After watching the FYRE festival documentaries, I began to ponder some existential musings about my generation and the concept of social media that I had always acknowledged but attempted to ignore due to my snowflake heart. Most conscious citizens are aware that what people post on social media isn’t a true reflection of the person behind the screen, and just because someone’s life looks wonderful, deep down, we know it’s a façade, the filtered face of a calculated identity. But these documentaries exposing such a gross injustice forced me to think about the people involved—the perpetrators and the victims. Because they all had one thing in common—they were millennials. Older generations are quick to place blame and judge this demographic, but this documentary made me go back, go beyond the stereotypes to the genesis. Where did this generation come from, and why are we the way we are? I decided to turn to my 8-year-old self and see what she had to say. Maybe she could shed some light on this label: Millennial. She quickly responded with two stories for me to assess.
In the US, we are conditioned to believe in a few things from birth:
I devised a plan to see if, in fact, Santa was real. I had a fascination with flying saucers and aliens (no one is surprised), so I created a significantly detailed blueprint of the spaceship I desired and mailed it to the North Pole, undetected by my parents. Needless to say, I never received the gift, so I outwardly asked my parents if Santa was real. They said it was clear I already knew the answer, and we moved on. However, the thread I began pulling would soon be my fall from Grace.
When I was 7 years old, Bill Clinton was elected for his first term as President. I really liked Bill. He seemed personable, and as my parents implied, I was born a Democratic Socialist. I still don’t know what those words mean, but I guess it suggested he and I should be friends. I played the flute and thought it was super cool that this politician played the sax. How much more human can a guy seem at 7?
In 1992, my elementary school informed us about the electoral college and democracy. That November, we became ambassadors for the election. Our school held a faux-election, and Clinton won. The experience inspired me to write to the President. I thought he was so cool, so I wanted to tell him all my thoughts and dreams. I needed to tell him I wanted to be president, too, and that someday, I was going to live that dream. I asked my mom to help me mail it, and off my hopes and dreams went to the most important building in the US—the White House.
Eventually I received a letter back in return. I couldn’t contain myself as I ran my fingers over the stamped seal on the outside. I tore open the letter, and out came two pictures and a typed piece of paper. I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember what the letter said. I burned it. But not right away.
Fast-forward to the Clinton sex scandal. In the final months of 97’ into the early months of 98’, I was in 7th grade, and my existential world came crashing down. How could my hero be a dirt bag? Not only was the ideal I created of this man false, but I was convinced the President would want to speak to me personally. Why wouldn’t he? I’m awesome, and I thought he was cool. However, I was too naïve to realize the disconnect between the public and the government. Us and them.
At the end of the day, I was bummed I wasn’t special. And I was super bummed that, later in his Presidency, he lied. I learned a hard truth that day: The President is just a man. Just a man that, like all of us, is human. Every other kid in America got the same letter, and they also had the same crappy man as their president.
Here’s why I burned the letter: I realized Santa wasn’t real. It was in this moment at 13 years old I woke up, became conscious, and saw the veil of the matrix in front of me. But it didn’t end with politics. I lost my faith. I refused to go to church. I started having nightmares. Hyperbolic? Maybe. But for me, this was a defining moment in my life. If parents, politicians, and society could lie about so many things, and deem this transgression a completely normal aspect of our daily lives, what else didn’t I know? Who else was lying?
I am considered a millennial, a word I despise because it’s been given a negative connotation. We are called dreamers, lazy, unrealistic. We are stereotyped as broke kids living in their parents’ basements. We are labeled privileged, unemployed, and ungrateful. But here’s the kicker: all these adultier adults that hate on my generation raised us. They fed us these lies without question, they voted these liars into office, and they continue to do so. They bitch about the system yet despise change. Then they look to my generation to make these changes but constantly tell us we are doing it wrong. Why do people hate millennials? Plot twist: Because when they look at us, we force them to look in the mirror. To look at their teachings, their wisdoms, their failings and short-comings. This is where the heart of the millennial genesis lies—in all of us.
I think, deep down, we all want Santa to be real, and maybe that’s why older generations are so mad. Because they wanted to believe, too, just like we did. But instead of creating a divide, maybe this is the key to bringing humanity together, through the love of magic and a sense of wonder we all wish to share.
I can’t tell you how everyone else is dealing with their loss of Santa, but for me, through all the ups and downs, I’ve found hope. By watching imagined realities fall apart, I realized I can create my own beautiful world of authenticity. By watching politicians lie to the public and make horrible decisions that do not benefit the masses, I realized I can change the world, day by day, by having integrity. Surprisingly, my fall from Grace landed me in a cloud of optimism, and while that concept may be the ultimate gift and curse, it taught me to persevere, even in the face of false idols and cranky old white men. You may say that I’m a millennial, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us.