What it Means to be a Millennial in a Developing Country
You’re 24 and leaving work. It doesn’t make you happy, you tell your parents and friends. You feel like it’s not your niche, not your special spot in the marketplace. Your family shrugs it off as indecisiveness, but your bosses shake their head at you, tells you you’re a typical millennial.
A typical millennial. Millennial. The word is being thrown around so carelessly, but what exactly does it mean?
What does it mean to be a millennial?
According to Time, you are a millennial if you are born anytime between 1980 to 2000. This means that this group is mostly comprised of teens and twentysomethings.
Okay, so why then, are millennials being looked down upon? We are simply talking about an age group here, right?
Apparently, we are talking about a group of relatively younger individuals whose habits are said to have been made somehow similar by factors including globalization, social media, the adoption of Western culture, and fast-paced change. This is a group that is often seen as an overconfident and self-involved generation. And no, we aren’t simply talking about millennials from first-world countries. Even those from developing countries are seen to incorporate materialism, narcissism, and as much technology addiction as their otherwise simple lives would let them.
A “typical” millennial?
Let me tell you about this girl I know from school. This girl came from a pretty well-to-do family. She has all the latest smartphones. She carries her MacBook to quaint coffee shops to do work. She owns nice, brand-name things. She drives her own car and every morning, she manages to spare some time for a drive through to a fastfood joint to grab breakfast. Her Instagram feed will give you the ultimate goals—there you’ll see photos of her jetting off to a tropical holiday, photos of her in a private yacht enjoying some wine, photos that detail her daily diet of gourmet food. She leads a pretty ideal life, it seems.
Except she doesn’t.
I learned that she owed a mutual friend of ours some sizable cash, which she used to pay off her credit card debt. When the friend came to her, asking her for the money she owed, she said she didn’t have the means to pay her debt off yet. She gave the most ma-drama excuses as to why she went broke. The next day, however, she posts photos of the new gourmet resto she visited, and of her new “baby”—a smartphone that has just been released in the country.
One guy I know just bought his first car. He recently scored a high-paying job, and thinking he can use his salary to pay off a car loan, he went ahead and applied for one. When he got approved for the loan, I would always see him posting photos of the places he visited using his car.
One time, he asked me and a friend to go out of town with him. That was how I found out that he would ask peers who would ride with him to pay him a certain amount of money so he could gas up on full. He also confessed how he would scrimp on food and other necessities, because he spends a huge part of his monthly salary to pay for the car.
Now, these young people are not poor at all. They didn’t scavenge from dumpsites for something to eat, they didn’t live in the slums, they didn’t have to beg to make ends meet, but they are certainly almost always broke. Why, these urban twentysomethings live according to the pressures surrounding them, leading them to spend a huge chunk of their salaries to maintain lifestyles and appearances. A majority of their paychecks go to clothes and grooming, to the overpriced heels one can’t even walk a yard in without fainting. To office lunches and bar nights, to the Grabs and Ubers they have to take to get to that quaint Starbucks store at the clubhouse of a posh subdivision they don’t live in.
They splurge during payday on pricey dinners, on the latest sneakers, on designer sunglasses they don’t even want. But as petsa de peligro rolls by, they begin to munch on their nails, to pray to every saint they know, to google crazy money-making rituals that don’t involve selling the soul to the devil, just so they could stretch what little money was left from the past weeks’ debauchery. They splurge and splurge on money they don’t have, in hopes that the raise they have been waiting for will come, that the coveted promotion will finally arrive, that Mama will send a little extra before the month ends.
Lifestyle articles keep making their rounds on social media. In all of them we are taught how we should carry ourselves, where we should eat, the places we should go, the celebrities we should mimic. These articles tell us about all the stylish things we need to have and all the fancy places we need to visit. As yuppies who work hard for our salaries, we believe them. We think it’s only right to reward ourselves, sometimes without knowing when we’re going overboard. These articles have laid the perfect lifestyle out–except none of them talked about how to pay for any of it. Hence, more and more millennials become inclined to shelling out more cash to appear full and happy over spending a little bit to buy the essentials.
A millennial and struggling?
