Millennials. Whether you are partial to the term or not, you may well be one. (If you were born between the years of 1981 and 1996, at least. Thanks, Wikipedia.)
We're the generation that were told we could do anything, go anywhere, be anybody. The first generation to be unshackled from society's tick-box list of expectations. Now, for many of us, instead of marriage, mortgages and motherhood we find ourselves free of responsibility. It is no surprise, then, that the wider world is more accessible to us young adults than ever. If you do become a married, twenty-something millennial your hen-do and honeymoon were quite likely to have been somewhere more exotic than your parents' Blackpool '89 extravaganza. Similarly, in 2019, you are no longer an anomaly if you have lived and/or worked outside of your home country.
Could my mother have had the life I do? A single 28-year-old expat living and working in Hong Kong. Don't be ridiculous. She had responsibilities, children, a home to pay for. That was the ‘done’ thing. The question I mull over, then, is have us so called Millennials progressed or regressed?
As a result of this generational divide, in the present day, sometimes it feels as though one way to be a sure-fire success in the eyes of our parents is to leave our home country. We are admired for our courage, our tenacity and for starting afresh in a scary new place. They miss us, for sure, but we have opened ourselves up to the world beyond and are cashing in on a lot of respect for it. Those back home may catch glimpses during fortnightly Skype sessions, but our expat lives are largely shrouded in mystery. Regardless, whatever it is we’re doing, we’re doing it abroad! Amazing!
This sentiment from our parents is a warm and fuzzy one, indeed, leaving no cause for complaint. It may have us expats questioning, however, whether we are all just giant frauds. Are we courageous? Yes. Are we ground-breaking? Maybe. Are we deserving of this frivolous admiration and respect that we receive simply by leaving the country? Perhaps not.
To the contrary, in fact, many of us expats feel that we are just hiding from the realities of life. Scrolling through social media is a reminder of all the things your home dwelling friends are up to. The ‘adulting’ that the niggling voice in our head tells us that we should be doing. Instead we are renting instead of buying, dating instead of relationshipping, boozy brunching instead of family gathering. Sailing, fresh off the boat, instead of mooring ourselves to any one place, person or thing. Are us expats just clinging onto the dregs of our youth and delaying the inevitable that is growing up?
Living the Peter Pan life is not all bad, of course. What, exactly, is the rush to grow up anyway? After all, perhaps part of the admiration our nomadic lifestyle affords from the generations gone before is rooted in the fact that we are, more so than ever, living our lives for our own enjoyment. Being self-centred is at its peak and I, for one, unashamedly love it. We have more choice and more opportunity and this can never be a bad thing.
The crux of the matter is that we all have a ‘grass is greener’ attitude, as is life. Though we Millennials are presented with an abundance of choice, we still, much to our dismay, can’t have everything. There is a fear of missing out that lives inside all of us, both natives and expats, telling us what we could, even what we should be achieving. Matters as small as loading the dishwasher to as large as pursuing your dream career. Even now, as you’re reading this, your brain is probably ‘shoulding’ in the background. Yes, we all have an innate and irritating habit of wanting more, of questioning what could have been. When our generation were told we could do anything and be anybody, instead perhaps we all heard that we need to be everything and be everybody.