A Generation of Paradox

September 19, 2007

It seems like there are a lot of contradictions in what Gen Y wants – out of life, jobs, careers, family. The things that matter.

We want guidance but to do things our own way. We want to be safe but take risks. We want to be loyal to employers but true to ourselves. We want to have dreams but stability. We want to do it all but have free time.

Maybe this makes us a confusing lot. Some call us wishy-washy. Maybe it makes us the same as every generation who’s come before us. Some say we’re just young and we’ll change our tune soon enough, as life levels us out (or knocks us down, according to the most cynical.)

Regardless of whether it’s a new thing or not, we’re a paradoxical bunch. This reminds me of myself growing up. I was a tomboy who played in mud and caught snakes, but wanted prissy clothes with ruffles and bells. I loved shoes of all sorts but would rather go barefoot than wear them.

So, the paradox thing isn’t new to me. I’ve always characterized myself this way.

Now, I look at my life and the lives of my peers and see that the phenomenon of paradox is alive and well in all of us, in our dreams, our goals, our values. The question is, do we have impossible dreams, are our hopes too high, or is the world really about to change in ways that we are dreaming of?

And the other question is, will the world simply change around us, or does the evolution depend on our voice, that of a generation ready for change, not just for us, but for everyone?

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6 Responses to “A Generation of Paradox”

  1. Chuck Says:

    To some extent, any change we are ushering in will probably be tempered by a crisis. A tremendous economic depression, war, or disease would probably hit the reset button on many of our goals and desires.

    Our ability to find food and to be safe hasn’t really been called into question in our lifetime, so we have been operating at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

    Aside from that, I think some measure of change really is on the horizon. More young workers are focused on work-life balance than ever before, and at least some of that will stick.

  2. elysa Says:

    I know that I have always had opposing ideas about life. I think for me this stems from growing up in the technology era. I have always had the whole world at me grasp with just the click of a button so it’s pretty easy to have new interests every day or even every hour.

    One of my biggest lessons has been to learn to separate my opposing sides. I think it is ok to love cooking and also ok to love your job but when you spend your cooking time thinking that you should be working then really you don’t get to enjoy either aspect.

    Being a career woman and being a homemaker are no longer mutually exclusive. I think this is fairly new. When I was growing up my friend’s mothers were either working moms or stay at home moms. For the most part the moms that worked did not make dinner. The area I grew up in was fairly affluent so usually the working mom’s had maids that cooked and cleaned.

    To some extent everyone has their own paradoxes – I am a blonde geek, creative intellectual, and a quiet person with a lot to say. I think we grew up with parents who told us we could be anything we wanted to be, consequently we wanted to be several things mixed together. My dad on the other hand grew up in a time believing you did something whether you liked it or not because that’s what being a grown up is about.

  3. Mick Says:

    I think every generation realizes the kind of paradox you’re describing. What separates this emerging generation from the ones that have come before it is its ability to share ideas instantly on a global scale. This breeds many things: understanding, camaraderie, an appreciation of new and different things. It will also breed fear and suspicion for some.

    But a meaningful dialogue and re-examination of the accepted practices and beliefs of our societies will hopefully be one of the accomplishments of this generation. Maybe things won’t change in our lifetimes, but there is an opportunity – at least – to build a strong foundation for future change.


  4. I think you are all right – it’s something that’s universal in people to be curious, and curiosity lends itself to multiple, sometimes conflicting interests.

    But something about now (as I’ve written in the past here) makes our perception of the attainability of multiple paths stay clear, for perhaps longer than ever before. So instead of being midtwenty, thinking well, here’s this career, guess I’ll stick to that, we see the possibilities of endless options. And that is both enlightening and crippling, I guess.


  5. [...] response to Tiffany’s post A Generation of Paradox. I wrote that one of my biggest issues is learning how to deal with separate areas of my [...]

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