• Carolyn (left) and her Baby Boomer neighbour, Kent (right). She teaches him to use his mobile phone and he teaches Carolyn life skills. (Supplied by author)
When it comes to Baby Boomers and Millennials, there seems to be a constant back and forth tug-a-war game that no one ever wins. As Carolyn Cage writes, if we took the time to better understand one another, perhaps we could close the generational divide and all get along?
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Comment/letter by Carolyn Cage

13 Jul 2017 - 11:09 AM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2017 - 1:04 PM

Dear Baby Boomers, 

I am writing this open letter for the hope of cross-generational harmony but also, because - as a Millennial - I am over the tug-of-war 'blame game' we both seem to constantly play.

If I had a dollar for each time we were accused of being narcissistic, hypersensitive or self-entitled, I would have enough money for a house deposit in today’s economy. We constantly hear “I don’t understand young people these days”, yet often criticised when we speak.  

In the past, generations were able to pass down advice because society was comparable. Between our generations, we couldn’t be more disparate. How we choose to write our history might be different, but with all that we have inherited from you, trust us in taking the wheel. 

I am a millennial, who moved out of home once finishing school and went straight into the workplace before moving to a new city. I saved enough money to travel and supported myself through university with a part-time job and a business I started on the side. I had little help from my parents, yet the media states we lack basic life and workplace skills.  

Between our generations, we couldn’t be more disparate. How we choose to write our history might be different, but with all that we have inherited from you, trust us in taking the wheel. 

The battle between generations is becoming bromidic and rather than driving a bigger wedge between us, it would be more constructive and beneficial for both parties if there were mutual understanding and appreciation, rather than the continuation of politically pitting against one another.  

For the youth of today, while grappling with the concept of self-identity, we are having to acquire at least one university degree to secure a decent job and exist where there is an absence of strong leadership. Not only do we struggle with housing affordability, but the price for tertiary education is grossly excessive and my HECS debt is something I can’t imagine paying off any time soon. 

Even with a university education and devoting much of my time to working for free and volunteering, I often find myself staring at job applications that require 1-3 years’ worth of professional experience, experience I have no idea how I will obtain without securing a job in the first place. 

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In 1975, the median house price in Sydney was $33,960 and in 2017, it is now well over $1million with other capital cities following in a similar vein. It used to be realistic to provide for a family, enjoy a property and car and worry about paying for it later. For us, it is the reverse and most of us won’t dip into the housing market in the near future. Even the rent I pay seems to be disproportionate to the money I make. 

For the youth of today, while grappling with the concept of self-identity, we are having to acquire at least one university degree to secure a decent job and exist where there is an absence of strong leadership.

There are Baby Boomers who understand our struggles and it’s unfortunate that the loudest voices are the ones that push their way through the media. They seem to generate the fustian that we are entitled as we take a gap year or to travel and explore opportunities to better ourselves. We shouldn’t be resented for the privilege other generations might not have had.  

We are the first digital natives, born in a world where filters blur the lines of reality. It is tragic and we haven’t figured it out yet, but give us a chance. We don’t have a generation that taught us how to deal with fake news, trolls and echo chambers. We will make mistakes, and the next generation will learn from them. 

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With each generation, there appears to be a sense of doubt around the younger generation lacking responsibility. Millennials are not only advocating and protesting for today’s society, but what previous generations failed to achieve such as climate change, a disaster created before us by burning cheap fossil fuels. We are also paying the economic price of previous generations, with the greed of giant corporations taking over the world.  

There are Baby Boomers who understand our struggles and it’s unfortunate that the loudest voices are the ones that push their way through the media. 

With suicide rates the highest they have been in ten years, we are being condemned for voicing our feelings and labelled with the epithet “snowflake”. We were taught to express rather than repress emotion, and not tolerate emotional or physical abuse and seeking help when required should not be translating to hypersensitivity.  

Many of us are willing to discuss controversial topics, involve ourselves in educational debates and come up with innovative ideas. We challenge the narrative so our children will be able to see an accurate representation of our landscape; with female-identifying superheroes, people of colour represented in film and to know that life exists beyond the mainstream rhetoric. 

There are both ends of the spectrum with every generation, like men who didn’t know how to cook or clean because their mothers and wives did it for them, and the ones that were perfectly capable. We are taking longer, but even if it takes time, have faith. Trust that with all you taught us – our parents, mentors and teachers – we will get there.  

Sincerely, 

Carolyn Cage, a member of the Millennial generation. 

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