Here's an unpopular opinion: Millennials actually do need to toughen up. Brace yourself for more shocking news: I, your author, am a millennial, and just about as liberal as they come.
For some reason, lately I've seen a lot more posts and lists by millennials fighting the stereotype of their fragility than usual. And most of the time I really do agree with the points being made. I mean, it's true, we didn't ask to be treated like special snowflakes, we just were. But also, I can't quite tune out the little voice in the back of my head that whoever wrote the list or made the post is literally complaining about being complained about.
So, the older generation thinks we're silly for liking avocados so much, and can get pretty vocal about it. We think the older generation is silly for liking Donald Trump, and we definitely talk about that all the time. And at this point in the Trump administration, everybody knows who turned out to be more misguided, so be quiet.
The truth is, we live in a world that likes to be offended. Baby boomers are offended whenever we look at our phones and we're offended whenever a baby boomer gets offended that we're looking at our phones.
I will agree that there are things that are offensive now that weren't considered "offensive" when baby boomers were growing up. But actually misgendering people and making racist jokes have always been offensive the only difference is that now when people speak up about it others agree with it instead of telling them to stop taking offense. And that's great! Yay millennials for speaking up against offensive jokes, even when they're offensive to a group of people you don't belong to.
That being said, sometimes we do take things a little too seriously. I've definitely been guilty of that in the past. Because everything is taken so offensively by our peers we've trained ourselves to see the potential to offend in everything and therefore take everything as a personal attack. Except, everything isn't a personal attack, and if we treat it like it is, that's not actually doing ourselves any favors. If we assume the whole world is against us, then, I hate to say it, but we are victimizing ourselves.
Now before you accuse me of victim blaming, hear me out. If something bad happens to someone, it is not their fault. It was the other person who decided to take the action, and therefore they are in the wrong. However, there are certain common sense things you can do to prevent becoming a victim. Take, for example, being a woman at night.
As a woman, who occasionally has to go places at night, I know what types of areas I should avoid walking around alone. And it sucks, but any woman will tell you she knows to do this because it's common sense in the world we live in. It might not be fair that my friend Carl doesn't have to worry about getting a ride back to campus after working late, while we literally became friends because I knew walking a mile through downtown Buffalo after dark would be asking for trouble. But saying something isn't fair and then doing something that could get you in to trouble just because it shouldn't ought to, isn't a good idea. It's also not going to change something that very clearly needs to be changed.
Conversations with kids and other younger people are going to change things. For example, my mom taught me not to be a bully. But she also taught me not to get bullied. I was hardly ever bullied, but I could have been. I'm smart, I'm quiet, I wear glasses and my parents don't do well with social cues which means I don't either. Yet I was never bullied and a lot of that is because my mom drilled it into my head that if I didn't react when someone said something mean to me, very soon they would stop saying mean things to me.
The truth is, the world sucks. And it's not going to stop sucking just because we want it to. Minimizing meanness and prejudice is a noble goal, one I work towards every day. But we're never going to completely eliminate it in everyone. No matter who you are you have to learn to protect yourself.
That's part of the problem with my generation. Our parents were so busy giving us participation awards to shelter us from disappointment and all the other tough stuff that we don't know how to deal with it. Like seriously, half my generation doesn't know how to make a dang phone call. And I'm sorry, but I agree with the baby boomers on this one: that's laughable. And I'm not saying that as an extrovert who loves talking to people and can't imagine feeling nervous about approaching someone for fear I may be bothering them. I said it two paragraphs ago: I'm quiet. Also known as shy.
Shyness is something I've dealt with my whole life. So it bothers me anytime someone uses shyness as an excuse. Because it's not. It can be an explanation, if one is ever needed, but it can't be an excuse. If you're shy, you need to learn to cope. For example, I make a script if I'm nervous to make a phone call. Because, even though I'm shy, I still have to make that phone call. The rules of the world aren't going to bend for me because I'm shy, or short, or a woman. And I shouldn't expect them to.
Fellow millennials, just because you take offense or feel hurt by something, doesn't mean it's actually offensive or hurtful. That's what the baby boomers are making fun of. Not our legitimate struggles, but the struggles we create for ourselves. Learned helplessness is a thing (look it up) and our generation has it down to a tee. More often than not, we have the power to change whatever situation is upsetting us. But more often than not, we don't. Sometimes the change has to come entirely from ourselves, like going to that college orientation activity even though you're shy. Sometimes that change has to come from society. But even then, it starts with us.
Are there certain "rules of the world" that I'd like to see change in my lifetime? Absolutely. I would love not to have to train my daughter to carry her keys in her fist anytime she passes through a certain part of town. Black parents shouldn't have to teach their sons how to interact with a cop so that the officer doesn't pull their gun. These are things that are actually wrong with the world. But until they change, we need to keep having these difficult conversations with younger people. And we need to stop complaining about them, and actually get out and do something about them. Attend a protest, write a letter to a representative, and take a good long look at your own actions and beliefs to make sure that you aren't perpetuating the unfair rules of the world.
In short, toughen up.