the mid-to-late 90s, I was Generation X. That was cool. I liked Reality Bites. I liked being disillusioned, rebelling against rules, and making my own individual way through life, but ultimately being successful and a hard worker as the first person in my family to go away to college. But, no. In the early 2000s, they sent me a little slip that said, “Sorry, Miss, but we’ve made a grave error. You’re actually a proud member of Generation Y.” Fuck. OK, what does that mean? I think it’s best illustrated by my favorite television show ever, Wonder Falls, whose main character is Brown-educated, sardonic, lazy, and works in a Niagara Falls gift shop, because she’s afraid to achieve anything within her potential, because it would mean people would expect more from her. Did I ever mention I dropped out of college to start massage therapy school my sophomore year? (I dropped out twice, I think, actually…) Wonder Falls was sadly canceled after only two episodes aired, but I was front and center for those viewings, and the message stuck with me for a long time. That’s what you get when your main target demographic is defined by its inability to keep appointments or make commitments to things.
Oh, wait, wait, wait!!! I’m still not done! Right after I graduated college, I moved out to L.A. and took a job with a publisher. I loved the people there, but I could not be entertained by the work. Like, at all. No matter how much I tried to get enthusiastic about placing a red dot next to a name, title, and address of a Creative Director from BBDO to signify his information has remained the same since last year, I just could not. I actually started getting obsessed with looking up my horoscope on various websites then. That was back when Yahoo! had the best, and I was like, “What is a Google?” I didn’t feel like I had any stake in the company, so my Midwestern work ethic wore out quicker than the single bra I owned then. All of a sudden, I got a new letter in the mail! They said, “Oh, God, this is really embarrassing. We know we told you last time you were Gen Y, and we said we’d never ever have to do this again, but we’re sorry–and elated!–to inform you that you’re actually a Millennial.”
What the fuck.
Apparently the tail-end of 1981 is as flip-floppy as Anne Heche. (A Gen Y’er can make that joke. A Millennial cannot.)
When I was on the S.E.A. ship with S__, she actually brought up the Millennials thing. She said she has an assistant on board, and as much as she tries to communicate with this young, wispy Millennial, they do not see eye to eye. S__ is a true Gen X’er, by the way. S__ said that her assistant will mosey out of bed when she feels like it, will throw something together without planning and without consulting S__, and generally has a self-interested attitude. Nice, but self-interested. That’s kind of the exact definition of what Millennials are supposed to be. And as much as I want to get in on the begrudging of them…I kind of think I am a little bit of one. But in a good way!
Millennials, while defined by the aforementioned, are actually strong and dedicated individuals, and once they find a job that gives them an identity and treats them as the valuable individual they are, they tend to far surpass the workload of a Gen X’er. (Gen Y’ers don’t actually count here, because they are truly lazy and fearful human beings. Probably. Actually, some people don’t distinguish between a Gen Y’er and a Millennial, but ardent researchers of the subject do.) But if you find them folding t-shirts at a kiosk, you’re likely to come across a hot-mess serial texter who doesn’t give a shit about hoo U R or whut U want 2 bi. Unless she’s been offered 401k and profit sharing, possibly a hand in identity and branding.
Being raised in the Midwest by very blue-collar people, I’ve been trained like the good circus bear that I am to take whatever is given to me, to be eternally grateful for it even if you’re treated like shit, and to stick with it until you die or until your auto plant is closed. SUCCESS!!! Ugh. I can’t do it anymore. Yesterday, I went into my brand new barista job to get trained. While I was there, two 22-year-old coworker girls discussed how gross and old 29-year-old women are right in front of me. Come on, guys! I’m one of you! I was shamed for not owning any black pants or black t-shirts, as the owner told me it was the staple of every woman’s wardrobe (maybe if you’re a caterer? a bouncer? possibly Death?), and when a regular customer came up to the counter to inquire about my tattoo and whether I was from Idaho, I said, “No, but I went to graduate school there,” at which point, everyone kind of looked down for a second as they had a silent moment for all of my dead hopes and dreams. I worked there three hours. I am not going back. What’s funny, though, is that even though I was only getting paid minimum wage there, had to invest in a uniform, was told I wouldn’t even start getting paid until next week, and I have a master’s degree, I still felt fucking guilty and like a total pussy for deciding not to go back to the job. Seriously. It’s a horrible job. Everyone who’s gotten the job before me has quit within a week, and I still felt guilty. I even had to call all of my friends and my boyfriend to ask for permission to quit. (It’s funny to call a Midwesterner and a non-Midwesterner for these things, because the non-Midwesterner will be like, “Fuck it, who cares?” while the Midwesterner goes through a checklist of ways that you might be overreacting to your shitty work conditions just to really make sure that you’re quitting the job for the right reasons and not being lazy. That one goes out to you, Mom!)
Me? No, I’m not being lazy. Like, I really, really promise you I’m not. I search for jobs like 12 hours a day, and I have approximately 100 different resumes tailored to each job to show for it. (I’m not exaggerating.) Here’s a magazine that’s hiring that I came across today:
I like the name of this magazine. I think it’s sweet that these young women are putting this all together, too. It shows a lot of initiative, and you can tell they clearly care about the magazine. But, wow…the content. Here’s an issue my surrogate generation hasn’t begun to deal with, yet: we create a bunch of stuff. Yup, that’s the problem. All over the nation, there are talented, young women and men who sew, bake, write, paint, record a bunch of stuff and are more focused on the creating than the perfecting, so focused on putting the mark on something that it doesn’t matter what it is or how it turns out as long as they care about it. You know what I like more than a lot of things (not wolves)? Criticism. I like book critics who can tell me why my work might suck. I like music critics who can tell me why a song is too derivative and uninventive. And I like my mom for telling me why most television shows suck. (I agree! But we have divergent opinions of Two and a Half Men. Guess which one of us calls the other to quote lines from the show and connect guest star appearances to past Charlie Sheen projects.) Hey, Millennial Generation. Here’s my one criticism for you: please, please, please tell one another how much they suck. Also, give constructive feedback on how one might go about not sucking, then text me when you’re done, because I’m like so bored at work and need to go out for a cocktail.
See! I am one of you!