Some months ago, I signed on to participate in a national campaign called Bridging the Gap. Midlife bloggers would be paired with a Millennial partner, and each would introduce the other to her audience. We were encouraged to explore our similarities and differences and write of our getting to know one another.
The experience has been an interesting one for me—as my reader’s know, I am ever the explorer, curious about people, and what makes them tick. So I looked forward to getting to know my partner, Kait Elizabeth and her blog www.baskinginburgandy.com I will be sharing my post about Kait Elizabeth on October 17, the kick off of the Bridging the Gap Campaign.
I had a second, unexpected encounter as a part of the campaign: I met a young man named Trevor Gormley, who runs a company called The Millennial View.
I talked to Trevor because he was interested in hosting an event in honor of the Bridging the Gap—we bloggers call them “meet ups”. Only, Trevor isn’t a blogger, and had a whole different concept in mind, which had me intrigued. Our conversation started me thinking about how things change, yet stay the same.
As a young girl, I remember sitting with my “elders” bored to the rafters and beyond, listening to their stories about the Great Depression. They talked about “making do (with what you’ve got)” and said things like “waste not want not” and about starving Armenians—when we didn’t eat all the food on our plates. They talked about my generation; how we didn’t have the strength, character, ingenuity or drive to make our way in the world.
They walked two miles to school, up hill in a driving blizzard, then home again, up hill in a driving blizzard. They worked for hours before starting their homework still managing to get strait A’s. They knew the meaning of hard work and appreciated the things that hard work brought. Clearly, a generation coddled as much as mine had been would never survive, let alone achieve success.
My “elders” talked about my generation’s lack of respect for their wisdom and experience. To be truthful, I did feel their experience was irrelevant much the way young people do today. It’s easy to understand the view: things have changed. Technology, education, family composition, and norms have changed and have created a new world for our children and our children’s children.
Relationships, love, grief, family life, financial problems, resolving conflict, and healing broken hearts —the real meat of life—stays ever the same. Navigating life’s deepest issues is where wisdom, experience, and a longer term perspective is of value. When we are young, knee deep in finding our way, the last thing wanted is advice—this I know, first hand. My life could have been so much easier had I slowed down and sought the council of someone wiser and more experienced.
Ironically, I hear my peers discussing the issues they encounter with their Millennial employees, such as their not seeing the need to come to work on time, not heeding deadlines, not showing initiative, displaying poor social skills and lets not get into the topic of excellence…these are the kids who’s papers were not graded, and who got awards for showing up, not for being the best, so they wouldn’t feel bad if they didn’t win. These are the kids who were allowed to use calculators, and computers instead of actually “learning” because in life, they can just Google what they want to know.
Trevor reminded me of myself in my twenties, full of ideas, and a desire to make substantive change in how the world perceived young people. My battle also included being a woman, as I was among the first wave entering the work place as a “professional” not as someone’s secretary. To say women were not welcome would be an understatement.
Talking with Trevor shook loose a whole bunch of memories…A book I read in college called Passages: Predicable Crises of Adult Life, by Gail Sheehy, which illuminates a developmental roadmap for adult life, and how each phase shifts our perspectives and shapes our lives through adulthood and of a documentary by Morris Massey called What you Are is Where You Were When, which laid out a succinct framework for working with people of various generations, and how to identify and work with their differing views of life and our world. Morris Massey discusses how what happens during the formative years of a given generation shapes their common beliefs about life. It defines norms and values that carry through the their lives—often expressed as “that’s the way it is”. Only, each generation develops it’s own unique version of “that’s the way it is” their very own set of norms and values. Accoding to Massey, when you understand the values you are working with, you can establish strategies to work together more effectively, and this is exactly what Trevor and his team are trying to do.
So there we were, Trevor and me, discussing Bridging the Gap, as two observers looking at an ages old chasm between the young and old, from two very different perspectives, both wanting the same thing: to be heard, to be understood, and to be able to share our unique gifts to the world.
Trevor’s generation feels misunderstood and thwarted, by seemingly archaic conventions and a system that may no longer be relevant. While I, a middle aged woman, full of experience and expertise watch as my words fall softly on deaf ears.
From my perspective, it ageism, and the “age gap” is an old story—one yet to be resolved—a chasm between old and young—one I am not sure will ever change. For Trevor, the story is new, something to be challenged; a mission. Trevor has found a niche, helping corporations understand and work more effectively with his generation, and has opened the door to a bigger dialog between the generations. Though skeptical, I am excited to see where the discussion leads.
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