Defining My Generation

Looking in the Mirror

Image by Sonia G Medeiros via Flickr/creative commons

As a teenager, it is not necessary to know who you are. That doesn’t stop adolescents from searching for something (someone) they may not find until years, even decades, later. Teenagers like labels: Brittany is an artist. Stevie is an athlete. Paul is a math genius. Kurt is a suck-up. The compartments we place people in are often cleaner than our rooms; they are rigid, inflexible, and simple enough to be tidy. We reduce humans to little more than a single word, and we limit them to being anything more than that adjective.

This is a problem because, after all, these are people we’re talking about. Not canned vegetables. Not storage bins. Not clothing. It’s dehumanizing. Who is to say that Eddie is not a swimmer-poet-filmmaker or that Amy is not a chemist-baker-ballerina? People are multifaceted, and it shouldn’t surprise us when we peel back the labels to find that there are actually layers beneath the surface.

Sylvia Plath said in one of her short stories, “So many people are shut up tight inside themselves like boxes, yet they would open up, unfolding quite wonderfully, if only you were interested in them.” But so many people aren’t interested because they’re stuck inside their own bubbles.

Here is another label: Generation Me.

Generation Me is exactly what is sounds like—a generation of people who put themselves first. Definitions vary, but the general consensus is that these people were born between 1980 and 2000. There is heavy emphasis on the individual’s wants and dreams, and the people of this generation adopt a self-centric worldview. They have an unshakable confidence in their aspirations and their ability to achieve success, and they tend to avoid hard work (but they deserve that huge paycheck at the end of the month). They lack filtration in speech, and your level of interest doesn’t concern them; they’ll talk anyway. The only positive thing about Generation Me seems to be their value of education, which has been drilled into them since they were young.

I am part of Generation Me.

Do I disagree with the idea of Generation Me? It’s undeniable. Do I feel like a part of it? Hardly.

Most days I feel like I can’t relate to anyone my age. I can’t listen to the radio because I empathize more with music that predates Generation Me. Taylor Swift sings of pulling all-nighters and dressing up like a hipster (hipster: yet another label, and one with often negative connotations), and I’m listening to Paul Westerberg of the Replacements plea about just wanting to feel special, like he matters to someone, anyone. I read John Green’s Paper Towns over the summer and didn’t feel anything when Quentin skipped graduation to track Margo down, but Billy Pilgrim of Slaughterhouse-Five appealed to me because he’s displaced by time and misunderstood. Some days I walk into school and I’m not sure who the people I’ve known for years actually are.

This is a very Generation Me thing to say.

Maybe we as a generation are so narcissistic that we have lost touch with everything that matters. Maybe we spend so much time smiling at our cell phones and ogling the television that we’ve lost the ability to truly communicate. We talk circles around the important issues—treating people like people, showing genuine concern for anyone other than ourselves, caring. How is the world going to benefit from a generation whose primary concern doesn’t transcend the self?


Adriane About Adriane

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