A Dream Deferred?

MLK at Wash. DC

Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Fifty years have passed since the historic oration given by King in the summer of 1963. In the years of torment that embroiled the childhoods’ of many Boomers (and the first Gen X-ers), a voice of peace spoke to the masses gathered in Washington DC on that hot August day.

As  a child of 1 Boomer and 1 Quiet, I was raised with a focus on seeing people for who they were, not the characteristics that defined them. This could have had as much to do with my diverse urban environment as my parents and teachers consistently guiding me to value people as people, and not lose myself to quick judgments. Stereotypes may have been helpful when determining snap judgments for survival like food and predators in early times, but in society today it remains an issue rooted in much of the conflicts we face.

We cannot blame stereotypes for all of society’s issues. When lack of knowledge leads to fear and fear leads to hate, no one receives the dream that King envisioned and that so many have struggled to make real. Racism still holds an insidious grip on the hearts of many in this world. It could be much less pronounced, often seen as “inappropriate,” but it still seeks to divide people. It may not be possible to eliminate all snap judgments (again, our brains saving energy and taking shortcuts rather than thinking), but people around the world need to see a shared community that takes the lead over smaller divisive issues. If we see ourselves as part of the community, even disagreements and tough feelings can be addressed effectively.

In preparing this post, I read Langston Hughes’s “Harlem” and thought about the progress that has been made over 50 years. Hughes wrote the poem more than 12 years before the historic march, but the imagery is deeply prescient for today’s society. The poem questions what happens to a deferred dream, and over the years I believe there have been moments to match each description. We have entered the crust stage as people try to sugarcoat the issues of racism claiming to be in a “post-racial” world. The issue is still there, only our treatment has changed. The same could be said of the equally insidious problem of poverty in this country when so many work and can’t reach financial equilibrium because the system won’t allow it.

Millennials may focus much on the inner self, but when it comes to the suffering of others, we don’t think it appropriate to sit by and do nothing. To be frank, we feel it’s the right of every individual to achieve the level of personal development that the individual wishes, and things like racism and poverty aren’t helping that process. As trials and legislation flash through the 24 hour news cycle, we must try to see the issues from all perspectives and find ways of balancing justice and amending the habits and the hurts of our past.

In order to make King’s dream a reality, we need to see ourselves as the people of the dream. We must embrace our neighbors, respect all people as they are, and live as part of a larger community. No great accomplishment or terrible wrong was ever achieved by a sole agent. If we are to remove hate and discrimination, raise families with a means of self subsistence, and make peace happen, it will be because we said “NO!” to division and “YES!” to working in unity for a better future.

_____________________________________________________________

A question to my fellow Millennials: How do you see King’s dream being made a reality? What things are preventing that reality, and what can we do to overcome them?

Education…Continuation

*Al Pacino impersonation*

Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!

Ok, ok. I actually want to go back to school. This is something I’ve considered carefully, and I think now is as good a time as any to learn more skills and get a leg up in the future job markets.

Many Millennials grapple with the same issue of education benefit vs. education cost of time/money, and I believe it really depends on the person. When weighing the possible outcomes many people fear that the return on investment will not be adequate. However, I know quite a few Gen X and Boomer workers who would not be able to get their current job today based on their previous skills or education. This is to say, as skilled, qualified, and well-suited as a worker might be, they might lose a job opportunity because they don’t possess a specific credential in today’s market. By expanding our skill sets, we become more marketable, and increase our chances for success.

And what am I going to study?

I’ll save the long form title and just say it is a master’s degree in public relations. Based on my research and quintessential Millennial self-reflection, I felt it would be the best path for me.

“PR, really?”

Yes. Really.

“Why”

Have you ever seen the show Star Trek?

Before you roll your eyes or discount this post as something unimportant, I should say this idea is only conceptually tied to the show.  From seeing the various productions over the years, I found an interesting thread. In order for a ship to travel the stars for extended periods, one would assume there would be a great cost involved. There are forms of currency and exchange in these series, but almost every need or desire can be fulfilled without any money required. In this kind of world, I wondered what skill would be in demand.

Relationships.

I’m not just referring to family or what people do when they are in love. Relationships (professional, personal, etc.), and the ability to understand and nurture relationships are the core of society in the future. Yes, there is disagreement, and even major conflict, but that only goes further to support the need for people who can bridge those gaps. I hope to work towards a future like the one imagined in Star Trek lore, but I have many ways of accomplishing this. Public Relations does not just represent marketing or spinning a situation to fit a particular story. Training and later working in this field will help me help others and support a necessary function of society. Bonus points as well that this kind of training and work could never (I hope) be replaced by a robot.

