I need to preface this post by stating that I am a millennial.
There are multiple posts out there about the millennial generation. They range from positive to negative and cover a broad range of topics, about how special we think we are, how entitled we are, and even how wrong our parents were. Call us what you will, albeit it GYPSY, Yuppie or narcisisstic, we may in fact be all three, because there’s nothing we do better than… well, everything.
But what I’ve recently been drawn to, is merely an observation that I’ve made for which I’m seeking more conversation. I have no studies to back my theory, and I certainly don’t have the time to research it, I’m too busy becoming successful and saving the world. No, what seems to be trending in my generation today is a prevalent obsession with commitment.
What I mean to say is that the idea of commitment captivates our thoughts. Because when we’re not thinking about what our next successful career or thrilling adventure is going to be, we’re usually committing our lives to our multiple jobs, internships, and full course loads at schools that we can’t afford. Everyone I talk to now has at least one job, an internship, and is a full-time student. (And I can’t claim exemption, because I work three part-time jobs and take 18 credits.) My time is so precious, I rejoice when I have an hourly interval free for lunch and a coffee, because it certainly doesn’t happen every day.
Because a lot of us are students or fresh to the career world, the overwhelming majority of us view this stage of our life as a “necessary but inconvenient step” toward success. School is necessary, but only because it will get us where we need to go. And that part-time job is so we can afford to live the lavish-esque lifestyle we were expected to have handed down to us from society while they were praising our skills and talents. And that internship? Networking opportunities, of course. Because we simply have to make those connections now if we want to be successful. It’s like taking off one hat to put on another.
The implications of these roles? To put it simply, we’re overcommitted, but not to things that we consider really important, because as Mark Edmundson so poignantly claims in his essay, “Dwelling in Possibilities“, we, as a generation, are deathly afraid of closure. We find happiness when we can see all our possibilities in front of us, not necessarily when we achieve them. Because we were taught to dream, to aspire, and to be the best we could be.
We were told that the world was at our disposal. So it’s not surprising to find a lack of commitment when you consider our approach to personal relationships. We’re quick to over commit to the professional world, but we like our friendships like we like our coffee. Quick, accessible when we need it, and a way to boost ourselves. And this is largely in part to the fact that we live in a fast-paced, technology driven culture that has radically changed the way we communicate.
This practice has carried over quite seamlessly into our views and practices of romantic relationships. Most interaction is done electronically – online and through each and every smart phone social media app that exists. Sociologists theorize that this is the phenomenon that has led to a prominent hookup culture. One that prizes the idea of a quick, non-committal physical encounter that doesn’t require the time or effort that a committed relationship demands. Take Tinder for example – the wildly popular dating app. Time magazine claims, “Tinder gamifies it all—dating and mating as a portable match game, with an unending succession of faces appearing on your screen, all dispatched with a swipe one way to pick the winners and a swipe the other to designate losers—and somewhere out there, your face is being swiped too.” In a way, we see dating as one big game. We’re afraid of committing to someone because that means closure, it means we have sealed off other possibilities, and we do, after all, dwell in possibilities.
While it may be technology, social trends, our upbringing, or a myriad of other reasons, it’s undeniable that the majority of all millennials are over committed, yet paradoxically remain deathly afraid of commitment. And it’s startling because I can’t explain it. I feel it, too. I am a product of this generation, and there’s very little I can do about it. And I too, am trapped between a career and a love interest that’s not a true “relationship” but also a bit more than a “one night stand”. I’m not certain how I’m supposed to feel, or how I’m supposed to act. But it’s deathly frightening. And in this I know I’m not alone.
From a millenial.