Straight Talk Advice

Millennials share multiple challenges for 2015

Dec 30, 2014

Looking forward: Millennial Generation shares challenges for 2015

Dear Readers: The last round of Millennial Generation members (ages 11-33, born 1982-2004) are entering adolescence, while the rest are in various stages of adult launch. This generation inherited multiple wars, planet-wide climate disruption, and a rollercoaster redistribution of wealth causing the worst economy since the Great Depression. In addition, most childhoods were/are completely unprotected from tech devices robbing their attention spans, pornography robbing their wonder of intimacy, and ubiquitous media "mantras" molding them into consumers and drug users. Despite this, many young people are awake and want to be heard. The panelists in today's column focus mostly on outer challenges, next week's installment is up close and personal. —Lauren

Taylor 17, Santa Rosa, Calif. Ask me a question

Older generations like to blame us for our broken ecosystem, failing economy, government in the toilet, and a society still grappling with inequality, sexism and racism — yet we haven't lived long enough to cause these problems! They don't take us seriously and say we're addicted to technology when, really, we're advancing with the times. It's the future, folks. Dishwashers were new and scary, too; now they are commodities. My generation has greatly advanced tolerance: the world is STARTING to be safe for openly gay people. That racism still exists in the 21st century is insanely sickening, but we are standing up for equality and social justice. A better world is coming.

Colin 21, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

Our tasks aren't so different from the tasks of other generations. While our grandparents fought against imperialism and totalitarianism abroad, so must we fight it here at home. Our generation must understand that it is through obedience that the greatest crimes have been committed, and only through resistance to authority have they been prevented. We must understand how we are being tricked and divided into fighting over scraps while a select few amass ever-larger fortunes. As the planet becomes more polluted, the human struggle will take on a different tone. Will civilizations be laid waste by hunger, disease and war as the planet overheats, or will the human experiment succeed? Every one of us has a unique role to play in coming events. Only through both wisdom and compassion can we prevail, together.

Alira 16, Novato, Calif. Ask me a question

My generation struggles with alcohol and drug abuse. Lots of kids my age drink and smoke pot every day — publicizing it all over Snapchat! To physically and mentally endure the daily toxins, and never get caught, even with it all over social media, is cultural insanity.

Stephanie 23, Calistoga, Calif. Ask me a question

Millennials are graduating college to crippling student debt, minimum-wage jobs, and a massive quarter-life crisis. We’re questioning our parents' lives and evaluating the strange impending future. As a life coach, I am witness to Millennials' debilitating fear around getting their career and life path wrong. Overwhelmed by all the choices and the hard work of succeeding in the instant-gratification era, some park at Mom and Dad’s soothing their loneliness with the latest iGadget. Others resign into someone else’s dream. Others hopscotch manically from one job, friend, partner, town, hairstyle to the next. Finding one's calling takes courage, heart and experimentation. Ask yourself: Who am I? What kind of life do I want? Where is my home? What is my purpose? Take your answers and test them! Find mentors. Get internships. Volunteer. Start a business. Study yourself. Keep trying and keep learning. Unless you're marrying Jessica Day, watching “New Girl” in your PJ's won't cut it.

Ecopsychology studies show that when the world’s future is questionable (global warming, resource depletion, mind-numbing politico-economic challenges), it affects humans immensely. So, next time the haters are hating, tell them you’re “lost” because you want YOUR work, YOUR purpose, which takes bravery. And you’re “self-centered” because you NEED to matter so your children will have a planet.

  1. By Emily, age 17, from Orange County, CA on 12/30/2014

    Every generation has to inherit problems created by the previous generation. I just hope that my generation does a better job than my parents’ generation did. What really bugs me is how so many adults complain that kids these days are so much worse than in the “good old days,” and I find it hard to believe considering the state of the world they have brought about.  They complain that kids now have it so easy and don’t know the value of hard work and are all into drugs, etc. and are totally selfish and self-centered.  My sister and I both work part-time jobs to help out our single parent mom and to try to save money for college while at the same time studying hard and maintaining excellent grades.  We don’t do drugs and neither do our friends, although it’s true that many kids do, but from what I’ve read, it was just as bad in the 60’s and 70’s when our parents were our age.  The popular drugs of choice have just changed.  My sister and I have to share a very small room and a bed that is literally on its last legs, but we don’t complain as we know that our mom is doing the best she can and we’re still better off than the many people who are homeless.  Most of our clothes come from the Thrift Store, but at least we have decent clothes to wear even if they’re second hand.  While some kids are selfish and spoiled, I sure don’t feel that we are and I don’t think it’s any more true of kids today than in the past.

