We’re selfish, lazy, and more interested in our phones than in the person standing a foot away.
Or at least that’s how we’re characterized.
As much as I have my own pre-coffee mornings of “EVERYONE’S STUPID PEOPLE SUCK”, my own generation keeps surprising me in the best way. Since graduating I have witnessed some of the most resourceful, intelligent, and inspiring acts of proactive altruism come from my own peers, and that gives me hope. I’d like to encourage all of you, fellow millennials, to realize we don’t suck as much as the world might imply. And more importantly, to help you realize your role in the forward motion our generation is… well, generating.
I decided to be an actor. Talk about feeling useless. Talk about feeling, back to that first thing, selfish. I had the opportunity to be a doctor, a lawyer, a diplomat; any number of careers that might have more traditionally served humanity for the better. And often I feel like I’ve let down my generation by not following a path with a more direct impact. But through a few years of surrendering myself to admittedly “woo-woo”, ooey-gooey emotional/meditative/self-reflective actor experiences I’m starting to see things differently.
You have something to contribute. Even if you aren’t the surgeon stitching up ER patients or the paralegal fighting a toxic legislative bill; maybe you’re serving them their coffee or fixing their stalled car. Maybe you’re their yoga teacher giving them a much needed mental break or simply the last person they see on their way out of the office who says “have a good night” and means it. We all contribute. It takes a very brave releasing of ego to realize that maybe we’re not the heroes. But even the heroes need sidekicks. People always forget Alfred taking care of the homefront-- I don’t think Batman could have done all his bad-assery without a clean warm bed to come home to recover in. Be a support network. Serve, serve, serve. Serve what’s in front of you. There are geniuses who will be our crusaders and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them. But if you don’t feel like you are—realize you still have a role to play. ‘No small parts, just small actors’ and all of that.
We’re not kids anymore, Millennials. And while it’s scary to grow up and realize our parents and their systems are imperfect, it’s also incredible liberating. I’m going to leave it to Ashton Kutcher circa very-old-Kid’s-Choice-Awards-speech to explain:
“Steve Jobs said when you grow up,” says Kutcher,” you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is. And your life is to live your life inside the world, and try not to get in too much trouble, and maybe get an education, get a job and make some money and have a family. But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing. And that is that everything around us, that we call life, was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life–don’t live one–build one.”
First off, here’s a guy I remember as Kelso in That 70’s Show. A guy who, because of his profession and not just his character’s dimwittedness, I assumed to be without much to say or add to society. It’s the exact reaction I’ve had since seeing all the cool stuff my college and high school buddies are up to—engineering important medical devices, designing rockets, educating children in low-income communities, running non-profits, traveling the globe to lend a hand wherever needed. I can’t blame older generations for thinking so little of us—I’m guilty of thinking little of us! Of assuming that the same kids I drank in frat basements with or laughed at South Park with were somehow incapable of being these hero-types they’ve grown into. It’s just more proof that our superheroes are regular people. Just like you. Meaning, what’s stopping you from being a hero? Maybe I’m the only one who feels inferior by comparison, but that goes back to my original point. Do what you can. Like Elle Woods said—“Don’t fight the fabric; change it.” We’re building systems from scratch, and that’s anything but lazy.
I’m seeing it firsthand in Hollywood, as a micro-reflection of the larger transitions America is experiencing. Any time an actor complains about not being cast— or there not being enough good female roles or minority roles or whatever the case may be— we’re shut down pretty quickly with the response, “then do it yourself.” We’ll write, produce, direct, act in, and edit our own projects. Whether we turn to crowdfunding or shoot it with no budget on our iPhone, there is no excuse to not be cast in the type of work you want to do. And that’s the kind of work we’re doing on America right now. Instead of fighting a system that doesn’t serve us, we have to put in the extra effort to work outside of it. It’s not impossible, it’s just more difficult.
Same with quitting a miserable job or one where you’re asked to do things that keep you up at night. Be brave. Be willing to walk away from the comfort and security of the established system. Be willing to put the work into the new system, and you will be surprised by how many people want to help. While casting short films that I’ve made (for exactly this self-serving purpose), I have had submissions from 20-somethings for the role of “old woman”, offers from out-of-state actors to fly in on their own dime to shoot, and the borderline desperate bids to cut beards/dye hair/get tattoos/whateverit-takes-to-be-cast in unpaid, often non-dialogue roles that will appear on camera for less than a minute. People are just so excited to be a part of something, that they will put up with less than minimal compensation and give their time. So often we want to help out or do something good for the world or, on a more manageable level, the people we care most about. We simply don’t know how. What a gift if you lead the charge and give people a way to do something good. Imagine if you told your best friends or loved ones “I’m going to do something that makes me happy and I’m going to need help.” They would jump at the chance. We can’t expect to find sympathy for staying safely within a hostile system. Look outside of it and you will see countless willing sidekicks. In a perfectly millennial reference—“help will always be given […] to those who ask for it.” Bless you Dumbledore. Sometimes we have days where people seem to suck so much that we forget how many people want to help. They just may not know you need it. Be brave enough to ask for help, and tireless enough to build upon the help that is given.
As to the final point of being led by our phones and social media, it’s true. It’s easy to be digitally desensitized to reality. And as technology continues to leap forward, the lines of rules and ethics will get murkier and grayer. It’s up to us to commit to keeping a sense of humanity alive. It will get easier and more convenient to turn away from the humane choice as we burrow into our screens. It will get easier and more convenient to hide behind established rules and laws and lose sight of the humanity they’re meant to protect. Don’t do what’s easy. Do something good without being made to. Let your heart lead you. Let’s prove them wrong. Because isn’t happiness the best revenge?
Xox Millennial Maxi