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Musings from a Millenial: Thanksgiving 2018

Musings from a Millennial

 

Losing, Laughter and Thankfulness

*By Meghan Peterson, PhD

I debated whether to muse about the holiday season we are now entering (this is truly my favorite time of year here in New England!) In fact, I agonized over the decision. Do I write another “why I’m thankful” genre piece? Do not misunderstand: such writings are important and valuable in their own right. But I was not feeling compelled to pursue the joyous thoughts of the season – at least not yet. No; I decided to go in a much different direction, but one that I hope can ultimately pave the way for a more joyous, festive time.

 

Millennials and the parent generation of millennials: we need to talk. As a millennial, I beg to differ with my generation and my generation’s predecessor on several fronts recently that I find disconcerting and potentially dangerous. Although, I’m not going to beg. I’m just going to differ.

 

Not knowing how to lose graciously.

Whether it is a midterm election, a job offer, or an Iphone, my generation has a difficult time dealing with losing something. Millennials do not know how to lose graciously – let alone lose at all. Recall, this is the same generation whose elementary, middle, and high school years were filled with golden stars for effort and simply “showing up.” College years only exacerbated the indulgence of self-preening. It is not completely out of character, then, that we genuinely do not know how to learn from failure, let alone concede or admit it.

 

That said, however, the whole not-knowing-how-to-lose-graciously syndrome was most starkly evident during the recent midterm elections. At the time of this writing, Americans still did not have certitude regarding Florida U.S. Senatorial or gubernatorial elections. Likewise, certitude was quickly eviscerated in Georgia with the losing candidate (Stacey Abrams) vociferously refusing to concede to announced winner, Brian Kemp (results are not slated to be certified until Friday, November 16). Now, these various politicians are not of the millennial generation per se, but they are serving as fine examples for us. They embody sore losers – at the expense of honoring the integrity of American citizens’ votes and voices. The midterms are but an unseemly footnote to the 2016 presidential election, an outcome which produced its own bevy of sore, ungracious, sometimes even hostile at best and violent at worst, losers. Again, while many of these political losers come from the generation that precedes millennials (or even two generations back), they nonetheless constitute the example we as millennials are apparently attempting to replicate.

 

Not knowing how to listen to and speak with, people of alternative viewpoints.

I am reminded of an e-mail I received several weeks ago advertising campus workshops on how to engage in dialogue with one’s relatives over Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. Initially, I did not think much of the e-mail, other than to laugh its contents away as a rather amusing topic for a “workshop.” Then, reality began to sink in. Well-meaning and well-intentioned individuals clearly believe this to be a matter of concern. Have we as millennials and the next generation, “Generation Z,” become so vaccinated against other ideas that could potentially challenge our own doctrines that we need to re-learn the methods of talking and playing nicely with others? What has happened to civil discourse and dialogue? Dialogue becomes meaningless if your ears and mind have already shut down the “other side.”

 

Not knowing how to have fun or laugh.

When I was an undergrad, comedians were beginning to express greater reluctance to visit campuses to perform their shows. Why? Because they were fearful – not of offending (that is in many ways, their job) students – but rather, that their careers could be upended by a litany of aggrieved, marshmallow-minded and marshmallow-spirited youth who did not understand the objectives of humor, satire, parody or irony. Wherever one turns, words and phrases are disappearing from the shelves of our vocabulary, if you will. And what is contributing to their disappearance? The millennial social justice warriors playing the role of censor – all under the rubric of sensitivity and tolerance. As words get excised, as rights to expression become narrower, the capacity and space for free thought, for creativity, for humor shrinks.

 

On these fronts, I want to challenge millennials to differ: enjoy your Thanksgiving meal with family and friends of different perspective and walks of life. Be willing to listen. Be willing to take the risk to not always be correct or be in the right. Be willing to laugh. But whatever you do, do it with grace, a dash of humility, and a sprinkling of humor – and yes, a heavy dose of thankfulness…especially if it is over a slice of pumpkin pie.

 

*Peterson is Composition Editor of Haddam News, writer for Haddam-KillingworthNow.com. The views contained herein do not necessarily reflect those held by the staff of either organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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