Have you heard of this?
YOLO! It stands for “you only live once.” And you’ve probably heard some dumbass kid yell it before jumping off a building or binge eating fifteen jello shots and then passing out. It kind of means carpe diem, or “seize the day,” except with a little angry “fuck it all” under-flavor.
As a term, YOLO kind of represents the new Milleninal Generation. They’ve coined it. And they use it with relish. Some of them anyway.
Millennial, Gen-Y, YOLO Generation—whatever you call them, they’re the ones about to take over the world. And as it turns out, that’s not such a bad thing.
The YOLO Generation’s Not That Different
Like the generations before them—both Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers—Millennials go through their own risk-embracing phase. Except they’ve attached that YOLO term to the concept. That shows a lot of creativity, but it also means they’ve become unfairly identified with risky behavior.
That’s a shame.
Because what is a normal developmental phase for all young people is now vilified in the Millennials. Frankly, I’m a little fed up with it. We’re to blame for their YOLO attitude, when it comes down to it. As we point at them and jeer with our aging judgmentalism, we forget that YOLO is a coping mechanism, one that Millennials need to deal with the shitty state of things we’ve handed down to them.
Mabye YOLO reveals an insight we don’t have. A willingness to cope during changing times.
YOLO Is A Coping Strategy for The Bag of Shit Millennials Got Handed
The New York Times says Millennials: face the worst job market in decades, are in debt (mostly due to student loans they can’t find jobs to pay off), and are unemployed (hence the languishing student debt). They don’t make as much money as previous generations when they do find jobs either.
What a bag of shit they’ve been handed. No wonder they’re the new Lost Generation.
Who The YOLO Generation Most Resembles
“EDM Death Machine” from Knife Party embodies YOLO to the core.
We call Millennials the new Lost Generation. Mostly because they have the high hopes that all healthy young people have with none of the prospects the previous generations got. Mostly because we fucked it up for them with our excessively flamboyant spending, yeti-sized carbon footprints, and fatal optimism.
Remember the original Lost Generation? Those post-WWI men and women like Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald? They came from war a little poorer, a little wiser, and a whole lot more disappointed. Their world was shattered too. Much like the Millennials’.
Everything the Lost Generation’s predecessors taught them to believe in—to build on—disappeared. Patriotism and hard work will be rewarded. That’s what their parents taught them. That’s what they lost.
What did our Lost Generation lose? We told them to believe in jobs after college and the safe-as-houses housing market. Look how that turned out.
Disillusionment became the zeitgeist of an era. It was for the Lost Generation then, and it’s the zeitgeist now. This is an age of reconstruction. And you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. The Millennials do. They get to clean up our mess. So give these kids a break.
It’s not a coincidence that both generations, Hemingway’s Lost Generation and our YOLO Generation, were forged in great depressions.
You know what Fitzgerald and Hemingway did after the war?
They ran the fuck away. To Paris and Africa and Cuba. They drank themselves into oblivion. They reveled in an excess of distraction. They YOLO’d. And maybe YOLO is the healthiest thing you can do in times like these. Hang on however you can when nothing you do matters.
At least they’re trying.
Besides, the Lost Generation raised us, and we turned out alright.
And, really, this YOLO thing is a whole lot healthier than the Lost Generation’s excess. Sure, they may drink more, but Millennials are more health conscious and resilient too.
Previous Generations Always Say This. And Then They Change Their Minds.
You know what’s going to happen?
In a decade, studies will revisit the data on Millennials and decide that the difference between them and Gen-X was overhyped. The same way new studies dispelled those same myths about Gen-X. It isn’t a generation thing. It’s an age thing.
Gen-Xers aren’t the depressed slackers that Baby Boomers thought they were. We’ll recant our negativity about Gen-Y too. Because that’s what we do. We worry about the next generation until they grow up, and then we figure out everything was fine after all.
Maybe the previous generation is just blind to their own failings. Here’s a hilarious story to illustrate.
My mom was complaining about how the younger generation doesn’t value hard work and how they want everything right now. Instant gratification is their tagline, she said. Guess what she was doing while she said that? Yep, ordering a new tufted chair she didn’t need and couldn’t afford. With a credit card.
She’s in debt up to her ears. But I don’t trust credit cards. And when I want something new, I save for it and buy it later.
So which generation is addicted to instant gratification again? (Don’t worry, Mom! You have other good qualities!)
So What Is Different About The Millennials?
In the future
Nobody will drop the bass
No one will do the Harlem Shake
No one will know bitches love cake
There will be no internet friends
There will be no antidote
The human race will be extinct
Say hello to the robots!
– “EDM Death Machine,” by Knife Party
This article in Psychology Today is particularly toxic. It vilifies Millennials’ high sense of self-worth, as though confidence were a failure. It tears them down for expecting to be treated well and valued for their work in the workplace.
