“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” This Thomas Paine quote is my favorite of all time. It perfectly sums up the message I’ve been trying to spread to as many Millennials as possible over the last 10 years. But when I failed to do so after a decade of trying, I finally decided to give up. Then a few students from Parkland, FL renewed my inspiration. In order to show you how significant that has been for me, I need to tell you my story. So, here it is.
Towards the end of 2007, when I was in my mid-20’s, I was very worried about the future of our country and the world. There were so many significant issues that needed to be urgently addressed but were instead being ignored. To make matters worse, it seemed like this already long and intimidating list grew every day.
I wondered if there was anything that could be done to fix things. I wondered if we could be saved from ourselves. We needed drastic change, but our nation’s leadership didn’t appear to be up to the task. It was clear that the apathy of the older generations is what had gotten us into this giant mess, so obviously change wasn’t going to come from them. And then I had this epiphany: it is my generation that will change the world.
Where this idea came from I don’t know. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about my generation. Born in 1982, I wondered if I was Generation X, or was I part of the so-called Generation Y? All I knew was that my generation had to be the change the nation and the world needed, because if we don’t fix things it will be too late for the generations that come after us to do so.
So, I started to research my generation and I found out that we are called Millennials. This name was coined by generational experts Neil Howe and William Strauss back in the mid-1990’s. They defined the Millennial Generation as beginning in 1982 (the year of my birth) and ending sometime in the early 2000’s, likely around 2004 (the year that the current high school freshman class was born). I eagerly studied the work of Howe and Strauss and learned as much as I could about their intriguing generational theory, and I discovered that Millennials are a special kind of generation, an archetype Howe and Strauss called “Heroes.” (Note: I discuss this theory in the Millennial Crisis page and the General Archetypes page of this website)
In short, Howe and Strauss posited that Millennials will come of age during a period of crisis, which at that time (2007) was just about to begin (the catalyst for the current crisis was the Great Recession). As the crisis worsened, and as Millennials aged into early adulthood, we would be inspired to act – and act forcefully.
Like the G.I. Generation (aka the Greatest Generation), we would become a confident, determined and progressive generation that willingly took on the role of changemakers. My gut instinct about my generation appeared to be correct, and I felt this calling to make Millennials aware of the opportunity we had to cultivate positive, enduring change, just as other great generations had. We could begin the world over again, if we chose to do so.
My initial inspiration was to write a book for Millennials to make them aware of our destiny to become the next great American generation. Our sheer size alone (there is about 90 million of us) guarantees that we will be the most dominate generation of the 21st century, and therefore we will play a significant role in shaping the future of the United States and the world – as the G.I.’s had during the last century.
Again, I felt that I needed to get this message to my fellow Millennials, and that I needed to get that message out there as quickly as possible. After a few years of failing to secure a literary agent for my book, I created my website/blog, The Millennial Legacy, that is essentially based on the same premise as my book. I chose this name because if Millennials are successful in fostering positive and enduring change, we will build a powerful legacy that we’ll proudly pass on to posterity. Or, conversely, if we fail to do so our generational legacy will be one of catastrophe and shame. Either way, we will have a legacy just like every other generation before us, and we have control over what kind of legacy it will be.
Overall, my intention has always been to inspire and empower Millennials to be the change they want to see in the world. I wanted Millennials to know that we have all the tools we need to rise to the occasion and become the great generation that history is urging us to be. Whether I accomplished that through a book, a blog, or anything else, I didn’t care. I just wanted to get the message out and hope that it reached, and consequently inspired, as many Millennials as possible.
In 2014, I contacted a few Millennial-led organizations to propose that we try to plan a rally in Washington, D.C. in which our generation comes together to tell the our elected officials that we are collectively rising up to demand change. The many national and global problems we face are worsening with each passing day, and we need to do something before it is too late. Unfortunately, those who responded to my letter said that it would too difficult and expensive to accomplish such a massive undertaking. I respectfully pointed out that when there’s a will there is a way, and if we put our heads together we could make it happen, but they disagreed. So, I reluctantly moved on (I can’t help but wonder if any of them thought of me during the March For Our Lives rally).
I went back to focusing on my blog as my means of trying to get my message out to the rest of my generation. Much of what I’ve blogged about over the years has focused on how important it is that we are active and informed citizens, and that the strength and vitality of our democracy is dependent on this. I’ve emphasized that voting, in particular, is the most important thing we can do to affect change, because we need people in office who are going to implement the kinds of changes we want to see.
A couple of months before the 2016 election, I recorded a video in which I talked about the supreme importance of voting – especially for Millennials. I spoke of the need to take our power back from the lobbyists and special interests who have bought many of our politicians, to let our leaders know that we are paying attention and that we will fire them if they don’t represent us, and to make sure that we continue to stay actively involved in the democratic process throughout our lives. And lastly, I spoke of how Millennials had an incredible opportunity to cultivate powerful, positive and lasting change.
The video (above) ended up being 34 minutes in length (as you’re discovering, I can be slightly long-winded). I knew that it wasn’t likely that many Millennials would want to sit down for a half-hour and watch me talk. But I also knew that the message was highly important, and I had hoped that the video would go viral. Well, it didn’t go viral. In fact, as I write this, the video has only 262 views.
I was very disappointed when my video hardly got any views. But, at least I can say I tried. I’m not famous or well-known in any way, so I knew that it was a long-shot that people would watch the video. Even still, it was quite demoralizing. As silly as it may sound, I was heartbroken — mainly because I felt like I had failed.
