Monday, January 28, 2013


On behalf of my entire generation, I would like to apologize.

We, "Generation Y", are the kids of one of the most disastrous eras of recent times, right up there with the feminist movement in my book (put your bras back on, ladies. Yeesh.).  We were among the first to be told that we were "special" just for blinking, and our parents drove us around in cars with bumper stickers that said, "My child is a good citizen at Such-and-Such School". It's no surprise a lot of us ended up getting the notion we were God's gift to humanity without ever even lifting a finger to earn it.  We are the pioneers of the "Age of Entitlement".

There's a lot of nasty by-products that come from this upbringing: lack of responsibility, no work ethic, selfishness...And let me be clear before moving forward that I don't consider myself risen above all the ills of my generation.  Guilty as charged.  But, there's one particular character flaw customary to this generation that I would like to fight tooth and nail:

Commitment Phobia

We sure have a lot of options these days, don't we? Cellphone brands, car makes, clothing lines, restaurants.  Making a choice can be pretty darn overwhelming, and just when you finally get your hands on the latest version of some flashy technology, the new generation is already on its way to the shelves. You have to admit, it's a pretty exciting time to be alive.

The problem is, I think many of my peers have become so accustomed to the "flavor of the week" mentality, they've been led to believe it applies to all areas of life: job, social circle, church, marriage...who can think about signing away 5, 10, 20, 50 years of life away to the same place, people, responsibilities when the iPhone 6 will be out in 6 months?

And what about our personal happiness and satisfaction?  If our cable companies are overcharging us and customer service is rude, we switch our subscription to its competitor.  If our wardrobes are getting boring and outdated, we go buy a new set of clothes.

So, naturally, it stands to reason that if our jobs are getting to be a real drag after 8 months, we start searching for a new one.  If we promised to hang out with some old friends to catch up, but something better surfaces, we break plans and ditch 'em.  Don't even get us started on committing to marriage. Why bother when the generation before us has taught us we'll cut and run at the first sign of things getting really bad?

The further this generation progresses, the harder it is to remember that life wasn't always this way.  Our grandparents endured decades in the same run-of-the-mill job and remained in problem-ridden marriages to their deaths.  True, there were much fewer options for people then. Women couldn't easily obtain financial independence, and job opportunities weren't a dime a dozen like they are today.  But, the children of the "Silent Generation"  didn't hear too much about being *special* while growing up.  If they made mistakes, they atoned for them. If life wasn't going their way, they sucked it up.  And I think that counts for something.

It may be too late for us "Millenials" to overcome our fear of battening down the hatches, though it is one of my crusading points when it comes to helping keep friends accountable. But, there may be hope for the generation coming up behind us, and teachers play a big part.  It's tough to coach an 11-year-old on the virtue of honoring commitments given a 9 month period and their stage in life.  However, it seems to me there are countless other character qualities I can help cultivate in them that play into being able to commit in life:  selflessness, integrity, perseverance, gratitude, motivation, and more.  If I threaten a consequence, I follow through even when they turn on the water works; if an assignment is three weeks past due and worth 0% credit, they're still going to finish the assignment and hand it in; if they're fearful of something, I make them at least give it a try instead of folding.

 I imagine that tough situations such as these were turning points for commitment-phobes of my generation, but they took the path of least resistance and, now that they've arrived at adulthood, they know no other route. As I heard in a news segment called "The Myth of Praise" today, there is a big difference between loving children and trying to protect them from bad feelings. I'm sort of grateful for many of my past hardships today, and my hope is that, with a little guidance from me along the way, my students can one day look back and say that, too.

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