My takeaway ideas from entering this degree program are the following.

1. If you invest in education, find a degree or interest that is marketable, and will have longevity throughout your career.

2. Try to do things that match your personal goals. If you want to make the world a better place, find ways, even small ways of trying to do that. If your work is in conflict with this, you will probably be unhappy unless you can find other positive ways of furthering your goals.

3. Any education is an investment and it cannot be taken from you. However, try to be conscientious in your planning so that you don’t have crushing debt. This is a challenge for Generation Y, but as we pull ourselves out of this economic pit, we will be better prepared with new skills, and (one hopes) able to sustain ourselves through future endeavors.

Do you have a perspective on whether higher education is a necessity or a waste? Get in on the conversation and you could be adding a guest post on VFMG.

If You Build It … They Will Write Guest Blog Posts

Brand Building - image courtesy fmeextensions.com

Brand Building – image courtesy fmeextensions.com

Greetings to all my Millennial brethren! I realize that some time has elapsed since my last post, but do not fret. As Professor Farnsworth says on Futurama*: “Good news, everyone!”

I have been slowly building the footprint of this blog and reaching out to Millennials to get more voices representing our generation. I’m also opening the floor to members of any generation with something to add, as long as it deals with related material.

In short, I am extremely pleased by the willingness to share knowledge and information I’ve found in our generation. If you or someone you know has something to add, just contact me via the ‘Ask Me’ page on the blog, and you could add your voice into the mix.

There are many things to do as we build a better, brighter future, but your reading, contributing to, and sharing this blog is most sincerely appreciated.

Posts to follow soon!

*Sad news everyone. I just learned that Futurama has been cancelled… again. But who knows? If Family Guy could be resurrected so many times with Seth MacFarlane running multiple shows from that success, perhaps Futurama still holds a chance. Posts to follow on the shows that shaped our generation.

Count The Grains Of Sand

Sandpipers on beach

Sandpipers at Sandy Hook Beach, NJ, Summer 2012

Today marks an important day in the restoration of damages from Hurricane Sandy. Six months after the devastating storm pounded the Northeast of the U.S., areas are reopening, including Sandy Hook Beach in New Jersey. Sandy Hook has always been near and dear to me among the beaches I’ve known. Coney Island, Jones Beach, Ocean Grove, Long Beach Island, can also be counted, and I know that people in these parts have special memories from many of the available beaches. The picture above was taken last year close to the end of the summer. One thing that Sandy Hook allowed me was the chance to relax and contemplate. I enjoy the sand and surf, but seeing the waves and wildlife helps me gain a perspective that is elusive in daily life.

When I was small and learning to count, I thought the sandpipers were counting the grains of sand. I’d laugh and laugh as they ran back and forth inspecting the grains as the waves lapped at the sand. “It must take them forever to count all that sand,” I thought; though from a child’s perspective, a few months to your birthday or holidays can be an eternity. I look at the sand now and I know each grain started as something larger. It took time, a long time, for each grain of sand to find its way to that shore, to find its way onto my beach blanket, and to sneak home with me in my car. Sand doesn’t happen overnight, but it gets renewed by nature, and when people step in to boost the shoreline; these things take consistency. The destruction from this storm will leave marks for years, but we will rebuild, and it may take time, even a long time for some people. The important thing will be consistency. We must remember what happened, and take steps to ensure a safer future. For any person affected by natural disaster, we must not forget after the news crews find a new story. Help will always be needed and appreciated in this world.

As a resident of the tri-state area, I saw great destruction during and after the storm. Yet, for all the wind, water, and debris, the human spirit would not be crushed. I’m reminded of a picture taken in Hoboken, NJ where power strips and a sign inviting others to charge their phones hung outside someone’s home. I remember first responders who worked to save other people even while their own homes were facing damage. Whether by job requirement, religious calling, or human camaraderie, people banded together. We saw the destruction and the suffering of others and tried to find ways of alleviating the troubles. News coverage of the past few days has been showing improvements in some areas, but there is still a great amount of work to be done.

Millennials will face more storms in the future if current trends follow predictions. We must think of ways to ensure safety and live in balance with nature. Let us be the best examples of ourselves in future challenges, so that future generations will be better prepared for disasters. If we cannot offer financial help because we are struggling ourselves, let us offer our time and compassion. You may discover many things by being open to experience, and being willing to help just for the sake of helping others. One day, what was lost will be rebuilt. As Gen Y faces the buffeting winds of the economy and job market, we will also reach our future goals. Overcoming adversity applies for disasters and finding your path; the challenge makes the fruits of our labor even sweeter, because we persevere for as long as it requires.

