There’s an elephant in the room, and we need to talk about it. No, I am not talking about the Republican party. No, I am not referring to the logo I use for my Millennial Nomaad interviews. I am talking about the inner conflict and cultural shifts that the Millennial generation seems to be silently battling.
We assume that with all the noise on social media, we suddenly have a more transparent group of peers expressing themselves. But, there is more to be understood from what is left unsaid than what is publicly shared.
I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack. I was in the shower and listening to music when all of a sudden the walls felt like they were slowly caving in. The steam suddenly felt like an invisible plastic wrap around my face, and my chest felt heavy. I had been stressed before, but never had I experienced this sensation. All I could think to do was crouch like a child under the water coming from the shower head and let my tears fall with it. I mean it works in the movies, right? I cried and cried and then felt relieved. Back then, I didn’t understand these emotions or where they came from. I just felt weak for not being able to control them.
Control. Fear. Resistance to change. Self-doubt. These became the themes of my life for a period of time. I was uncomfortable moving forward and taking risks. I was even more uncomfortable feeling stuck in my rut. I turned to friends and family for guidance, yet left our conversations feeling like they did not fully understand how to guide me. So, I deflected and ran away from myself –searching for external signs rather than trusting my own intuition. I chased the ideas of what well-intentioned people thought would be best for me and spent all my time trying to configure myself into that image like a human Rubik’s cube. I didn’t want to fail by making the wrong choices, but more importantly, I didn’t want to disappoint.
I don’t like appearing weak. I mean, who does? We often think that vulnerability makes us a moving target, and so did I. I had a surplus of confidence, but a deficiency in true self-esteem. I was lost and thought I was the only one feeling that way. So, I threw myself into self-help books. Yes, some were super cheesy but a few did change my life. I watched interviews of public figure “comeback” stories— more intrigued by their ability to navigate a downfall than the actual outcome of their rise.
Slowly, I started connecting all these dots until one day it clicked. I realized every successful person that, in my opinion, embodied strength and leadership had experienced a breakdown moment. A moment of no turning back, because the old Self was simply –gone. This made me wonder whether feeling lost or vulnerable is really such a bad thing?
When I started to interview my peers for my website, I decided to focus on this transitional phase — the self-discovery of the rise and not just the reward of the result. And wow, I was so incredibly wrong about being alone in my emotions. I spoke with brilliant minds ranging in age from early twenties to early thirties –individuals from various nationalities, cities and industries. Only then, did I see that beyond the surface of these genuinely confident, intelligent, creative and accomplished people, there was some internal odyssey. A quest for greater truth, for greater knowledge and self-mastery all masked under the fear of feeling isolated from others.
I listened to each individual closely and observed their facial expressions. Suddenly, their words carried greater weight. Their stories landed in my heart and resonated with me. These were young, everyday people who were striving for something greater than themselves. Their insight excited me, because I noticed a pattern.
Now, I am not a psychologist. Nor, am I guru. I am a human connecting with other humans and listening to their stories –some of the most beautiful and raw stories. The four main things I have gathered so far from these interviews are:
- Every human is, well, a walking story. Some are like non-fiction –more direct in their approach to life. Some are like a novel –more layered and complicated. Others, like poetry –elusive at times, yet touch your heart.
- Feeling lost is the beginning of coming home to yourself again. It’s an invitation for growth.
- On the other side of fear is what you’ve always wanted. Fear is not the end of the road; it is the bridge.
- True visionaries and artists understand that vulnerability is a strength, compassion is a gift, and that power comes with responsibility.
This reconstruction of identity I see my peers grappling with daily is not unique to only the Millennial generation. Yet, we are confronting these growing pains as our external society is undergoing dramatic changes. We have less time to process and even shorter attention spans than before. But, we are unique in that our attempt to understand our conflicted internal worlds actually makes us more relatable to others in our external worlds. Globally, these cultural shifts are unravelling as people try to bridge the polarizing gaps in perspective and to empathize.
I reflect on my first anxiety attack and flip through pages of notebooks filled with my jumbled thoughts. With time, the cracks in my self-image began to make more sense. And as Millennials all over the world begin to confront themselves and their belief systems, there is a special opportunity for creating greater harmony among others. First, we must begin human-to-human.
There comes a time when nothing will ever feel the same. But, who is to say different cannot mean better? We can help each other move forward.