Newsflash: You don't deserve everything.
I hate that word as much as you do, but it's time to put down the cold brew, stop hiding behind Instagram filters, and get to work.
I'm 33 years old, so I'm a geriatric millennial but I was born in the 80s and raised in the 90s, and I had to conquer some of the classic sky-high expectations and sense of entitlement that defines our generation. Marriage and kids have brought me to a place where I can tell you that life is hard — and hard is OK.
In fact, hard is pretty awesome. The quicker you can let go of your naps, your bitching and your never-ending explanations of the life you deserve, the sooner you can enjoy the life you have.
"It's hard to find a job that's really me," I hear you say. Which means you thought you'd make six figures just by getting a diploma and you're appalled that in your current job you can't afford the beard wax and fair trade you'd come to see as basic necessities when dad was still footing the bill.
I know you imagined your interviews would go something like this: "What? You got a 4.0 while also running your fraternity? We've simply never met anyone like you! Here's a company car and a flex spending account, you boy-genius."
I know because I was the same way. I moved to New York freshly graduated and freshly wed and didn't get the first job I interviewed for, which was entirely unfair because I carried a typo-less resume full of skills and accomplishments, wore a skirted power suit, and was endlessly charming, witty and engaging. It must've been rigged.
I did get the next job and I worked exactly 26 days before I requested a meeting with my boss, during which I carefully outlined for him my reasons for deserving a pay raise and a promotion. He smiled and said, "Don't you have some filing to do?"
And yet my "things I deserve without much effort or discomfort" list didn't diminish. Not until my ride off into the sunset with my knight in shining armor took a detour to marriage counseling and I realized that relationships take work and sacrifice. That those beautiful moments on Hallmark commercials are entirely legit, they just have a lot of hard stuff in between them. We worked our butts off to build the marriage we enjoy today.
Also, while working that all-day job in journalism, I whined at least once a day that the book I wrote in graduate school wasn't getting published. Keep in mind I never sent out any manuscripts; it was just generally unfair that no one had found it on my desktop, printed it out, edited it, created a book proposal for me, and mailed it to 200 agents.
Don't get me wrong, my dad used to talk to me all about the real world, but what I mostly heard was "Blah blah blah ... cappuccino." And when he warned me about how much harder it will be to shoot for the stars when I'm no longer a big fish in a little pond, all I could think about was my boyfriend and getting someone to help me with my annoying AP Chemistry homework, and man, won't my tennis skirt be super-cute with my "weekend at the lake" tan.
Yeah, go ahead and make fun. But I was 16 and you're 26. It's time to stop thinking about your tan.
My parents were self-made baby boomers and I heard plenty of those "I walked to school uphill both ways in the snow when I was your age" stories. But if you're younger than me, children of over-doting immigrants, or perhaps had parents who were more concerned that they give you everything they didn't have, you could be one of those millennials that had "you can do anything and be anyone" spread on your organic toast every morning before being shuttled off to private school.
But what your nanny failed to tell you while donning your uniform cardigan is that it's not entirely true. If there's 300 people applying for the same job and you don't wow anyone in the interview — and no one makes a call to help your resume get to the top of the stack — then you lose.
And the word "lose"? You probably don't know it because you were raised to avoid it. The parenting pendulum was swinging back from the era of children being seen and not heard. It was over on the other side — children are now demigods to be coddled and have sunshine blown up their butts for 18 years.
"To lose" means "to be deprived of, or cease to have or retain something." It's admirable that our parents didn't want us to be deprived of anything but when something is outside of your grasp — whether it's a girlfriend or a Varsity team, spending cash or an internship — that's where you decide what disappointment and hardship will do for you. That's when you decide if you're going to sit at brunch and moan about it, or work hard to attain it.
A few weeks ago, I was standing behind a twenty-something at the Acura dealership. He was ranting about how bad it was to go without air conditioning and how unacceptable it was that it couldn't be fixed right away. He was sweating while driving and someone needed to act fast or suffer the consequences.
I named him Declan Sanders Mcalister IV and gave him a chip on his shoulder that he didn't make partner in his dad's firm at age 24. I knew that if Declan Sanders didn't leave soon, I was going to drive his Equinox ass to the bus stop in my double-wide stroller. Public transportation will put some hair on your chest, Declan. You can have a craft cocktail at the local watering hole tonight and tell the guys you did "Europe 2014" with all about it.
Marriage and kids at a young age aren't the cure to the selfishness of the millennials but it was my cure. Embracing any hard thing can be a cure.
The family life was my fast track to understanding the beauty of working hard for others and working hard for things outside my comfort zoe. Nothing takes grit like waking up thirty times a night to feed someone else and nothing bursts your self-deserving bubble like the realization that for a relationship to thrive, you have to put in as much as you take.
The good news is nothing fills your heart like enjoying these hard things, especially when you realize how blessed you are to have them.
"Normal hard" is a phrase we use a lot in our home. Battling cancer, tragically losing a loved one, or spending your days trying to rise above the poverty line aren't "normal hard." That's when you need assistance, help, special treatment and "all hands on deck" from your community.
But doing an internship for free, paying to do your laundry, or going without air conditioning for a spell? Spending months applying for jobs you don't get or dining at home to save money? That's normal hard.
Normal hard things require a bit of grit — and they propel your life forward.
Most complaining and comparing comes from a deeper insecurity about yourself rather than from a real dissatisfaction with the world around you. You're frustrated you haven't made more of yourself or your surroundings. So here's three new truths to really progress:
- You're capable of doing hard things.
- You can't control everything.
- You don't deserve everything.
So yes, Millennials, you have one thing right: normal life is absolutely unfair. Go ahead and embrace the hard things. You might even start enjoying them — even without an afternoon nap.