When I was growing up (picture the place where Generation X meets Y), “unrealistic expectations” did not exist. There were no limits. Nothing was unattainable. The only boundaries were those enforced by the furthest reaches of my imagination. The only career advice I ever received was “follow your heart,” “follow your dreams,” “you can be anything you want to be.” And I believed it.
Nothing was too ambitious (or not ambitious enough). I felt not one ounce of pressure: to become a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, an engineer. Only to figure out what and who I wanted to be, and to pursue that with everything I had.
There was no talk of money. There was no talk of responsibility. There was only talk of passion, and pleasure, and happiness.
And now look at me. What a mess!
I’m kidding. But that’s what the media would have you believe (see Word-Count-Defying End Note (1), responding to Huffington Post article suggesting that all Gen Y’ers are unrealistic, whiny babies, here).
Here’s what I’d like to know? What’s the message our parents should have given us? And that we, in turn, should pass along to our children? Don’t dare to dream? Don’t do what you love? Get your head out of the clouds and major in accounting already?
I don’t think so.
I never doubted my parents loved and wanted what was best for me. If you can’t follow your heart and dreams when you are a kid, when can you? We are all destined for decades of boredom and dreariness. Does knowing what is coming from earlier on make it any more sufferable? Is the lawyer who always knew he would grow up to be a lawyer any less miserable than the one who once thought he would grow up to be a professional puppy rescuer instead? I say nay!
Chase the rainbow for as long as you can, my fellow Gen X/Yers. There is nothing else.