Friday, January 10, 2014

7 Signs You're a (Millennial) Success

Today, hour 2 of On Point with Tom Ashbrook was a panel on Millennials and their hopes and dreams for the future. The point was made, as it always is, that this up-and-coming generation has had to re-define success.  

I sat there, feeling sick and miserable, so sick that I was home from work and listening to npr in the middle of the day and thought to myself, "Hey! I'm kind of a success!" By my own definition, anyway, I'm very nearly successful. I'm on the old end of the millennial group and my definition probably reflects that.  But here goes.  
You might be a (milliennial) success if ... 

**You can go to the doctor and take time off of work when you're sick.
This one's near and dear to my heart this week. Walter has been sick since the weather turned cold.  Sally just started getting sick at 2 this morning. I'm on my third week of feeling awful and finally starting to (really) feel better because this week I took off work, stayed home and slept. That means I was able to take care of myself so now I can better take care of Walter and Sally. The kids have been in to see their doctor several times over the last three weeks and I've been able to take them in as soon as they needed to go. I mean, ideally, we'd all be healthy.  But the fact that we can afford the time, doctor's visits and medicine we need to take care of ourselves when we're sick is huge.  

**You live close enough to family and friends to see them regularly and help each other as needed.
I used to think success was about independence and limitless options and opportunities. Now I think success hinges on interdependence and limiting ourselves to living in places where we know we'll have a good support network. We live about two hours away from my parents, and I don't think we'd want to live any farther than that from close family (and/or friends who have become like family.)

**You have vacation time.
Having enough paid time off to not only take time off for illness or family illness but also to rest and have fun when you're feeling well is pretty much my generation's definition of luxury, I think.  Salaries are low these days.  But if you have enough money to cover your basic needs AND some free time and a flexible work schedule then you are living the good, good life. 

**You are able to stay on top of basic life stuff without falling into despair. 
This is one that Sean and I struggle with.  It's currently about 11 at night and Sean's outside running the snow blower. This is not a task that brings him joy.  Next week I'm going to have to wade through a backlog of snail mail to make sure we didn't miss anything important while we let it sit this week.  Dealing with paper is a battle as constant and wearisome as laundry.  But, welcome to adulthood, right?  This is how it is and how it always has been. Sean and I fall behind on these things, in part, because we try not to do any of them when we could be spending time with Sally and Walter.  Occasionally we despair a little bit.  I'll ask Sean how he feels about it when he comes in from the snowblowing. (Update: Sean reports that snowblowing is his only reliable source of exercise endorphins, and thus key to fighting laundry and paperwork-related despair. Noted.)  

**You are resilient enough to handle a few unexpected crises.
One of the frightening things about the economy right now is that just about everyone I know (I don't know many super rich people) is one or two crises away from a catastrophe. It would be terrifyingly easy to lose everything. Since becoming homeowners and parents, Sean and I have found out that unexpected expenses (refrigerator dies; gallbladder comes out; flying squirrels need to be evacuated from the attic, etc.) happen.  We've been OK so far, but this is a tough one, and an area that I hope will get better.

**You give generously and habitually.
I had to come back and add this one after posting, when I had another baby-sponsored blogging opportunity and some time to think about it. I used to think one of my goals in life was to make enough money to be really generous.  I've learned (from studies Biblical and otherwise) that generosity isn't about what you have; it has much more to do with the practice of giving regularly until it becomes a habit, just part of life and who you are. You don't have to be rich to be generous. And that's a good thing, because I'll probably never be rich, but I can realistically aspire to living generously. 

**Your grandparents live long enough to see you into adulthood. 
This isn't a fair one to include, right, because you don't have control over it.  But part of defining success as a millennial is realizing you don't really have control over any of these things. The idea that our success is in any way self-made is just self-delusion. Sure, ambition and hard work are important. But the accident of where and what color and what gender and what socioeconomic class you were born into carries an undeniable weight in the equation. And no success story, of any generation, ever happened in a vacuum. So, maybe this is the generation that will finally stop trying to be self-made men and women for just for themselves and start figuring out ways that we can all be successful together.

Optimism, I learned today, is a marker of the millennial generation. 

Anyway, you can't control whether or not your grandparents live to see you into adulthood.  But I've seen couple in their 30's get married with all four sets of grandparents present and I tell you, those people are rich. They are enviable. And they are what I hope my kids will be: making that perilous transition into adulthood grounded in love that spans generations.

It's not a success you can strive for, but it's something you can hope for.  That's what it's all about.  


Ann said...

I think it's an excellent list. A different one than I would have come up with at your age, but I didn't have kids. The point about staying on top of basics is so important, it's the aspect of life that drives the poor to the edge of despair. My point would be that one of those basics is being able to pay your bills. Don't leave that out. Good thinking, Annie.

Heidi said...

I think making a list defining your own success is something a successful millennial would definitely do :)