Much has been written on Millennials - and mostly nasty stuff that is! In short, it describes the people born between 1981 and 1996, but there is much more to it. In the past decade, much has been blamed on my generation, from laziness to munching avocados too much, all the way to Millennials are killing cereal (seriously, it was a headline).
I am currently working on a very personal project of mine which is going to be an autobiographic take on growing up and adulting (i.e., the process by which you become an adult and the boring tasks related to adulthood). I focus on disillusionment experienced by most people I encounter in my age, with an increasing unwillingness to work more than 30 hours in an office, a wish to escape consumerism while being unable to escape it at the same time, as well as a progressing paralysis of a feeling of overwhelming.
Digging through some research, I stumbled across a very intriguing article on Buzzfeed in which writer Anne Helen Petersen shares her approach to the notion that Millennials are in a perpetual state of exhaustion, being overworked and, therefore, paralysis. Wittingly, she recounts the inability to get the easiest things done - like vacuum-cleaning the car, buying groceries or getting a package mailed (as recounted by some of her friends). She writes that Millennials are in a permanent mindset of needing to work - contrary to the common belief we are lazy - and with 12-hour days on the horizon and people working more and more despite technology being able to take over in most departments already, she is certainly on to something.
I won't recount what she has written in her article, as you can (and should) see for yourself, but I will share my own insight and epiphany I've had upon reading it. Ever since my mini-burnout at the age of 17, I feel I have been struggling to regain my footing, painfully transcending into adulthood, growing more and more confused as I progressed. When I was a child, everything interested me and I was a true pro in entertaining myself. I would sit in my room all day, reading books, writing stories, redecorating, creating new choreographies - the possibilities were sheer infinite!
Today, this has changed profoundly, and everything apart from Netflixing (is this a coined term already, I don't know...), everything seems a struggle. I MUST write stories, I MUST read the latest book, I MUST do the laundry, I MUST redecorate the room. Nothing seems to come out of inner motivation, but of a dire and urgent need to get it done - or the fear to be outperformed by others. When I wrote as a child or teenager, I wrote for me, and me only. It was simply like breathing, something I did without thinking about it. Today, one main motivation to write is because I need to have a book published under the age of 30 (under 20 would have been even better, but, well that's 6 years in the past now, so what can you do...). Another incentive is because I don't want others to have more success and am in a permanent state of competition - the competition of life.
The competition of life is also a theme Anne Helen Peterson touches upon. Despite robots seemingly "making our lives easier", Millenials have to work more and more for less pay - partly because the work never gets done. Think about it: due to emails and social media, most work days can easily be pocketed and taken home. I have just received an email from an editor on a Saturday, and even though I try not to respond to emails on weekends, I know other freelance writers do, and then I might not get the gig. Being seemingly omniscient and reachable all the time has become a status quo, and it drains a lot of energy because there is no way to shut it down. Sure, switch off your phone, don't visit your social media - but then you simply dread Monday where a clogged up mailbox tells you of all you've missed while you were gone!
Petersen concludes that Millenials are in a state of burn-out, something she slowly realised in her own life, too. However, she means burn-out not in an illness to be cured by going to a spa or taking it easy for a while, but as an inevitable basic state within this society in which we have to labour and live - without the chance to escape. In the past years, getting through some days took a lot of energy and determination, and despite me not feeling I work a lot, as in hours, my mind is constantly preoccupied with what I SHOULD and MUST do, and the worst is that this trend also has taken a firm grip on spheres outside work. Think about it, meditation, yoga, veganism - they seemingly all are trends to make us feel better, but in truth they are multi-million dollar markets that take over yet another of our life spheres to which we have to aspire.
I don't only have to be good at my job anymore as a Millennial. I have to be good at my job that fulfils me through and though and with which I have to earn plenty of money, with flat and house prices rocketing and salaries decreasing. Additionally, I have to be a perfect mother, feel Zen and have mastered Yoga - ideally I do Yoga everyday between cooking something terribly healthy and writing my Insta stories, so that everyone else surely knows what a perfect life I lead.
Why are we doing this to ourselves and others? We all know the lives portrayed on Instagram are lies, or at least only snippets out of people's lives they want you to see. I cannot count the images on my Insta-feed of coffee mugs next to laptops with the caption "so happy to be back at work #solucky #lovemyjob #livingthedream", etc, etc. We put so much stress on ourselves and others by feeling the need to document every single step of it - and it stresses me because it simply becomes another thing on the never-ending list to tick off - having a worthwhile Instagram feed and blogging regularly about how to use training bras for flower pots or some other bullshit.
But let's circle back to the main topic. Over the past years, I have felt paralysed and every step I take requires huge effort and energy - because I always have to make myself go it. The thirst for creativity and curiosity has been replaced by fear, frustration, desperation and a panic of failure. Even writing, I must sadly admit, has become a source of stress and "MUST" rather than "WANT", and I have to fight for not simply plonking down on the sofa to watch Netflix every single day. I know that TV has become my drug to ease the pain, to take the stress away for a few sweet hours - yet, as it is with drugs, I don't return replenished, but more stressed out than before because this infinite list of things I MUST do and MUST be is still there, pressing, demanding, patronising, even louder than before.
In the past months, many great things have happened, and even though they have filled me with joy, the prospect of having to organise them, do them, paralyses me. My wedding, for instance. I feel I should enjoy the planning more, should want to sit down and go through innumerable Pinterest posts and so on and so forth. Probably it is exactly this process of "beshoulding" that takes out the fun, but who knows...The tiredness, exhaustion and unwillingness has touched almost any part of life, may that be work, writing, eating, planning my wedding, for God's sake, even sex! Being born into the generations of listing, I feel everything has become a chore to be ticked off - the perfect sex, day-to-day meditation, exercise, marrying, publishing a book, meeting friends - because I feel I have to play a specific role in each of these life spheres, and it drains plenty of energy and joy of life.
I want to seek a way out of this dilemma, but how is this supposed to happen if it is already considered a permanent state of society? Will I always have to force myself to do things I used to enjoy? Well, I think if there was a place in which I could to it for myself, there must be a possibility to find back there and replenish my energy. At least that is the wisp of hope I am clinging on to. Reading Petersen's article has helped me inasmuch (and I want to thank her, in case she ever reads this) because after always questioning what was wrong with me and why I felt so tired, exhausted and paralysed, her article has given me a response I can accept, and therefore work from there.
I may not suffer a burn-out in the traditional sense, but I am definitely burned out. The colours in life seem to be duller ever since I had to become an adult, and every task seems infinitely more exhausting, so let's return to the memories of happy childhood days and regain some of the positive energy that came with it. Additionally, it will be essential to cut out my drugs (sugar, caffeine, TV) in order to create a mindset where I am not constantly tired - and hopefully find the time and energy to create more and find true fulfilment. I don't want to think I won't be able to change this - and thanks to finding an explanation of my state of mind, I feel I can start on a journey to find my old self who was interested in anything and had an infinite thirst for life and the world.
A Week Without Social Media
Feeling A Fraud as An Adult
Show Me Your Dirty Laundry
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.