To any of my readers, if you know of a group or resource that can use help from Millennials in disaster response, please comment to help get the word out. Sometimes willing people just need to know where help is needed, and we will do what we can to share that information.

50 Shades of: “Hey! Where do I fit?”

For many, the age of digital understanding has been a wonderful advance. The connectivity, the sources of knowledge at our fingertips, it’s a smorgasbord of things to delight the senses. With all of these positive aspects, I wonder if this age of definitions has society focusing a little too much? Is there room for a little gray area in life without binary definition?

As humans, we like to deal with things that are concrete and knowable.
– The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.
– People age continuously.
– The volume of water in a warm bath will be displaced proportionally by the volume of person or bath toys placed in it.

These statements satisfy an innate urge for definition and structure. Our minds have adapted to contain so much knowledge that our streamlining any information into binary logic keeps more energy available to handle other needs. If we observe early cultures, learning what kinds of food were edible or poisonous was a very important way of using this logic in [yes/no], [good/bad], or [edible/poisonous]. Our advancement from basic survival brought us to a new age where binary logic cannot contain the full parameters of all situations.

This discussion is a long way of saying two things: “Of what can we be certain?” and “Are the defining lines between generations really set in stone?” Employing the scientific method is the best way of determining information to be accurate, at least until new information can be validated on the subject. As for generational lines, I’ve been seeing many sources defining Millennials/Gen Y across varying criteria. Here are my theories on the defining lines:

1. Each century has approximately (5x) generations.
We have to draw the line somewhere, and though there can be overlap accounting for major world events or booms and drops in births, twenty years is a good marker. People in the first year representing the generation are usually (depending on society) considered legal adults shortly before they are 20. Brain researchers have also discovered changes in our minds with seven-year cycles, culminating in a mostly matured mind / prefrontal cortex, by age 21.  If we draw the lines of generation based on physical maturity, 20 year cycles represent a good balance.

2. Generations have shared experiences.
If you are a true Millennial, you were alive before Dick Clark welcomed the year 2000. This gets a little harder to define as people have different memories of events based on their respective age at the time. Still, we shouldn’t discount the younger ones of our group; though I remember certain defining moments in history better than my younger peers, it doesn’t mean that they were unaffected by the same events. Kids are always aware and learning. As one comedian said, “It’s like living with a lawyer for the prosecution.”

Case in point, a family friend was with his three-year-old crossing the street (with a green light and right of way) when a driver at the intersection beeped their horn and startled the child. The father responded appropriately to admonish the driver while keeping it G-rated for his daughter; his daughter ended the encounter by pointing to the driver and saying: “You’re a @–hole!” [Note: The child later turned to her father quietly and said that what she said was a bad word. Kids are always learning, and maturity applies collected knowledge to each new situation.]

Living in a binary world is easier for logic, but it falls short of the full spectrum of knowledge or expression that humans possess. These generation parameters are not sacrosanct, but I think they give a reasoned perspective. Depending on one’s age, you can find affinity for an older or younger generation. Generational taxonomy is more of a map than a dictionary; your place isn’t solely defined by birth, but seeing your peers allows a better perspective of where you are, and where you want to be.

Generation Y: Why Not?

I’ve had a few names hurled at me over the years. Nerd, geek, dork, etc. and for the most part, I’ve come to take these in stride and wear them as badges of honor.

Someone thinks that enjoying learning makes me nerdy?

My response: “Until I’m pushing daisies, I don’t want to be bored playing around with the knowledge I’ve gained so far; I want more!”

Someone thinks that appreciating the arts makes me a theater geek?

My response: “I’ve learned more about the human condition and living life by studying characters than most people learn in a lifetime of experience. I’m just being efficient, and there is so much to enjoy.”

Someone thinks that being silly makes me a dork?

My response: “If you can’t laugh at yourself and find humor in everyday life, what fun are you going to have? There is a time for decorum and being proper which I try to observe, but don’t let me live without laughter, that would be a cruel punishment.”

As I said, these labels and names are not necessarily derogatory if you look at them in the right way. It helps that I’ve had time to understand the labels and find ways of controlling them rather than being controlled by someone else’s notions. Conformity in life to the standards of others is not possible for everyone — especially the case for me if my circle of friends suddenly thought the arts and learning were not worth pursuing.

But I must confess that there is a label that strikes a deep chord when others use it to describe me. That word is “optimist.”

“Wait, did you just say ‘optimist’? I thought that was a good thing.”

