@MusingMutley: What Millennials really need today
Let me preface this column by saying, I'm not trying to present some eye-opening arcane truth, nor dumb down the complexities faced by the digital Millennial; but rather, what follows is just a personal observation. A humble invitation for you to consider, and hopefully try, something that you might have forgotten.
Let's start with the stereotypes: Self-entitled, disloyal, and forever glued to an iPhone. Millennials — roughly classified as that generation born between 1980 and 1995 — have received our (I just scraped in there) fair share of vilification mixed with perplexing astonishment. On one hand, we can't seem to maintain eye contact when shooting the breeze around a water-cooler, yet manage to sustain three digital conversations in the five minutes waiting for the barista to make our extra-hot soy latte. Naturally, as this generation is now on the verge of taking on leadership roles in society, the world is desperately trying to figure out: What makes Millennials tick?
Technology as a vice
Addicted to the dopamine-hits provided by new followers and likes on our Instagram posts, messages on our Facebook walls, comments on our Snapchats, or just texts from friends, the Millennial in 2017 is a digital junkie. For the same reason that Baby Boomers got high at Woodstock, or why some Generation X'ers turned to the bottle to deal with their supposed directionless apathy, Millennials are staring zombie-eyed into LED screens as a form of escape. Whether it's falling asleep watching YouTube or waking up and checking Instagram Stories before brushing our teeth, we are just distracting ourselves so we don't have to face our own reality.
Escape from what? Just take a look around: Trying to find a job in a de-stabilised global economy, rampaging extremists driving trucks and detonating bombs, political leaders sacrificing integrity for power, and if we're going to be honest here, dealing with that feeling deep-down in your gut that, surely, there has to be more to life than this?
Idealism hampered by impatience
This desire to 'make a difference' — to find purpose — is often ridiculed by older generations as idealism and fuelled by impatience. "Can you just wait?" they ask. "The problem is that you always want everything now." And you know what? They're right. We are bloody impatient. We book Ubers as we're finishing off emails, time our Uber Eats dinner orders so that it arrives just after we've unlocked our front doors, and then smash into a pork katsu and salmon sashimi as we binge watch a few episodes of Stranger Things. Need to shop for groceries? There's an app for that. Want to hook up? There are many apps for that. Everything is available at our fingertips. Instant. Convenient. Well, almost everything.
We're impatient and idealistic. There's nothing wrong with being idealistic as long as you're doing something about it. But, frankly speaking, we're so addicted to the numbing effect of technology — that modern day vice — that our self-entitled idealism is rooted on nothing more than well-intentioned, though ultimately misapplied, affirmations from our parents that we're 'special'. Being special is great. Everyone's special when you think about it. But being special means squat if you're couch surfing through life with nothing to show for it.
Unlike your Doritos and Coke, you can't just Apple Pay for a successful career. You can't just swipe some plastic for a meaningful relationship. And looking good naked? Britney says it best: You want a hot body? / You better work bitch. (C'mon, did you laugh? That was funny. Admit that was funny. You must have at least smirked?)
You gotta dream a little
What's the point of all this? In short, I really think we need to dream again.
Burdened by a deep-seated desire to make an impact, but chronically impatient with life and disenfranchised by what we see, we've developed an unhealthy addiction to tech as a temporary salve to our emptiness. A flimsy band-aid that needs to be constantly reapplied. A lack of self-worth compounded by the #amazing — but in reality, hyper sensationalised and over-filtered — lives of our peers on social media. As a result, Millennials are settling for 'meh'. A dangerous mediocrity that will only develop into self-loathing when we realise, years from now, that life has slowly but surely slipped us by.
When was the last time you sat down and just fantasised about your future? Dreamt up a world that made you excited. Not watching the football kind of excited, but let's-get-off-my-butt-and-change-my-life kind of excited. God didn't make us to just coast through life; He's made you to solve a problem, to heal hearts, to set captives free, to change the world. Can't picture a future worth living for? Here's a suggestion: Pray about it.
And don't be a fool and tell everyone your dream. Like anything worth pursuing, your dream has to be big enough to scare you. But that doesn't mean it has to be grandiose. Some people won't get it. They'll laugh at your dream of a Brownstone in Manhattan, a chocolate brown Labrador that you'll call 'buddy' (so you can say: "Come here buddy! Come here!"), and a walk-in robe to store all you clothes and shoes in plain sight (finally!) — but that's okay, because not everyone dreams the same.
Dreamers that are also doers
I've said it before, but I still believe it to be true: Dreams are important because dreams inspire. I think this is what we all desperately need today. A vision of the future inspired by hope and a fulfilling purpose. Heck yes, it's idealistic. But the world needs more dreamers — and crucially, dreamers that are also doers.
So as we embark on a New Year, a 2017 fresh and ripe with new opportunities, remember to set aside time to dream. Escape from your daily routine by escaping into the clouds. Make space. Make it a daily habit. And let it be your fuel. Who knows, maybe this time next year you might even catch yourself living your dream. (Imagine that!) But it starts with putting down that phone. Shutting down that laptop. And staring out the window.
You'll never know if you never give it a go.
Three Singaporeans on taking the leap of faith to pursue their passions
Check back every Monday for another @MusingMutley column from Norman Tan, Editor-in-Chief of Buro 24/7 Singapore. For more columns from @MusingMutley, click here.
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