HBO’s hit series Girls has, for better or worse, been touted as the “voice of a generation.” Let me begin by saying this article is not an attack on the show, I happen to be an avid fan. However, as Girls, TED talks, articles, and countless self help books would propose, 20-somethings need help, a lot of help. According to popular opinion, the majority of millennials now in the throes of their twenties seemingly struggle with the very bane of their existence.
The basic premise is that 20-somethings feel entitled, suffer from chronic flailing, and think they can stall major life decisions. Now, as a fellow twenty something, I find this stereotype to be the exception, not the norm. In my humble social network alone, I know twenty somethings who have run for public office, published books, started companies, are finishing their Ph.Ds, own homes, and are married with beautiful families. Yet, these roles are noticeably absent from the public discourse.
More importantly, it’s not one or the other. Not all twenty somethings are either career-less and couch surfing or successful and have it all figured out. Twenty-somethings, like every generation, have members who fall along every point of the spectrum. So the advice that assumes all twenty somethings can be lumped into one group of dismal and struggling letdowns is inaccurate and patronizing. Acknowledging our achievements, however great or small, and providing apt advice on how to deal with them would be more welcome.
I relate to and appreciate Girls because of its accurate and brutally honest portrayal of problems I experience at this age. The anxiety of non-committal relationships, the panic of trying to make ends meet, and the terror of actually following your dreams. The show addresses these difficulties brilliantly and head on. I, however, am hard-pressed to find anyone that even remotely fits into the mold of a Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, or Shoshanna.
Take Lena Dunham herself, the creator of Girls, for example. She is a writer, director, producer, filmmaker, and star of the show. She has been nominated for four Emmys and won two Golden Globes among other awards. She is a critically acclaimed prodigy and has achieved more success before the age of thirty than most of us would even dream of achieving in a lifetime. In other words, Lena in real life is a far cry from the fearful and wallowing Hannah she plays on Girls.
Sure, we make mistakes in our 20s. But we make mistakes in our 30s, 40s, and 50s too. Instead of painting this picture of a floundering generation obliviously chasing our tails, why not acknowledge the unbelievably ambitious, talented, and admirable 20-somethings who continue to thrive and innovate in this uncertain and challenging economy?
I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But that doesn’t mean I’m waffling. That might just mean that my dream job might not even exist yet. However, I do know that I’m laying bricks that will someday build the strong foundation for a beautiful and flourishing future. I just wish these investments were the main themes of storylines instead of the perpetual ignorance of the 20-something spirit, drive, and accomplishment.
The kids are indeed all right. We’re not afraid, we’re not doomed. Maybe it’s just everyone else’s fear and anxiety about us failing that’s making our successes so hard to see.