I had an informational interview yesterday at a law firm that practices an unconventional type of law that interests me. I knew that they weren’t hiring, but I contacted them anyway to see if I could speak with them about volunteering or learning more about that area of law. The meeting went well, and as I was getting ready to leave, the interviewer said to me: “you’re so lucky nowadays that you get to try things out before committing to them. We never used to have those opportunities”. He meant only the best by it, I’m sure, but it struck a chord with me. Just like that, it became about “us”–the dreaded millennials.
Depending on who you ask, I barely made the millennial cut. Had I been born a couple of years earlier, I could have avoided the title entirely. But, here I am, a self-professed millennial. And I won’t apologize for it. Ever.
Yes, I am fortunate enough to be able to “try out” an area of law before I choose to commit my life to it. Do I wish it was a paid gig? Of course I do. Does taking a volunteer job go against everything my school’s career services’ office has advised me? Definitely. Can we actually afford for me to take on a volunteer position right now? Not really. But here I am, with one year of law school left, and no idea what I want to do with my life afterward. Maybe it is idealistic of me to want to actually enjoy the career I’m making for myself, but I will enjoy it. I’m 31, and I have been working dead-end jobs for the past 10 years with nothing to show for it–I’m just as unemployable as ever. If being particular about my future is selfish, so be it.
Millennials are fighting an uphill battle. We’re the first generation with (so called) “wildly” idealistic career and personal goals. Gen X and the Baby Boomers call us “entitled”.
But you know what? I think our generation is the first to recognize the underlying sources of unhappiness that have plagued generations before us, and we’re not afraid to tackle them head on. I’ve spent the last three years in therapy trying to figure out why I’m so depressed. I could be like my parents’ generation and turn to alcohol, avoidance, become a workaholic or develop other emotionally unhealthy behaviours, but I won’t do that. I won’t do that to my daughter.
Our parents loved us as best they could, but we needed more. We needed more hands-on time, more time to be a child, more love and laughter and harmony. We needed dads who didn’t work long painstaking hours at blue collar jobs. We needed moms who weren’t so burnt out by the day to day tasks of child rearing and housekeeping to do anything other than plunk us down in front of Sesame Street all day. We needed moms who were strong and educated and worked outside the home so we could see that women can do it all but don’t have to do it perfectly. We needed parents who didn’t have us for the sake of having kids–parents who were wholly and emotionally invested in our childhood. Parents who were more like (dare I even say it?) –us.
I will never claim to have all the answers, but deep down, I do know that an afternoon spent colouring with my daughter is better than a perfectly tidy home or a meal on the table at 5 p.m. sharp. I know that by splitting our household responsibilities equally, my partner and I are working to diminish gender stereotypes, and that my daughter will hopefully look for a partner who is equal parts dishwasher and automobile-repairer someday.
And, most of all, I know that by finding a career that satisfies me personally and professionally, I’ll be a happier and more available mother–and I’d want nothing less for my daughter. I may have taken far too long by Gen X’s standards to figure out exactly what I want to do for a living, but it’s only because it’s something I don’t take at all lightly. You might find me writing long hours into the night, but that’s only because it fuels a spark in me that I desperately need to keep burning–something our own parents would never have thought to do. I may spend less time at the office, but that’s because I’ve realized that work-life balance is more important than a paycheck (even with my $700.00 a month student loan payments, but I digress). I may take a short term volunteer position when I should be taking a paying job somewhere else because I know it will make me happier. I may take a day off parenting because I know my daughter’s happiness is directly correlated to my own, and I want her to have the most well-adjusted, involved parent possible. I may even take a vacation alone when I feel down, but that’s only because I know I’ll come back more level headed and happy than I was before I left.
I’m a millennial, and I won’t apologize for it anymore.