How both old, young are responsible for society’s ills
by Christy Armstrong Banner Staff Writer
Mar 30, 2014 | 519 views | 0 0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christy Armstrong
Christy Armstrong
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Every generation has had its ups and downs. Most people have done or said regrettable things at some point.

If that is the case, then why is it always the youngest generation that gets blamed for what goes wrong in a society?

A lot of it has to do with how different generations view each other.

I am in my 20s and have been realizing lately that I am no longer part of the youngest generation. Unlike many children and teenagers today, I remember marking the beginning of “the new millennium” and people worrying about Y2K.

It continually surprises me that those younger than me do not remember events like the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as vividly as I do — if at all. It is easy for me to look at those younger than me and cringe at that fact — that is, until I remember that there are those who were born much closer to the beginning of the 20th century than I was the 21st. I am sure there are readers who will cringe at the fact that I don’t remember the 1960s or ’70s.

Back when I graduated from college, I was given a lot of unsolicited advice from older adults. Some of it was really good, but some of it was very discouraging.

The encouraging comments said that if I worked hard, good opportunities would follow. That sounded like good advice to me, so I took it to heart. I had no problem talking about my future goals when asked, and most of the responses I received were positive.

Then, a couple older adults made comments for which I was unprepared. Instead of congratulating me on the achievement of earning a four-year college degree, they chose to complain about how my generation is so “entitled” because we expect our degrees to help us land jobs. They said they worked hard and did menial jobs to work their way up through workplace ranks and start their careers.

That angered me. I had worked hard to achieve my goal. If I had been “entitled,” it was only because I expected that my hard work toward a goal would help me reach it. I never expected the job hunting process to work differently.

Other discouraging comments included suggestions that I lower my expectations for my career or even forgo a career altogether. What about getting married to a husband who could support me so I didn’t have to work?

I did not spend thousands of dollars on a college degree only to sit at home while someone else works. We were not talking about the idea of me being a stay-at-home mother who is tasked with the important job of raising children; we were talking about me simply staying at home.

I had to forgive the people who made those negative comments the way I do with those younger than me. After all, it’s a generational thing. For example, being a housewife used to be quite common.

However, there is something I wish more people — both young and old — would realize: we’re not that different.

Sure, there are things that one generation values and another doesn’t. Still, we have many of the same needs, wants and goals. We just go about getting what we want and need in different ways.

Something I learned when I was younger was that I had to do whatever it is I do to the best of my ability even if someone doubted my ability to do something well because of my age. I have always enjoyed proving people wrong.

Now that I am an adult, I see that same determination in the children and teenagers I meet while on the job as an education reporter. They are willing to work hard and show what they can do if given the chance.

I may not understand things like their love of music artists like Justin Bieber or Nicki Minaj, but I do see that some of the goals they have are some of the same ones I have now. Those older than me also seem to share the same goals.

We all want to succeed in what we enjoy doing, and we want to know that what we are doing is worthwhile. We want to feel accepted, like our views and opinions have merit. We want to know we can have an impact on something if we put in the time and effort necessary to reach an impactful goal.

It is easy to look at the differences that do exist between the generations and criticize them. What we should be doing is listening to each other and figuring out where the similarities lie.

Both the young and the old have a role in shaping the future of our community. The young may “be” the future, but the old have the wisdom and experience needed to help the future get off to a good start.

That boy next door blaring loud music could grow up to be the next great musician. That little girl doing her wobbly best to ride her bike on the Greenway could be an Olympic athlete. The girl arguing with her little brother could grow up to be a lawyer adept at arguing her case.

Are you willing to help the boy go from hearing music to playing music? Can you encourage the girl to persist until she finds her balance? Will you teach the other girl how to prove her points in a respectful way?

It is easy for an older age group to blame a younger one for a pervasive societal problem. It is also quite easy for a younger generation to blame an older one for what its members did or failed to do.

The truth is that we all have a part to play in orchestrating the future of our community.

An older generation doing something negative teaches the younger ones that it is OK to do the same. A younger generation doing something negative shows disregard for any positive things older ones may have started. But it works the other way too. Older generations can be examples for younger ones, and younger generations can work to change what needs to be changed.

It is impossible to agree on everything, but it is important to recognize that both the old and the young have something to contribute.

Do not discriminate against or belittle someone because of how many years they have lived. You never know what you might learn from them.