If you're a Millennial (as I myself am), it doesn't take much to started feeling totally bummed out about yourself and your generation. Just log onto Twitter, and I'd bet my last dollar that you're going to see another news item about how Millennials are ruining modern society as we know it. We're constantly being reminded that we're lazy and entitled, that we're part of the worst generation of all time, that Millennials totally suck. So it's only a matter of time before we start internalizing these myths ourselves. Millennials must be lazy and entitled and the worst if everyone else says we are... right?
Wrong! As Ryan O'Connell proves in his memoir I'm Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, a lot of these self-hating stories we've been trained to tell ourselves are little more than lies that don't accurately reflect our experiences. "Millennials have been told repeatedly that we're a giant failure of a generation and, unsurprisingly, many of us have started to believe it," writes O'Connell in the introduction. But really, it's not worth it to bother with these stereotypes, and in O'Connell's words, "Tell your insecurities to GTFO and just accept that our legacy might be a little un-chic."
O'Connell's here to help you get over the stigma of being a Millennial, and in I'm Special, debunks a lot of the myths all Millennials tell themselves, based on his own experiences and failures and successes. Here are nine of those lies, laid to rest once and for all:
1. "I hate my parents."
When Mom or Dad calls, it's easy to try to blow them off, and I can definitely identify with O'Connell's thought that the call is "going at the pace of a Sofia Coppola movie." But even if we're rude on the phone and try to disavow our parents, "We're obsessed and can't live without them. We're so happy that we have perspective now and can apologize for how badly we treated them when we were teenagers," even if taking a phone call still stresses us out.
2. "Getting an unpaid internship is the only way to get a job."
Unpaid internships are something of a rite of passage for Millennials, especially college-educated Millennials, who stick it out with a crazy boss for a summer with the hopes, the false promise of a guaranteed job.
"Despite the occasional exception," O'Connell learned, "internships are primarily used by employers to get free labor — especially in the cash-strapped industries I was interested in working, like publishing."If you do decide to do an unpaid internship, O'Connell has some tips: "Just try to get as much experience as you can, make a connection with one of your employers so you can use them as a future reference, and get the f*ck out."
3. "I deserve a full-time job."
Even if you did slog through a brutal internship, doesn't mean you deserve anything, let alone a full-time job. Doing well in school also does not entitle you to success in the adult workforce.
"A more effective way you can navigate the unemployed postgrad life is to be fearless," writes O'Connell. Put your nose to the grindstone and figure something out. "Don't ever forget that Millennials are hustlers. We left school with no clear future and the traditional workplace in pieces, so we had to create our own jobs and build everything from our own intuition."
Do that. Hustle. Earn a full-time job.
4. "Once I'm a real grown up, I'll never have to deal with idiots."
As if. "You're going to spend most of your life surrounded by bugaboos, so the quicker you learn how to coexist with them, the better."
5. "I'm broke."
Money is always a touchy subject, especially when you're in your 20s because, as O'Connell rightly points out, "it so clearly separates the people who were born with it from those who've yet to make it on their own." The one common denominator, however, seems to be that everyone's always complaining that they're broke, no matter how much they actually have.
"The idea of 'struggle' is completely relative," notes O'Connell, "and even though I'm friends with everyone from trust funders to people who don't have a place to live, they all seem to be doing okay."
6. "I just did it for the story."
There are certain types of terrible people we date in our twenties (like your ex or "the person you're ashamed to be dating so you downplay the relationship to your friends and hope no one finds out") that we chalk up to experience or "because we want to have a story to tell our friends at brunch." But eventually, "There comes a time when it no longer makes sense to do things for the story." When you reach that point, stop doing dumb things just so you can tell people about it.
7. "Drugs are a great idea!"
O'Connell explains that millennials are part of the Rx generation: "Tell people you just took a Xanax because you were having anxiety and you'll hear a symphony of 'Good call. That reminds me: I need to get a refill!'" Millennials aren't doing drugs to "expand your mind an lie in a meadow all day... We now do them to keep our heads above water." But that's not healthy and not sustainable and, as O'Connell himself learned firsthand, not glamorous at all.
Let me repeat that again because it's pretty important: Self-destructive behavior is not glamorous.
8. "I'll never ditch my BFF."
"After graduation," writes O'Connell, "your friends typically take one of two paths: they either fall into a serious relationship or throw themselves into a career." O'Connell threw himself into his career. His best friend from college Clare got a boyfriend. Their friendship suffered until the two put in some serious work, mainly in the form of screaming at each other in a juice bar in the West Village.
Long story short, it's totally possible that you might lose your BFF, even if you don't mean to, unless you're both willing to put some work in. But, as O'Connell has, it's also good to accept that people and "friendships will change as we mature, and it's unhealthy to fight it."
9. "I'm totally alone."
What makes Millennials different is that "most of us have the safety net of our parents' house, and that allows us to live the life we want." There's always a support system, and really, you're not a unique snowflake with insurmountable, individual problems. O'Connell realizes, "Once you register how damn similar we all are and that you're not alone on Crazy Individual Island, you can stop going blind from only seeing yourself."
If you're a Millennial, you're never alone, because everyone else in this generation is slogging through it alongside you.
Images: Giphy (5)