Guest Blog: The Relunctant Millennial by Rachel Valebny
This month I'm featuring Rachel Valebny, an American born Europhile and exciting new writer. Rachel writes about fashion and feminism and how the two interlink in our modern urban lives. In her blog for Fraiche Ink she looks at the fear of missing out and how it is affecting the Millennial and Instagram generation.
The Reluctant Millennial
Millennials are not the first generation to feel crippling FOMO (fear of missing out) but our social media habits have ensured our entire generation is #blessed with low-level anxiety. Scrolling along through your feed with a messy bun of greasy hair, wearing questionably clean sweat pants, it can seem like literally everyone except you is enjoying a fabulous, blissful existence of endless fashion acquisitions, nearly nude yoga poses, and a life of constant travel.
These types of perfectly retouched posts on social media are so pervasive that we have created and continue to reinforce our own trope: the experience-based millennial lifestyle.
It is a trope that leaves us open to endless opinion pieces about how we’ll never save enough for retirement if we keep eating avocado toast and taking budget flights around Europe. About how we’re too demanding of employers and should sacrifice our entire lives to the pursuit of someone else’s profit. About how we’re addicted to the social currency of likes, instead of being addicted to hard currency as we should be.
And it’s a trope that can leave those of us who are not devoted to the millennial lifestyle feeling that familiar, adolescent cousin of FOMO… deeply uncool.
I have lived outside my home country for nine years and the number of countries I’ve visited is over twenty. By my generation’s standards, I'm living the dream! I play fast and loose with antique concepts like a permanent address or a savings account. I’ve jumped on trains with my fingers crossed hoping I’ve understood the non-English signs well enough to be on the right one. How I perceive the world has been changed and expanded in all the ways you’ll find described in cursive fonts laid over photos of sunsets.
I am grateful for the privileges that made this possible, but when it comes to living this dream I feel I’m missing something. Like I don’t have that sparkle in the eye of someone unburdened by a mortgage and a car (which I am). What I do feel like is a deeply uncool fusspot incapable of having a photogenic, sparkly life.
My own perfectionist instincts and my tendency towards anxiety are at odds with my generations’ raison d’être of having unique experiences and sharing them liberally on social media.
Living the traveller or expat lifestyle requires a strong belief in Everything Will Work Out Just Fine. This is important for those big moments when you are hopelessly lost with a dead phone and no cash for a taxi (a real thing that happened to me in Prague, maybe even more than once). But that belief is more important for smaller moments like figuring out a new healthcare structure, filling out an 85-page visa application, or learning a new addressing system.
Although those big moments do give you the best stories later on and are arguably the best part of this rather unsettled life. Yes even I, with my need for plans a, b, c…, will argue that my life was changed for the better that day I took a tram through a sketchy tunnel, got lost in the ‘bad’ neighbourhood, and wound up at the most debaucherously awesome bar in Prague.
Living in Prague was difficult linguistically, but sometimes I feel just as much an outsider in England as I discover all the small differences in culture. Moving to Manchester literal weeks before the Brexit referendum involved a deep breath and a whispered everything will work out fine, for example.
This life that so many love to deride to get their very own likes and clicks, is not something you can fake for the photos.
It takes hard work but even if everything they say is true, if I am wasting money having brunch, if I should be saving for retirement rather than seeing Morocco, New Zealand, Estonia… It is worth it. The social media FOMO is worth is. The anxiety is worth it.
Even if I need to earn an income into my seventies I will be doing so on a foundation of amazingly strange and varied experiences, but Everything Will Work Out Fine. And this foundation will allow me to pursue what I love well beyond any sort of age standard.
(Anyway, their hand-wringing over millennials’ retirement funds would be better done in service of solutions to our ageing societies and social support systems.)
Millennials might appear nonsensical in our approach to traditional careers and in living our lives online, but with such an uncertain future why begrudge us this in-the-moment life? I may find it hard to be present and not worry about the future but the longer I live my tropey life the stronger my conviction that I am living well.
This guest blog post was written by writer Rachel B Velebny, if you enjoyed the post and what to read more from Rachel hop on over to her website