Perhaps the most enduring difference we can make is to avoid past mistakes with future generations. If helicopter parenting creates dependence, don’t be a helicopter parent. If social media makes kids too focused on the judgment of their peers, limit its use. If constant entertainment prevents maturity, be sure to bore your kids with lectures and monotonous road trips. If aiming for social approval will leave them hollow, teach your kids that others’ opinions don’t define their success. Prepare humanity to face our ever-uncertain future with outward pragmatism and inner resilience.
I don’t know if Millennials can successfully rewrite our programming. If we can, it will start with acknowledging that we aren’t in a fairytale. We aren’t on a quest to find our one true love, we aren’t going to change the world, and most of life is boring. We may have to deliberately inure ourselves to tedium, unplug from social media, or abandon side hustles that don’t bring us joy.  We will need to reexamine the ambitions we’ve inherited, and broaden our definition of success to encompass a life that meets our needs instead of meeting expectations. I suspect we’ll find something to learn from the ordinary, happy lives of our parents and grandparents.
This may be what troubled me most about Petersen’s essay, although I agree with much of what she says about intensive parenting and career disillusionment. She described working hard at activities that explicitly promote a very narrow version of success, like publishing stories and planning vacations. But activities that won’t receive public approval or fit into an Instagrammably ideal life, like sharpening knives or responding to personal emails from friends or former students, fell by the wayside. Some of our discontent must come from optimizing for a goal that we can sense will be unsatisfying, or that we don’t truly believe in. We can feel that our priorities are out of whack.
The Origins of Millennial Burnout How helicopter parenting and technology created a generation obsessed with work and unprepared for adulthood Mark Thomas Feb 19 What is exhausting the Millennials? A series of recent articles argues that we’re too burned out to handle basic tasks, that the economy is failing […]