Originally published on True Africa on January 26, 2016.
Disclaimer: This article is in no way representative of the entire millennial generation. It is however representative of the majority of us. Come on, admit it, you see some of yourself in this 🙂
Kelechi, Odi, Martin and Carmel are friends. All within the ages of 23 to 35 years old. They live in the nation’s capital, Abuja and hang out two nights a week, sometimes more. Each of them has had several jobs since university; Kelechi is on her sixth, counting internships; Odi has never had one, flitting from one business idea to the next, under the guise of entrepreneurship; Martin and Carmel are on their third and fourth respectively. They live in the same building, rent apartments, except Odi, who lives at home with his mother. They are very active on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, even Linkedin… name it, you’ll find them there. Their conversations! You should listen once. They are sarcastic, cynical and downright self-deprecating. None of them are married; none have kids. They make sure to travel abroad at least once a year. They are not all wealthy, but somehow they get by.
This generation loves the idea of love, loves sex, and hates to be out of touch. We are obsessed with proving ourselves, are not patient enough to stay in one job or company long enough to slowly ascend the career ladder, and want to have it all now. We are all too aware of our self-fixed self worth. Are we on the right path though? Are we fucking up? Are we ever going to grow up and settle down like our parents did?
What is life without a selfie stick?
Let’s look at celebrities and media influences, who are a representative sample of the way most of us dress, think, and aspire to live. You can’t say the word celebrity, without thinking Kardashians. And it’s interesting to see how Kim, who’s 35 has the same daily goals as Kylie, who’s just 18. There’s no much difference between their lifestyle and choices, even though Kim is twice Kylie’s age. Their day consists of choosing what to wear, figuring out how to look perf in photos: ‘is the pout just right?’; ‘does my butt look twice it’s normal size?’; ‘where do I hang out today?’.
They dash from makeup chair to car to gym to photoshoots, documenting every second with a selfie or a Snap or checking in on Foursquare. Nothing is more important to Kim and Kylie than solidifying their sex symbol status. Yes, Kim has a family, but do you notice how they are never really the centre of what she does? They’re one more fashion accessory in the Kim Life.
It’s not just the celebrities who live like this. Most millennials cannot go through 24 hours without ‘connecting’ with the world. And most of us are under the delusion that we are more important and valuable to society because of this. Can’t break the Twitter fans’ hearts now, can we? Every beautiful experience of life has to be shared online. If it’s not, it’s like it never happened. If you go to a party and don’t tweet about how lit your night was, was it really that lit? Questions I ponder. Once, a friend was moving into a new house, and the first thing she did was check out the bathroom and lighting. ‘Selfie HQ’, she called it. People walk around with phones with selfie light cases on them. People replace their selfie sticks immediately if it gets broken. What is life without a selfie stick?
Then there’s the Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus clan, who are adults now and demand to be treated as such. Well, except when they’re on their bad behavior, then they concede that they’re young so their actions are glossed over. It leads us to an accepted fact that the louder you act, the more attention you get; and the more attention you get, the more money you’re likely to make. There’s all this reward for bad behaviour but there seems to be none for staying in your lane and minding your business. There seems to be no reward for growing up, and acting like a responsible adult.
Where do we as Africans fit in this tidal wave of the Peter-Pan syndrome?
Truth is growing up is no fun. The stage in between letting go of who you used to be, and becoming a new person is difficult, and the advantages take forever to be seen. Growing up entails being comfortable with being alone, learning to trust your own soul, and thinking deep. Things that millennials don’t like to do, regardless of how woke we claim to be. The solitary time necessary to find one’s true self is something we don’t have because FOMO (fear of missing out). But true growth relentlessly requires isolation and introspection. We can’t spend everyday thinking about getting high, fucked or famous.
We are the first generation to grow up with the internet and the last to remember what the world was like before it. We are used to having so much while doing so little. We are the most entitled generation that has ever lived. Who do you think is to blame? Is this just evolution? And where do we as Africans fit in this tidal wave of the Peter-Pan syndrome? Does it matter that we are losing our culture and becoming totally white in our black skins?
An African City – the epitome of the millennial cliche?
I know life is an individual game, and everyone gets to choose their path. People are free to do whatever makes them happy. I am just curious about the differences between how our parents lived and how we are living. We outwardly appear more confident, but inwardly, we are screaming in panic because the path we are on has no script. We have thrown the script our parents used, and we’re ad-libbing through life. School didn’t teach us anything useful about dealing with life’s real issues. And our decisions can’t be ranked by As or Fs, leaving many of us unable to know when we’re passing or failing. PS: An ‘A’ in social-media deception does not mean you’re passing at life.
We are ignoring the fact that our parents are growing old, as we grow older.
What happens when us kids start having kids? Will we finally throw down the Peter-Pan hat or don it while raising them? Most millennials live in delusion, selective amnesia, deliberately pushing away thoughts that are uncomfortable. We are ignoring the fact that our parents are growing old, as we grow older. They’ll need us soon, to step up and take care of affairs like they took care of us.
I asked my friend, Tolu, for her take on millennials and the Peter-Pan syndrome and her vehement reply was, ‘I have no problem with people living their life in whatever way they choose. I’m all for the part hedonistic, part “get my shit together” lifestyle. What I have a problem with is when you live in denial. When you make your parents wonder where they went wrong with you. I don’t care what your lifestyle choices are, as long as you can pay your way. Live like you like, just make sure to do so on your own dime!’
I guess the summary here, is that life is indeed for living, not living uptight. (Jay Z’s words). As long as you’re accepting a little responsibility, getting some social-media off-time for introspection, thinking of life beyond vanity, and doing right by the people in your life.
The real world is not Neverland.
Photo credit: Ugo Armani