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Emily Popek

October 12, 2013

Some advice for the next generation

The blog “wait but why” had a great post last month titled “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy.” In it, the author explained how Gen Y young people, or Millenials, are experiencing a serious disconnect between their expectations and reality. 

OK, we knew this, right? But as a semi-Gen-Y-er (I was born at the very tail end of Gen X), I found the whole thing interesting. And it got me thinking that I, for one, want to help my daughter avoid some of the problems my cohorts and I have faced. Here’s my mini-manifesto for the next generation of young people, whatever they will be called: 

1. Be a joiner. 

My generation grew up with a lot of emphasis on the individual, producing grown-ups who are not big on joining organizations. 

This is nothing new; author Robert Putnam famously detailed the collapse of what he called “social capital” in America since the 1950s in his 2000 book “Bowling Alone.” But my generation has done little, if anything, to stem this tide of non-joining. 

This means two things. One, we’re missing out on some really fun, fulfilling and important stuff. Two, if someone doesn’t start joining these groups soon, they’re not going to be around anymore. 

So let’s teach our kids that it’s OK to be a joiner. Let’s tell them that becoming part of a group doesn’t diminish our own individuality, but enhances it. Belonging to something pushes us out of our individual bubbles and into communities. And that can only be a good thing. 

2. You can be anything you want to be, but you might not. 

As kids, my schoolmates and I heard “You can be anything you want to be” all the time, often in defiance of what seemed to us as obvious truths. Little girl, do you want to be a professional baseball player? Well, if you try hard enough, you can. 

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Emily Popek
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