Gen (wh)Y: saving the lost generation

Published on Upstart Magazine on 15 March 2012, many thanks to the editors there who think this article is worth to be published!

As Gen Y kids will soon become adults; they will either be saviours of the world, or the lost generation. Marcella Purnama reflects on life as a Gen Y-er.

This is the great Gen Y: those who are born during 1984-2002. We are the target of marketing, the pioneers of embracing new technologies, and according to Dr. Tim Elmore, the founder and president of Growing Leaders, we are the ‘Millennial’ generation.

We are the ones who do not hold onto the idealism of our parents. Instead, we make our own life paradigm, setting our own value systems, and imposing them on our working style. These features make us unique, but they are either destroying us or being our trump cards.

And here is why.

Life Paradigm: ‘I will change the world’.

Being born right in the middle of the Gen Y period, I grew up with the paradigm that something will always be wrong with the world. We have learned our history: about Hitler and racism, about the apartheid politics in the West, about poverty in India, about September 11 and terrorism.

We are taught this simple idealism that the world is broken, and we can fix it. In fact, we should fix it.

Countless times we are reminded that ‘one man can make a difference’, that we should ‘be the change we want to see in this world’.

And we believe it, for we grew up witnessing the success tales: from Thomas Alpha Edison who failed 999 times, to Steve Jobs who is said to be the father of the ‘third apple that changes the world’. We are told that Mark ‘Facebook’ Zuckerberg and Bill ‘Microsoft’ Gates used to be nobodies, and that nobodies like us, can one day be somebody.

Value Systems: ‘See what works for me’.

What I know of myself is this: we do not adjust ourselves to go out into the world; we adjust the world to fit to ourselves.

We want our lectures and tutorial hours to be flexible; we want to call in sick for work because it’s raining.

Why?

Because we have been taught that we are number one; we grew up with the constant praise from teachers and parents that say that we are.

Instead of, ‘It’s good, but I know you can do better’, people will say, ‘That is great, I am so proud of you!’.

It’s a double-edged sword.

Career / Working Style: ‘Must suit / interest me’.

We believe that our passion can make us rich overnight by watching too many talent shows, from American Idol to Britain’s Got Talent and MasterChef Australia. We also believe that instant stardom on YouTube will make us famous – think about Justin Bieber.

But we are not taught that sometimes passion wears out, that passion alone is not enough. We are not taught of the real working life, and we demand instant success.

Sometimes, we change jobs as often as we change clothes.

Of course, every generation before us might have held the same life paradigm. Youth are always the ones who can undo unresolved tensions of the past, to make the world better. But with Gen Y’s values, attitudes, and lifestyles, we still have our own pros and cons.

We are the visionaries; we grasp new changes, new ideas quickly, and we will think out of the box.

We are exceptionally good at multitasking, for we have been trained well: doing homework while watching television, or opening multiple tabs of Facebook, Twitter, university schedules, and Microsoft Word to finish our essays.

We are the high achievers – instead of doing our best, we are taught to be the best: why come second, if we can be first?

Unfortunately, we are thought of as spoiled and conceited; and we think of our generation too highly, think of ourselves too greatly.

We are cliquish; we may have seven hundred Facebook friends and a thousand Twitter followers, but we have little true friends.

We can change the world, but sometimes it’s not for the sake of the world. It’s for the sake of our pride, our good names, and our thirst of being someone.

We are unstable; we are too used to changes, and at times we do not have the commitment in jobs, or worse, relationships.

And sadly, I am perfect living proof that Gen Y pressures work to the extreme. Without realising it, I have been influenced by every paradigm.

Our upbringing might make us believe in these values, however, the choice to keep holding onto them or not, still lies entirely in our hand.

Marcella Purnama is journalist at Meld Magazine, and a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology and Media and Communication) student at Melbourne University. You can read more of her writing on her blog, and follow her on Twitter: @MarcellaPurnama.

Read the original version on http://www.upstart.net.au/2012/03/15/gen-why-saving-the-lost-generation/.

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