Why Can't I?
The baby boomers are those born between 1946 -1964. The following generation, “Generation X,” was born between 1965 – 1984. There are discrepancies where this generation ends and the next one begins. Some say “Gen X” ends at 1982. I am 34 years old. I’m going to believe this makes me a part of Gen X.
Like most Gen X-ers, I tend to look down on the generation after mine. “Generation Y,” or the “Millennials” as they are also called, were born roughly between 1982 – early 2000s. I try not to assume how a person is based on their looks. But when age comes up, I assume away.
My assumptions on Millennials are that they ask too much. They think they are deserving of “this or that,” without regard for the efforts it takes to achieve “this or that.”
Just a bunch of entitled, spoiled and really whiny generation, I think. Don’t they know they have to earn everything by working hard? That nothing in life is free? They don’t know how good they have it!
My biggest headache, I recall, was a conversation I had with my niece. She doesn’t believe in labels – such a millennial thing to think.
“What do you mean, you don’t believe in labels?” I asked her.
“If I fall in love with someone just because they happen to be another girl or boy, I don’t want to be labeled as a lesbian. I could be, but I’m not. I’m not bi, either. And who cares if they weren’t the same sex as me? We shouldn’t put a label on who we love, anyway.”
The first thing I thought was my sister – her mother - was going to kill her.
The second thing I thought was just how wrong she was. Labels give us boundaries. Labels help us know where we stand. If we don’t have a label, then who are we?
If this election has taught me anything, it’s this: maybe the next generation is onto something. After all, women couldn’t vote, join the army, or work until a younger generation petitioned, marched, fought and won. I bet that their mothers and their grandmothers looked down at them, and scoffed, and called them spoiled and entitled.
According to Merriam-Webster, entitlement is defined as “the fact of having a right to something; a belief that one is inherently deserving of privilege or special treatment.”
When I think of a millennial, I think of the second definition. Why don’t these 20 somethings understand that you have to work at things, and not get them just because they feel they deserve it?
That question is typically asked by someone who is older. “They don’t know how good they have it. Why can’t you accept your place is in the kitchen? Why do you need to vote anyway?” Sound familiar?
These arguments have been back and forth, and someone, somewhere asked out loud, WHY? WHY CAN’T I?
It never occurred to me until recently that it applied to all these things we’re still fighting for today. As a woman, why can’t I get paid the same as a man, for doing the same work? As a mom, why can’t I do both: work or stay home? Why can’t I be happy with one and not the other? As an immigrant, why can’t I have the same opportunities that my native born peers have, if I work for it? As a Christian, why can’t I just let love win for once and spread His message of hope and grace?
Why can’t my homosexual neighbors have the same rights as my family? They didn’t choose who they fell in love with.
Why can’t we let police officers be police officers without assuming racism is at play? And why can’t we let African-American boys and men just be regular boys and men without assuming the worst?
Someone asked these questions generations ago. Someone, somewhere threw a pebble across a societal lake, which caused a ripple: an effect. Society wanted to know why we can’t accept the way things are now. Why can’t we just leave it alone? Why do we have to feel entitled to more?
Because, quite frankly, those reasons are not good enough. Those reasons keep us from moving forward. If we are to progress as a whole, if we are to pretend equality actually exists in this country, we have to keep asking, why can’t I? We have to stop believing these causes and these marches are those of an entitled generation. They’re asking for these things, these rights, because it’s common sense. Because it’s the right thing to do.
They are basic human rights. We grew up believing everyone had an equal access to them because we got what we wanted. We became complacent about our roles in society. As a woman, I can vote, I can work. Why do I have to ask for more? Better yet, what does my label as a woman, as an immigrant, as a decent human being, have to do with anything I ask for?
I will continue to work hard for the things that I want. I will also show my son and daughter that in the end, labeling hurts us. Labels give us boundaries. They keep us from breaking free and growing. Labels don’t define all of us. Labels don’t define our passions. Placing/Putting us in categories never account for the journeys we take, the scars we have, and the people we leave behind.
I am a Christian woman.
I am a Filipino American who immigrated here as a child.
I am married to a first generation Mexican-American man.
I am a mother.
I am a Preeclampsia Survivor and advocate.
I am a writer.
I am a voice.
I am a ripple.
These labels are me but they don’t define all of me. And I am tired of people putting me in these neat little boxes and telling me to accept the way things are. I’m tired of listening.
So to the Millennials, keep asking. Keep stirring. Keep throwing pebbles across the proverbial lake. Some of us, in the “older generation” are finally listening.