It is difficult to be a millennial in a country where there is a stark difference between genuine hunger and urban hunger, with the first one being caused by situations no one has any control over, and the latter being caused by poorly-made lifestyle choices. For a country where genuine hunger is rampant, it is rather ironic how we managed to create a culture that places immense value in appearances. To the point that we’d choose to be hungry to keep up with a fashionable lifestyle over living within our means and looking broke. In a country where the genuinely hungry doesn’t get the aid that they need, there is no way the “urban poor” can expect help.
It is difficult to be a millennial because you are always unsure of what you should do with your life. Hence, your mind is always full of questions like “What am I doing here? What am I doing with my life?” A quarter life crisis isn’t a rare occurrence that happens once in your young life. It is a feeling that overcomes you as often as you find yourself stuck in a job you don’t like, or tucking books in the deepest parts of a shelf because you happened to pass by a bookstore and you’re broke.
It is difficult to be a millennial, to always be in the pursuit of the elusive balance between happiness and adulthood. To always be struggling to “adult” when you are basically getting very little help. When you are raised by parents who sacrificed everything to get you to the “comfortable” state you are in, it is difficult to openly discuss finances. Hence, when Mom asks if she should send more money, you breathe out a faint refusal. No, Mom, I still have cash. Yes, I have enough to get by. Yes, I am eating well. Yes, work is okay. It is difficult to be a millennial when you grew up in a family that speaks of sacrifices and hard work at the dining table. So when at twenty you finally start living independently, you would find yourself alone, eating 10-peso instant noodles as you mull over the bad decisions you have made, and quietly enduring their consequences.
Is it all bad?
When the millennials are first introduced, they started garnering bad reputation in the marketplace. It is said that they tend to jump from one company to another, in search of an institution that fulfills their notion of an ideal job. But that was in the past. Today, companies are starting to carve their best practices around millennials’ habits and their atmospheric expectations. Take DreamWorks as an example. Despite having a vast number of employees under 30, the studio has a retention rate of 96%. This is because following Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, head of the HR department Dan Satterthwaite integrated programs that helped employees reach self-actualization. DreamWorks employees are thus allowed to take painting, photography, cinematography, sculpting, karate, and jujitsu lessons, even during work hours.
Millennials are viewed as obnoxious, what with the oversharing of photos and other personal info on the Internet. Many see striking similarities between typical millennial behavior and typical rich kid behavior, but that is not the case.
Opportunity has been democratized for young people, regardless of class–thanks to the Internet. These days, access and information that in retrospect only belonged to the wealthy are being shared by everyone. Millennials are always on their phones, scrolling through Facebook, chatting with their friends on WhatsApp, harnessing technology in every way imaginable–but that may be attributed to the fact that if you were born in this digital age where technology is easily accessible, it is your only known way to kill boredom
In fact, despite accusations of narcissism, laziness, and entitlement, millennials are actually nice. One can’t argue that this generation is more accepting of differences. They are seen to not simply tolerate, but embrace and actually stand up for the minority, or for those who are perceived as different or oppressed.
Millennials are optimistic, but not too much that they become blind dreamers. They are more of pragmatic idealists–life hackers who strive to find easy ways to weave themselves out of a situation. They are seen as self-obsessed for the way they post photos of their OOTDs, but that’s only because they constantly seek approval. This is the same trait that prompts them to check and double check their work outputs, in an attempt to garner the approval of their bosses. They’re obsessed with lives of celebrities, but they rarely resort to blind idolatry. This may be a generation that people don’t think highly of, but it is definitely a resilient one, always ready to conquer any challenge that may befall them.
Get the help you need
Your being a millennial should never be an excuse to wallow in debts. Do not max out your credit card, getting spending what money you don’t have. Instead, round up all possible resources you can turn to whenever you find yourself strapped for cash.
For instance, there are online pawnshops out there that can give you money for your pre-owned luxury items. Financial institutions such as PawnHero are now starting to tailor their services to cater to the needs of millennials by setting up an online platform where you can apply for a loan in a matter of minutes, with only your old items as collateral. Those RayBans you regret getting several months ago? You could convert those into cash. PawnHero accepts sunglasses, designer bags, and watches, on top of your usual pawnshop fare.
Don’t worry if you are feeling lost right now. There is hope at the end of the tunnel. Visit PawnHero.ph to find a list of items we accept, or pawn via the PawnHero App today.