It was my first day on the nine to five grind, and I was dead early. Hugely overestimating the time it would take to walk to the university shuttle and shuttle to the metro station and metro to my first summer internship, I was there with an hour to spare. A grave voiceover of Nick (my supervisor/mentor and soon-to-be hero) rang in my head, chanting to me, “you don’t need to come at nine the first day; please come at ten; you don’t need to…”
I tried dragging my feet more and more as I neared the gold and glass building wedged onto the corner of 19th and K streets. But shuffling feet cannot turn a seven minute walk into a forty-seven minute walk. Left with nothing to do but get more and more invigorated with each song of my “You’re Gonna Be Somebody, And That Somebody Is a DC Intern” playlist, I cranked the volume and sat on some stairs a block away, sipping my coconut creme frappuccino, swinging my sensibly-shoed feet, and smiling back to people who seemed to sincerely hate that I was this carefree at nine in the morning in Farragut Square.
Finally, it got to be 9:45 and I accepted that my time had come. I flounced up to the gold building on the corner, checked my hair in the glass, and tripped up to the security guard at the front desk. Smiling sweetly, I announced I was here for my very first day at my very first DC summer internship at Mobilize.org. He patiently waited for me to stopped hyperactively talking, then asked for my signature and walked me to the elevator that I rode, all alone, to floor five. Nick met me at the door and shook my hand, welcoming me to my future.
It wasn’t until the second day that I realized my grave error. Actually, realization came slow and steady even that first day, but it was when I was sorting through my newly set-up Google Alert emails that I knew my mistake. My new work email inbox filled with the emails from Google, detailing the newest top searches for anything Milennial-related. This “Millennial generation” around which Mobilize.org seemed to function, for which Mobilize.org seemed to be created–this was the generation I openly despised. I had learned from an early age that I was not like these people, that I did not like these people. I survived by listening to music like I lived in the sixties, dressing like I belonged to the eighties, and talking like I was born of the seventies. Anywhere but here.
Mobilize.org forced me to sit up and disregard everything I had assumed about my generation. Suddenly my inbox was flooded with Google Alert reports that detailed blogs and articles either attacking or affirming Millennials everywhere. One thing was constant, though, and it was the generalizations. If any Millennials were self-entitled, we all were. If any Millennials were politically active, we all were. Whatever one of us did defined the generation. I had to look at myself in the dim reflection of my Mac screen and wonder, “Did this mean that would be my fault when some new study proved all Millennials to be as hyperactive, sarcastic, and anhedonic as me?” And then I had to fix my hair, because who let me out of the house looking like this?!
Millennials are great, but we have our flaws. More than anything else, this internship taught me that truism. More than anything else, this internship taught me that Millennials are just people. So maybe I shouldn’t hate my generation based on a few (thousand) entitled and Facebook-obsessed narcissists. Maybe everyone else shouldn’t either. But we also shouldn’t praise the entire generation based on one or two exceptionally engaged and beneficial prodigies.
Millennials are a generation of individuals, a generation that can only be partially dissected and understood by the latest study or survey. We are a generation just trying to grow up. And we can’t do it any faster and we won’t do it any differently, no matter how many angry blogs are telling you that we won’t make good employees. Some of us will, some of us won’t, and some of us will be just so nervous that we’ll arrive early and listen to Lenka’s “The Show” for an hour on repeat to get hyped up. .
But there is no way to know Millennials until you set aside the stereotyping and assumption, just as there was no way I could have known how much I would love an internship centered around a generation I hated. Like it or not, Millennials have arrived. And you better be ready, because we might be there promptly at nine o’clock–even if you specifically stress no earlier than ten.
Right this second (and for all subsequent seconds of summer 2012), Jeni Prats is interning for Mobilize.org as a social media medium. A rising junior at American University (AU), she is majoring in Public Communications and Graphic Design and minoring in Cinema Studies. Jeni lives for her annual world outreach trips to Guatemala and India. Other activities include involvement with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), the DC Read’s Life Pieces to Masterpieces program, and the public relations/graphic design department at ATV (AU’s television station).