We could look at this article another way. Maybe the author is a downtrodden Baby Boomer. A poor schmuck who succumbed to the corporate line that the worker isn’t valuable.
Maybe the work you do to keep your company afloat deserves more recognition and compensation. Given that employees in most first-world countries get more vacation time than their US American counterparts (and they get paid more), are the Millennials so bad to expect equality and fair treatment from bosses?
I don’t think so. Maybe that’s why this generation is increasingly turning away from the corporate and embracing self-employment.
Want to find out for yourself what life in a European country is like? Try this on: How a Broke College Student Saw Europe.
And another thing. That nasty article sites that “only 12% of whites between 18-34 believe owning a home is one of the most important things in life.” (Don’t know why they specified race here. Sorry about that.)
Is a distrust of home-ownership so surprising? Does investing your financial future into a single property really make sense anymore? Especially when that adage “safe as houses” turned out to be so unsafe that when the housing market did tank it nearly wrecked the economy.
Hate the idea of being strapped to a mortgage? Check out this new housing social movement.
Maybe Millennials learned the lesson that the rest of us are too slow to realize. Maybe the housing market isn’t worth the trouble of owning.
What else do they understand that we don’t?
The Myth Of Golden Origins: Because Shitting In A Bucket Was Better Than Modern Plumbing How?
So this is us, comparing the next generation and their values to what we hold most dear. But the next generation is never going to match the old one. Nor should they. Because societies that don’t change, fail. And new blood is how humanity survives the changing times.
Golden Age thinking is a catastrophically stupid concept. It’s that belief that yesterday was better than today. Or a thousand years ago was better than yesterday. Except, a thousand years ago we were still shitting in buckets and then eating without washing our hands.
I don’t know about you, but I think there’ve been some improvements since then.
So don’t be that old grandpa who pines for the good ol’ days. That’s who we become when we complain about Millennials. The fact is, they know more how to live in this world today than we do.
So suck it up, Gen-Xers. You too Baby Boomers. The Millennial Generation is exactly what it needs to be.
And, grandma? Enjoy the rest of your time with them. Because you only live once.
How Millennial Are You?
Find out how Millennial you are with this nifty quiz.
So I thought I was Gen-X when I wrote this, and on further review it turns out I’m just a really, really old Gen-Yer. Whoops!
As an old millennial (I think… born in ’88), I agree with you. I was in college in 2008, and while I have a secure job and a house (right after the housing crash was actually a pretty good time to buy), the sentiments of the YOLO generation are right up my alley. I’ve been out of school for almost five years, and if I put all my extra money each month toward my student loans, I might be able to be student-loan-free in another three. That’s with the fact that I’m paid ahead and have what millennials consider to be a good job. I love the comparison to the first Lost Generation. I hadn’t heard that before.
Nice, Rochelle! It’s good to hear of other Millennials who are doing fine. Thanks for weighing in.
My score was 85. No tattoos or piercings yet…
No tattoos here either. Piercings, yes. Well, the holes are left over anyway. But I figured they counted per the quiz, so I hit “yes” on those. I’ve had two in my tongue, two in my nose, and a few times pierced the top of my ears. All those are closed up now though. I almost never wear earrings either. So much trouble!
Almost got a tattoo once but didn’t follow through. Glad of that. I would have hated it after six months tops! 🙂
Alexis Schmidt says
I really enjoyed this article! Finally, one that wasn’t harping on and on and on about how we millennial don’t have any concept of saving, we are irresponsible, we want everything right away, blah blah blah. Of course, I can’t speak for my entire generation, but I’ve worked my butt of to get where I am and save money like crazy. But I can still see the perspectives of people that do spend a lot, after all, what else can we look forward to? Most government figures are looked on with distrust (especially by the millennial gen.), and the future looks pretty bleak. Why not splurge a little a get that new phone? I would also like to point out that it seems that we are one of the very first generations born -and growing up- WITH technology. As in, technology that is readily available. We are the ones growing up with all the little rules and quirks of tech, which is pretty cool if you ask me.
The technology thing definitely changes things for us. You’re so right. I’m interested to see how that plays out with the next generation too.
And thanks, Alexis. So good to hear you got something out of the article. I’m sick of the negative hype around Millennials too.
Annis Cassells says
Good article, Mandy. In my work with coaching in businesses, the employees have run the gamut of the generations, with 2/3 being Millennials. I found that every person had skills and knowledge to offer in the workplace, regardless of her generation. As their coach, it was my job to figure out how to approach each person and try to effect the results the employer (a boomer) was after. The bottom line is everyone can learn from everyone else and create a healthy work environment.
Thanks for an insightful post. xoA