When I first started this blog I was 28 and returning to college for the first time in over 5 years. Most of my time back in the classroom has found me surrounded by people 10+ years younger than myself. My best friend at school is 12 years younger than me. At first I had a lot to say about the way these millennials did things. If you go far enough back you will find multiple disparaging posts about these annoying millennials and how the way they do things is wrong and the way I do things is right.
I was an ass. I was still operating from a place of dichotomous thinking, there was little to no room for gray in my life back then. This is an area where I personally feel I have experienced much growth in the last 4 years. Now instead of leading from a place of judgement I generally lead from a place of celebrating differences.
This leads into the purpose of this post. This week brought with it some negative energy. The negative energy was not a huge shocker, that is just where our nation has been this year unfortunately. It feels like every week I am trying to balance negative energy and protect myself from allowing to get beneath the surface. This week was different though. It was not negative energy being spewed at me from the news, or social media, or even people in my cohort.. It came up at internship. At the end of supervision we were addressed as a group and comments were made about “work ethic” and “expectations”.. The word “entitlement” came up. It was unexpected and left a lot of people on edge.
Shortly after supervision I met with my supervisor for my end of semester review. I got high marks across the board and plenty of complimentary feedback. My supervisor ended the review by making it clear I was doing an excellent job and supervision was not about me. I was grateful for the good review, obviously that is important, but it did not change the way I felt about what took place in supervision.
Everyone I work with on the clinical team is doing an excellent job in my eyes. We all give 100%, we each have our own unique talents we bring to the team, we are all mindful of self-care and model for our clients everything we are talking about with them when in session. I have worked with jaded cynical people in the past, I have compassion for them, burn out is a very real thing, but this is a team of highly committed clinical workers who care about our population.”Entitled” is not a word that would cross my mind when describing the group of women I am privileged enough to learn from and with. It was all a bit puzzling and left quite a few of us very uncomfortable. None of us could figure out what triggered this. It was not explained. Had we done something wrong? I definitely did not see it.
At the end of my review my supervisor shared with me that after our site visit a few weeks back our seminar instructor shared with her that some of the students from the younger generation were “entitled”. They did not feel they needed to work long hours or weekends, this kind of thing. I started to wonder if this message that was relayed was even for us. None of us have given any trouble about the hours expected of us, we all work weekends without complaint.
This was all disappointing to me on many levels. I was disappointed that someone from the school was engaging in what felt like gossip when it was relayed back to me. I was disappointed that my supervisor took this information and made negative generalizations about an entire generation of people as well as casting negative judgments about the younger generations work ethic just because it might look different. I was disappointed that a moment of negative talk between two professionals seeped into supervision and had a negative impact on the clinical team. This could have stopped at any point but it didn’t. That is how energy works, it just keeps growing until someone breaks the cycle, until sees it for what it is and consciously makes the decision not to engage, not to let it in.
I am not going to lie to you it took me a day or two to get to the point where I felt I could break the cycle.
I have had the opportunity to process this with a few people, hubs was ultimately what helped me balanced it. I know people like to shit on millennials, especially the prior generations. They are called vapid, narcissistic, selfish, out of touch with reality, lazy, entitled.. so on and so on..
I remember when I was child my dad’s dad would tell me stories about how he walked a mile in the snow to get to school when he was a child in Wisconsin. My mom’s dad told us about how during the depression he caught squirrels and bull frogs on the farm in Missouri and that was dinner most nights.
The point they were always trying to make: you have it so easy. Not just me either. Your parents had it so easy, you have it so easy, and your kids will have it so easy too. They griped about the decay in moral fiber, groaned about how baby boomers have no work ethic because my parents would take on vacations – how dare they take time off work.
This is how it goes. The former generation is always looking down their nose at the upcoming generation saying “you are doing it wrong”. You see this cross-culturally as well, this is not something we have trade marked in America. It is part of the human condition to think your generational cohort is/was the best. I can’t disagree either, mine is totally the best we have The Labyrinth and The Goonies.
What one person may be looking at and calling “entitled” another person may be calling self-care or work/life balance.
This is progress, this is what it looks like. It is a shift in thinking, it is a change in work ethic, technology, attitude, ideas.. Change is constant no reason to be afraid of it. No reason to call names. There is room for everyone.
Even though it was made clear this message was not meant for me it still made me very uncomfortable because I just do not agree with it. Over time of getting to know all these beautiful people who are 10+ years younger than me I have personally learned that yes, they do things differently (sometimes I feel super old working with them because they know things I don’t know and do things I don’t do), and that is not bad or wrong or any other negative judgment one may want to attach to them. I am just as open to learn from them as I am to learn from my mentors who are 10+ years older than me. Both generations have a lot to offer in terms of their approaches to the work and their life perspectives.
I do believe in work/life balance. That does not make me entitled. I will practice self-care and I will also make my clients my top priority when I am at work. I will have boundaries and I will say no in my personal life and my professional life and that does not make me selfish. My approach to social work practice will be my own and it will not be any more or less valuable than any other’s, it will be mine though. Our differences are what make this a great profession, I thought that was a given, for some maybe it isn’t. I do not hold any of this against them, I just see it differently.