Millennial Identity Crisis

October 20, 2014

This past weekend I saw the WWII movie “Fury” starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf. Overall I thought it was a good flick, not quite on the level of war classics like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, but entertaining enough to justify a couple hours on a Friday night.

As I sat there through the canon fire and the Nazi slaughter, I was struck by the subtle attitude in the characters’ zealous belief that what they were doing was not only justified, but even necessary for their (and their loved ones’) very survival. “Best job I ever had” is a common phrase uttered throughout.

And then it hit me – our generation (Millennials) has nothing like what the WWII generation had. We have no great evil to defeat, no supreme national cause for which to labor for, perhaps not even a better future in which to hope in. Instead we are left to squabble in online forums over whose football team is better, or worse, which celebrity wore it best gag.

In short, a lot of us don’t quite know yet who we are or what we’re aiming for. But the great paradox is that, more than anything else, Millennials desire meaning in the work that we do and the ways in which we conduct our lives. It’s certainly not for lack of desire that we’ve wandered astray into meaningless endeavors.

So what are the obstacles hindering our pursuit of a healthy and meaning-filled life? How can we recenter our identity away from social media perception? Aside from having no great uniting conflict (which I am mostly thankful for), I believe there are 3 main hindrances which must be addressed before we can truly move forward in the life each one of us desires.

  • Student Debt – This one is huge, and could be an entire post unto itself. We’ve financed higher education on the strained backs of our future selves. If you don’t know it already, your debt is an emergency. Just like a medical emergency, it requires your immediate and focused attention. The longer you delay in paying it off, the more you shackle your future self to a fixed life path. Having options = Freedom.

  • Complicated Family Situations – The sad truth is, divorce has wrecked havoc on our perception of marriage and the family unit; so much so that some of us are choosing to forgo marriage altogether. Until we deal with our broken attitudes toward the opposite sex, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of our parents’ generation.

  • We are Incredibly Selfish – And most of us are blind to it. To be fair, this isn’t entirely our fault. Our parents took the ‘you can do whatever you want when you grow up’ mentality to the extreme, and as a result we’ve grown to expect things when we haven’t earned or worked for them. Few things are as repulsive as entitlement. Choosing to daily combat your inner pride is an extremely difficult, but worthy, charge to take up.

Yikes. So now that we’ve heard the bad news, what hope do we have to be a generation that makes a positive impact on the world around us?

Thankfully, there is hope. By working on our personal issues before choosing a spouse, we make it not only possible, but perhaps even probable, to stay married for life.

By buckling down and getting tough on consumerism and overspending now, we afford our future selves much greater opportunity to pursue work that we love, and still get paid for doing it.

By centering in on what is truly important, namely our relationships and the ways in which we treat people, we give ourselves the chance to leave a legacy much bigger than just our work and our bank account.

Though we may not have a great war to fight, or even a great evil to dismantle, Millennials still have hope for a purpose-driven identity. It just might take a little extra digging around to find it.

Any thoughts? What are your greatest obstacles to a meaning-filled life? Leave a comment below!

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