Gen-Y, a broad name to identify my generation (those born between the 1990s to early 2000s), we are the up and coming generation replacing our parents - the Baby Boomers, in the workforce. Because we are the up and coming generation, it is inevitable to have the spotlight cast on us, and being studied and scrutinized upon like lab rats.
There are some collective thoughts about us from the society at large that probably sound oh-so-familiar if you are a fellow Gen-Y. Contrary to whatever the society at large claim to understand about us, I’ve spent the past two years working together with a bunch of Gen-Ys who are the total opposite of the following characteristics.
We cannot take hardships
That we are not resilient enough. We give up at the slightest hint of challenges. We are strawberries and softies who melt under pressure and heat. But in relative to whom? Our parents? Yes, they have indeed come a long way. And it is because of their efforts that we have a good foundation to grow up with. But just because we grew up in better environments, it is ASSUMED that we are not persevering and is not willing to suffer. The constant comparison is tiring.
We are willing to go through hardships and make sacrifices. But we only do it when we find that the purpose and values of the company we are slogging our guts out for are aligned with ours and hence worth it. We are discerning about the leaders we choose to follow and we do not tolerate bullshit people. In other words, without having to fulfill survival needs like a roof over the head and et cetera, we are in search of self-actualization. We are willing to suffer, but only with a clear purpose in mind. Purpose over paycheck anytime.
We are apathetic and materialistic
That we do not care about world issues such as environment, politics, etc. We only care about the latest fashion trends, entertainment, where to go for holidays and curating our social media content. That is a misleading image. Because those of us who do not partake in the above have really nothing to post about on social media. Our #OOTD is T-shirt and Harem pants. We care about the state of the world. We get angry about stupid decisions like building a railway that cuts through the natural reserve. We live in the most minimalist way possible, indulging only in the pleasure and meaning of the work we do. (Okay, I admit sometimes we drink a little now and then.)
Have you seen the posts we shared on conservation, education, politics on our Facebook walls? Do you know that we would rather spend more money on sustainable products and on brands that care about the environment?
We are young HENCE naive
That we see the world through rose-tinted lenses. We think that everything is possible. We are not in touch with reality. On the contrary, I think there is too much cynicism coming from the elders - our teachers, parents, relatives. When you tell them with excitement about the opportunities that you are given, they say you have been made use of - “Where got so good one!” When you show them the results, they say this is just a passing cloud, it will not last - “Won’t last forever one la!” When you choose to take the road less traveled, join a startup, or pursue a career you think gives meaning to your life, or even just do something radical that swerves from the conventions, they say, “Are you crazy? Study so hard the pay so little.”
We are not naive. Precisely because we know how much the world has changed since our parents’ generation, and we know that it continues to change as we speak, we see the world for what it is and we understand the harsh realities - technological advances replacing jobs and leveling playing fields. The Industrial Era is so over. This is the Information Age, where a new model of capitalism is evolving. Trust us when I say that we have calculated the risks involved in our decision before taking that leap of faith.
And we know that all the exploration and discovery are only possible because of what our forefathers have built. We know gratitude. But we also recognize that we need to think differently, do things differently.
Labelled as “The Lost Generation”, it seems like we do not know what we want. We job-hop, we move from one relationship to another. We are not lost. We are just looking for meaning. Options and information are aplenty. Give us some time to explore and figure things out. We are trying to figure ourselves out, figure the world out and figure our life out.
To the Gen-Ys, I’d like to say, it is okay if you have not figured everything out yet. Continue exploring (not wandering!). Continue beating the conventions. It is okay to make mistakes on your journey because that's what make us better and stronger. And ignore the noises in your life. The most important thing is to stay open, be humble and take actions, it will bring you to where you want to be.
I chose the road less travelled, and it has been an amazing journey with a group of equally amazing Gen-Ys.
And here is how we embarked on this amazing journey!