Yes, being optimistic is generally considered good, positive, and preferred over the alternative. I have even dubbed myself an “eternal optimist.” However, this is not about creating a label that only I may use to describe myself, it is the manner in which people use the word ‘optimist.’ In today’s society, there seems to be great resistance to people who try to be on the positive side of things. It is as if seeing the world through rose-colored glasses somehow prevents the person from understanding reality.

I am hopeful that Generation Y will uphold idealism with a dose of realism. To be so jaded that nothing will ever change is just accepting the status quo, and a belief that what is positive cannot be achieved. I am not a Pollyanna, but I keep a steady current of positive energy going to handle the ups and downs of life. I am an optimistic realist. I understand that things don’t change overnight, but like Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Also, I find peace in the mantra on all things positive and negative in the natural order: “This too shall pass.” While we may miss the good things, they are more special for their impermanence, and the suffering we endure is less potent as it will end in time. With open minds and hearts, Generation Y will be the generation to build bridges between goals and reality.

Millennials may be the generation to push the tough questions; they will pick up the mantle. Of course we have been asking these questions for some time now. As children, we might ask, “Why are people fighting, Daddy?” or “Why don’t people have food and water, Mommy?” Perceptions of fairness as children have carried into adulthood. Now as our siblings or our children in Generation Z start and continue these questions, how will we step forward to provide answers? There may be challenges to making positive changes, but Generation Y must still ask: “Why not?”

To my readers who are members of other generations, I ask that this post not be considered the stuff of idealized naiveté. People often assume to know the minds and knowledge that others possess, and sometimes age is used whether a person is “too young” or “too old” to match the preconceived idea. It does not matter how experienced you are, or how many years you have seen, if you believe everyone has a right to life, love, and happiness. Working to overcome the things preventing worldwide happiness will bring peace and meaning to us all; it takes many perspectives at the table.

I think long into the future and consider what epithet would be left for Millennials. I don’t want to seem morbid, but understanding our legacy can shape our actions today. And I can’t help but have a small curiosity to compare this post to the world of some decades hence, assuming anything living on the net will outlive those of us now alive. I wouldn’t think the great goal is to be the most famous of the generations, but of having a positive and far-reaching impact. To conclude, a future epithet for Generation Y:

They were lovers, dreamers, teaching to seek,
Connections, unity, freedom to speak.
Of all sharing a home where peace was kept,
With love and kindness, for none were except.
Learning, striving, for things beyond their reach,
Patience, fortitude, were ascribed to each.
Their laurels, our advancement, now they rest,
Promise the future that all may live best.

To my Gen Y compatriots: How can we find ways of embodying these words? — When told we can’t move forward, ask: “Why not?”

And so it begins…

Welcome. If you are reading this, you’ve found the home of an advocacy and information group for people of a certain age — or should I say generation?  I realized recently amid the cultural tumult that Millennials, Gen Y, Echoboomers, etc. are quickly moving into maturity and we as yet do not possess a cohesive voice.

So… let’s dispense with the allusions to statements made by certain celebrities and scripted works on television and focus on the mission and name of this blog. I am not the voice of my generation. I am not a voice of my generation (well, technically yes, but again moving away from other cultural references). I strive to be the voice for my generation, namely those born between around 1980 and 2000 and known by varying titles.

“How does one person represent a generation?”

Again, I do not solely represent my generation any more than one grain of sand would represent an entire beach. However, I want to cover issues that are important to Millennials. This blog will be a home for discussion, understanding society in context of my generation (and in relation to the other generations), and the important works that Gen Y has brought and will bring to the world.

“…cohesive?”

As a generation, we are eclectic, but the importance of this work does not diminish by difference. Instead, the strength of our generation may grow from our desire to seek individuality. If we all have the right to express ourselves, then we can work to find the common connections that make all parts of life better.

“What’s your motive? What’s your experience?”

I am motivated by a need to represent my generation well, and to do what I can to help all people and generations in our society. Some may say this is not fully altruistic as what helps society may ultimately benefit me as well, but my response is that we all deserve the best society we can build through unified effort. As for my experience, I’ve been a human since the day I was born. Not something that might be great for the résumé, but I’ve been learning, thinking critically, and striving to help others. I also have the benefit of perspective by being a part of my generation. Who better to speak to the topics of our generation than one who is of the group?

“Where do you go from here?”

This is only the beginning. The impact of my generation has already risen to national attention and we will continue to impact planet earth for up to the next century if life expectancy continues to progress. This means my mission will be long standing, and I want to be the effective voice that brings people together. I cannot speak representing everyone in my generation, but I ask you all to let me speak for you. I want to ensure our legacy, I want to advocate on your behalf, and I want to help make our world better for all of us having a part in it.

Thank you.

More to come…