Dear Millennial, the Internet has turned against us. Anyone that entered the matrix somewhere between 1982 and 2000 is not being taken seriously. Experts have branded us ‘The Me Me Me generation.’ If they are to be believed—we are narcissists, entitled, fame-obsessed, lazy, shallow and fickle—a result of faulty but well-intentioned parenting techniques. Anything that we say can be used against us. So, I suggest staying mute at the moment. After-all actions speak louder than words—and so far all we have is words.
Or do we?
In times like these, we might need a little magic to raise our spirits. I invite you to turn to Harry Potter instead—the only millennial magician in the world that can help us make sense of what the world is throwing at us. I see Potter as a much-needed Patronus Charm projected out of our most positive feelings. Like a spirit guardian—trust him to lead the way.
This charm may be difficult to conjure at first, but if you get it right—it’s the only sure protection against our fiercest dementors:
So, You Have a Lightening-bolt Scar on Your Forehead?
We millennials were made to believe that we are special—that each individual is born with a rare gift that they bring to the world. But, the world doesn’t see us with rose-tinted glasses—it only looks at hard facts. The fact is that our parents and schools showered us with participation trophies and medals. We even earned a pat on the back for coming last in the race, for at least having tried. But, the real world is a struggle sandwich and success is hard to come by. In trying to boost our self-esteem were we really lead astray?
The answer lies in Harry Potter’s life. Look at the lighting-bolt scar that marked his forehead, marking Potter as ‘gifted’, years before he learnt of magic. Lily Potter, Harry’s mother shielded her baby with a loving sacrifice that repelled Lord Voldemort’s killing curse, destroying the evil wizard instead. Potter’s teachers and friends continued what his mother had started—convincing the little boy of his special status in the world.
But, does that really take away from Harry’s own fears, faults and failures? Does that take away the struggle that he will undergo to vanquish the evil wizard for real? Does that take away heaps of expectations he will have to fulfill, cause his life comes at a heavy price—at the price of his mother’s death?
Belief in our ‘self’ can give us ammunition against self-doubt only for a while. In real life there is no one applauding our efforts. In a sense, that makes the task of every millennial far more challenging. If we do well, we ought to for our own sake. But, we must learn to teach ourselves this right attitude to success. At the end of the day, every young adult learns to trust life to be his or her true guide. For Potter, his scar is his gift, but also his Achilles heel. In the end, it’s only his efforts that really count.
Everyone’s Been To Hogwarts—So What?
The Baby boomers and Gen Xers didn’t have it easy in life. They had to earn their right to go to university. Many of them were the first in their families to do so and many others worked during college so they could pay their student loans quicker and not depend on their parents forever. Gen Y, on the other hand, seems to have gone to the best colleges, many to Ivy League schools, travelled and studied abroad, and been given every opportunity to do what they wanted to do. But today, they are neck-deep in student loans, cannot hold onto a job they find and prefer to work from home (or their parent’s basement). Does that in-effect mean that we are a wasted generation?
To tell you the truth, time will answer that question. For now, Harry Potter can be our 101 to survival. Yes, everyone—or most magicians we know go to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Just like every friend in my cohort went to a kickass university. But, as the story unfolds, we quickly realize that Harry, Hermione and Ron fumble their way through darkness. Sometimes chance comes to their rescue, and at other times, seasoned magicians like Albus Dumbledore. The few occasions when Harry is confronted by real life, like a Dementor lurking in his neighborhood, he faints and gets into trouble with the Ministry of Magic.
Clearly, these young magicians are a mess when it comes to figuring out the next step. But, aren’t mistakes a good thing? If they got everything right in the first go—how will they find their way?
As for our responsibility in our ‘real lives’—we work in times of deep economic stress, and in a world of hire and fire where permanent jobs are few and far between. People expect the young staff to be efficient self-learners and easily replaceable unlike our parents’ generation where each employee was seen as a long-term investment.
Our salaries might be okay, but the benefits we get are usually a measly side dish. To make things worse, education is far more expensive than it was when our parents went to school. No wonder, we are starting out with so much debt. Yes, our parents were Dumbledores of sorts. They worked steady jobs with healthy salaries and reached places in life. But, to be fair, Baby boomers were tagged the spoiled generation reluctant to grow up, and Generation X mocked as cynical complainers, when they started out.
How Many Followers Do You Have on Twitter?
Aren’t millennials mini-celebrities of sorts? Everything we think about, every place we visit, every friend we meet, every dish we eat, every dress we try out—finds expression on social media and earns at least a dozen likes. We may not understand the complexity of numbers when it comes to our personal finances, but we know how many followers we have on Twitter. Browsing has become a new way of thinking for us and the Internet has become a literal extension of our brains. No wonder, the world is quick to dismiss us as narcissistic and fickle-minded. Our critics feel that we hide our true face behind screens and that our anxious, under confident selves only unmask when interacting with real human beings. Has technology really converted us into unfeeling, unintelligent scumbags only interested in our inflated egos?