    Emily

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    1. By Ellen, age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 12/31/2014

      I agree.  It seems like every generation seems to “romanticize” about the “good old days” and thinks things were much better in their day and that they and other teenagers behaved better and had it much tougher than today’s kids, while forgetting about the bad things that were going on like World War II in my grandparents’ generation, and Vietnam, drug use, and assassinations in my parents’ generation.  My parents and grandparents both do this.  Of course, today’s teenagers will probably do the same some day with our kids.  My parents and the parents of many of my friends are also paranoid about potential drug use even though as you say, teenage drug use today is probably no worse than in the 60’s and 70’s.  As was discussed in last week’s column, our mom is so paranoid that my sister and I might be using drugs that she won’t let us lock our door and walks in on us without warning, and we can also tell that she searches our room when we aren’t there even though we have never used drugs nor given her any reason to think that we are.  Since she’s our mom, we couldn’t care less if she comes in our room when we’re undressing or even naked.  However, nobody likes being barged in on at a time like that, even by their mom, and we really wish she would trust us more, knock before entering, and stop searching our room like we’re criminals.

      Ellen

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  2. By Stacey, age 17, from Sacramento, CA on 01/01/2015

    I agree with Taylor that tolerance for people who happen to be gay and minorities is much improved over past generations, and as a teenager who is openly gay, this is obviously very important to me.  While there is still much prejudice and discrimination, these changes never happen overnight and at least we are going in the right direction.  I mean, 20 years ago the idea of gay marriage was unheard of, but now it is legal in the majority of states, including California, so I will be able to get married to another female some day which would not have been possible when my parents were my age.  My family totally accepts me.  My straight sister and I are very close and as with others I have read about in Straight Talk, sharing a room and seeing each other nude is no problem and no different than with any other sisters.  I have straight friends who are also completely comfortable with me in this way and have no problem undressing in front of me at sleepovers and slumber parties.  However, I still sometimes get dirty looks in the locker room and showers from girls who are obviously uncomfortable and think that my seeing other girls’ bodies raises sexual issues for me when nothing could be further from the truth.  However, even in just the 2 years since I came out as being openly gay, I have seen much improvement for those who share my sexual preference, so things are headed the right way.

    S.R.

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    1. By L.C., age 17, from Petaluma, CA on 01/02/2015

      While things are slowly improving for gays like you and me and gay marriage is likely to become legal everywhere, I fear that we will not see total equality in our lifetime, if ever.  It certainly will not come during our teen years, and being an openly gay teenager is still very difficult.  The Civil Rights Act which was supposed to provide equality for African Americans was passed 50 years ago, and while things are better for African Americans now than they were then, they still face prejudice and discrimination.  I am afraid that the same will be true for gays in 50 years when I’m collecting Social Security. 

      I’m more lucky than many openly gay teenagers.  I have a stepsister who goes to the same school and is very popular.  She totally supports me, and the fact that she supports me makes it easier for others to accept me.  She also casually mentions how well we get along sharing a room during visitations and enjoy each other’s company.  She doesn’t come straight out and say that she’s totally comfortable with the “undressing” issue which would be awkward, but she gets the point across which helps with those who worry about this non-issue.  Even so, there are many kids who will not accept me for who I am and being a gay teenager is still very difficult.  Call me a pessimist if you wish, but I think I’m just looking at reality and don’t expect equality in my lifetime.

      L.C.

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      1. By J.D., age 16, from Toledo, OH on 01/03/2015

            I agree that complete equality for those of us who happen to be gay is a long way in the future and while the recent gains are encouraging, it is still very, very, difficult to be a gay teenager (and probably an adult too), especially in the conservative community and school where I live. 

            I sure wish I could trade stepsisters with you, L.C.  She sounds like a wonderful person who not only accepts you, but goes out of her way to get others to accept you.  My stepsister’s the exact opposite.  I don’t hide the fact that I’m gay, but I don’t go our of my way to advertise it either.  However, she told everybody at the school we both go to that I’m gay and how horrible it is to have to share a room with me on biweekly visitations.  She told everybody that I “look her body over with lust” when she’s naked.  It’s a total lie, but she’s popular and everyone believes her, so everybody’s uncomfortable with me when we’re changing in the locker room and sometimes even in the bathroom.  I told her that I’m not interested in looking at her, but if she’s uncomfortable, I’ll leave the room when she undresses.  However, she said “don’t bother, you’ve already looked me over enough times anyway.”  Even so, I started making a point of turning the other way when she undresses, but she goes out of her way to be naked in front of me and says “go ahead and look since it gives you such a big thrill.”

            It’s difficult enough being a gay teenager, but she makes it much worse for me.  I think the most important goal for our generation should be equality for EVERYONE, including, gays, racial minorities, and religious minorities.  However, prejudice and discrimination have been going on forever, and like L.C. I don’t really believe that it will happen.

        J.D.

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  3. By Caite C, age 76, from Albuquerque NM on 01/11/2015

    Just to put my two cents in as an Elder, I totally admire your generation. You are stuck with an awful lot of problems created by those who went before who were too blind or unwilling to realize what was happening (rampant consumerism destroying or ecosystem, climate change, continuing war, etc.)  I know many of you are brilliant and you can do things we could not do. I wish your education was more encouraging and more suitable for those of you that turn off early from having so much content shoved at you, etc.  I too am a life coach trying to help.

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