“Oh, you’re a millennial.” He said it like a curse word, his voice dripping with sarcasm and contempt.
I nodded. “Born in 1989. Full blown, through and through.”
I thought about adding, “I’m sorry … ” apologizing on behalf of a generation born from 1981 to 1996, who grew up with MTV and Nickelodeon, came of age during the Clinton impeachment and distinctly remember where they were on Sept. 11.
I almost joked, “We’re what’s wrong with the world, aren’t we?” as I sat next to the baby boomer who resented my entire generation, simply because we chose skinny jeans and dared to question why college is so expensive, crushing us under student debt that will follow us well into middle age.
I nearly threw my generation under the bus, all so this man would feel better about his dislike of the kids who grew up receiving participation trophies.
But I didn’t. Because why should I?
No generation is perfect, each facing unique challenges, each having distinct personality and peculiarities that others mock and question. But, millennials seem to carry the ire of everyone.
I can see why, in some ways.
We millennials worship at the altar of wokeness, give praise at Sunday brunch, rejoicing in bottomless mimosas and a well-made frittata with turkey bacon or vegan tofu. We claim knowledge about all things but won’t definitively declare anything. We are in constant fear of being outed as a fraud that embodies the mantra we hold dear: Fake it till you make it.
We’re confident, but most of us feel like imposters. It’s why we post Instagram stories declaring, “I adulted,” in search of affirmation that we’re doing the right thing. We’re arrogant on the outside but feel woefully unprepared, desperate to make an impact, but unsure where to begin.
Perhaps it’s very millennial of me to say, but we’re resented because we’re misunderstood.
What’s seen as “woke” is actually our desire to not offend. What’s seen as “arrogance” is an overcompensation for feeling like we’re unqualified. What’s seen as “privilege” is our projection of desperately needing a place to fit in.
And so as we’re mocked, written off and talked down to, we puff up our chests, hold our heads high and talk a little louder about “what’s wrong with this world,” and “why we can fix it,” not necessarily because we know, but because we want you to think we do.
The church can serve this millennial generation — enter into the mess that is the millennial experience — not by pandering or dumbing things down, not by acquiescing or sweeping things to the side, but by being a home — a haven — for those who seek to find a place to belong.
The church can be the landing pad for a confused, scared, searching millennial, a place to turn to when the chaos and noise of young adulthood, new marriage, young parenthood or perpetual singlehood rages on. The church can be home for a generation woke, but homeless.
A home is sacred. Home is the place where we know we matter, where we’re seen as valuable, taken care of and accepted.
Home is where we find our family, whom we put up with on even the worst days and with whom we celebrate on the best. Home is where we hear the truth — honestly told, passionately shared and in an environment where we’re open to accept it.
And who more needs a home than millennials desperate to find a place to belong, where they can be heard, be given advice, find solace and know they matter?
We millennials are open-minded, a little scared and woke: So let’s hear from, be comforted by and truly be awakened by the church.
Copyright ©2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.