Before you ask me, ask Harry! Potter and his friends were smitten by magic too—weren’t they—especially in the first few years at Hogwarts where they were learning new tricks everyday? Remember, Fred and George Weasley—how magical mischief was always up their sleeve? How when they were allowed to apparate from one place to another using a portkey, that is all they would do the entire day. Even Harry, Ron and Hermione were tempted to use the Invisible Cloak and The Marauder’s Map to find magical adventures outside the walls of Hogwarts.
In that sense, we all are young magicians new to the charm of social media and technology. Remember that TV was once upon a time considered an idiot box? Novels too, when they first popped into the literary world were seen as corrupting influences. Social media and the way it mirrors the world and our own ‘self’ will soon cease to be fascinating for us and we will all outgrow its ‘celebrity-inducing-effects.’
On the other hand, us millennials are a pro when it comes to using social media to remain up-to-date with hard news, garner support for social causes we believe in, build networks that we can benefit from in the professional world, and build brands that can be managed at the swipe of a button. We are also less prone to distractibility, are mavericks at multi-tasking, and have little or no inertia when it comes to exploring new-age technology. This makes us an asset for companies today. Facebook, Snapchat and Tumblr are only three concrete examples to show which way we are headed and why we are needed.
Inheriting a Complex World? Is It Really Your Fault?
We live in difficult times. The economy is at stress the world over—in fact we all reached adulthood during a severe recession. Politics, like we saw this election and in poll results in other countries, is a contentious bed of affairs. Violence is on the rise and attempts to thwart it not as easily managed. Can millennials then really take charge of this world—leading it to a new direction?
Harry Potter enters a world marked by the death of his parents. In the world before him, there were clear boundaries between the good magicians and the bad. Now, Lord Voldemort has gone underground and he secretly makes attempts to usurp the world order to rise back to power. But, to the Ministry of Magic and an average wizard, things are not so obvious. They are quick to dismiss Harry Potter who has no conclusive proof of seeing the dark wizard.
The world does not want to confront its worst nightmare. It makes Potter the villain instead, tagging him a narcissist boy, spinning lies for attention. They blame him for the death of some of his classmates in Hogwarts too. But can Potter be truly blamed for the world he inherited? In a similar way, can millennials be blamed for a complex and dangerous world they were born into?
On the other hand, it’s possible that us millennials don’t see the world as baby boomers and gen Xer’s did—as a world of strict hierarchies, as camps between the good guys versus the bad, and at competition as the only way forward. It’s quite possible, that millennials like Dumbledore’s Army—will carry forth the message of a legendary magician, but in their own unique way.
Even though critics may not understand why millennials talk about doing something truly meaningful in their workplace and in their life—you will see this young crowd driving initiative rather than feeding empty talk—in supporting environmental causes; standing behind local businesses and social start-ups; willing to pay more for a product, because they truly believe that every dollar can create a real impact.
This election, they showed their love for Bernie Sanders and feminism—choosing to broach politics in unconventional ways. Millennials are unrestricted by a baggage of identity, religion and tradition. This allows us to look at the world with fresh eyes. When you think about it—isn’t that what the world truly needs?
Embrace Your Inner Snape.
The Internet loves discussing us. We are the hot, trending topic of the season, and will continue to be. This dampens our spirits. Should we simply look the other way and assume that we don’t have any problems? That will be foolish. Instead, we should admit to our faults.
Any one who has done anything remarkable in this world has had to face opposition. At the very least, they have had to face criticism. Millennials should therefore not run away from critics, instead we should keep them close. We must understand that their harsh words spring from love and care—just like Professor Snape in Harry Potter.
We all hated Snape all along, as did Harry Potter. He couldn’t wrap his head around Snape’s mean-spirited words, his salty criticism, and his tendency to whip Potter below the belt. In the end, however, we found out that Snape had made a promise to Lily Potter, to always protect Harry. This was Snape’s way to show tough love and keep Potter on track. Even the shape of Harry’s Patronus Charm—a stag that protected Harry Potter on several encounters with dementors—was Snape’s gift to the young magician.
Of course, we will meet many Rita Skeeter-like journalists along the way—who only attempt to distort the truth to create sensational stories. Keep them at bay, but dear millennial—embrace your inner Snape. That will allow you to believe in who you truly are. Times are tough and we have a lot to prove, but I am sure you don’t tire of putting your best wand forward—Expecto Patronum!