And when I saw the poor turn-out of young voters in the 2016 election, I was even more crushed. I understand why young people were frustrated and disenchanted, but I knew that boycotting elections wasn’t the right way to go about creating change. In fact, that was the opposite of what we needed to do.
Had I wasted my time for the last 10 years trying to get a book published on the important role Millennials will play in shaping our national and global future, and running an insignificant Millennial website/blog? I was really starting to think that I was just chasing a pipe dream.
Don’t get me wrong, Millennials have been quite influential in affecting change in this country – particularly on a social level. But I had expected something along the lines of a peaceful political revolution from my generation, and so far we hadn’t done anything substantial enough to begin changing the status quo in Washington. Despite this, however, I never lost faith in a better future, or in my generation’s ability to create one. I think I just kind of lost faith in my ability to be a guiding and empowering voice for my generation.
Thus, over the last year or so, I’ve lost pretty much all motivation to continue updating my blog. I just didn’t feel like it was worth my time anymore. It was painful to let it go, but it was even more painful pouring my heart and soul into something that seemed to make no difference at all – especially since the whole reason why I created the website was because I wanted so badly to make a difference. All I ever wanted to do was try to make the world a better place.
Believe me when I say that I had felt very strongly that it was part of my destiny to bring this important message to my generation. I genuinely had felt this innate calling to be an inspiring voice for Millennials. And there were many times over the years when I wanted to give up on the website, but something deep within me just wouldn’t let it happen. However, after over 10 years of futile effort, I guess I had finally reached my breaking point.
Additionally, as I found myself in my mid-30’s, with all the wonderful adult responsibilities that come with it, my life just got too busy to effectively keep up with the blog. And since my efforts to inspire Millennials through my website weren’t bearing any fruit, I made the difficult decision to abandon it – something I had vowed I would never do. Again, I felt like a massive failure, and I shed many tears as a result.
For so long I had been immensely passionate about trying to inspire Millennials to rise to the occasion and begin changing the world. But I realized that when you continue trying to make something happen, and despite your best efforts [for years-on-end] nothing ever does happen, that is a sign that maybe it isn’t meant to be.
So, I moved on with my life…over the last several months I’ve bought my first home, changed careers, and made peace with the fact that I wasn’t some ordained messenger for Millennials. I am just a simple woman from Baltimore, MD, and my only destiny in life is to be a kind, responsible and loving human being.
Then, Parkland happened. And these kids – these amazing, amazing kids – decided that they needed to use their voices to influence positive change on the issue of common-sense gun reform, and in doing so they have inspired the rest of our generation to be the changemakers we are destined to be.
They took their pain and suffering, anger and frustration, and they channeled it in a positive and constructive way. They started a massive movement by urging millions of people all across the country to stand up to crooked and/or incompetent politicians, and the greedy lobbyists and special-interest groups who own them.
What they’re saying about the importance of voting, about telling politicians that we are their bosses and if they don’t listen to us then we will vote them out, about why it is so critical that we use our voices to fight against corruption and political apathy, is exactly what I’ve been screaming from the rooftops for the last several years on my blog. I’m so glad that, finally, other Millennials are getting this message. And more than that, Americans of all ages are getting this message.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have shown the nation and the world that our generation is not to be disregarded. We mean business, and we will not stop until the changes we want are firmly implemented. Their passion, determination, conviction, courage and solidarity is incredibly inspiring. They are at the forefront of the paradigm shift that our nation and the world desperately need – and that I always knew Millennials would initiate.
The Parkland students have captured the attention and the hearts of hundreds of millions of people all over the world. Their voices are amplified by the compelling and simple message that they are determined to do whatever they can to make the world safer and more sustainable for future generations – an obligation that we all have, and one that previous generations have failed to achieve.
As I watched the prodigious and historic March For Our Lives rally, I was beyond moved by these plucky kids and their unapologetic moxie, not to mention their eloquence, poise and intelligence. They understand that since we live in a democracy, the people are in charge – not the politicians – and that we must take our power back. They understand that gun violence is an issue that disproportionately affects people of color who live in poor, urban areas, and they made sure to bring attention to that and to give those kids an equal voice. They understand that maintaining that unity and support across racial and socioeconomic lines is critical to successfully creating the change we want to see. And most importantly, they understand that creating this change will not be quick and easy. It is going to take a lot time and a lot of hard work, but they made it abundantly clear that they are 100% committed.
I’m so immensely proud of these kids. I’m so proud to be a part of this generation. No matter how bad things have gotten over the last several years (and they have gotten really, really bad), I’ve always known that the future was bright because Millennials are going to change the world.
I don’t know exactly what this means for me moving forward. I do intend to continue to blog, but how often I’m not sure. One thing is for certain: I won’t ever give up hope on Millennials, or the next generation. These kids are changing the world. They are not the future, they are the present. They know that their voices matter and that they are powerful beyond measure. I stand in awe of their fortitude, and I thank them for reminding me that you never, ever give up.
As William Jennings Bryan said, “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” I’ve always felt that Millennials were destined to be a resounding force of positive change in the world, and we are now well on our way to achieving that destiny.
This past Saturday I was quite emotional when watching the March For Our Lives, principally because it was clear that the youth of America have fully acknowledged that we do indeed have it in our power to begin the world over again. The Millennial Revolution has begun, and our intention is simple: to create a new world based on love, equality, unity and peace. If anyone has a problem with that, we’ll send you some thoughts and prayers.
We need the courage of the young. Yours is not the task of making your way in the world, but the task of remaking the world which you will find before you. May every one of us be granted the courage, the faith and the vision to give the best that is in us to that remaking! – Franklin D. Roosevelt