Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My "Complete Idiot's Guide" That Never Was

In February of 2011, I went to the Complete Idiot's Guide website and saw that they were soliciting book proposals.  Thrilled beyond words (at the time, I could think of nothing more exciting than seeing my name under the words "complete idiot" on a book cover), I asked my friends and family, both in person and on Facebook, what topic they considered me an expert on (i.e., what topic I could most swiftly and easily churn out a book on).  Of the many suggestions I got (and of those for which guides had not already been written), I narrowed it down to two:  social media etiquette (huh) and "Adulthood for Millennials."

I quite earnestly started both books and equally earnestly abandoned them after deciding I was perhaps not a true expert on either.  But here is a tiny taste of one of the two, in what might have one day become The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adulthood for Millennials:

(Complete Idiot's Guides always start with a letter to the reader.)

Dear Twentysomething,
Well done!  You have survived into your “early adulthood” in the modern world.  Much has been made in recent times about the Millennial Generation, those of us born sometime roughly in the eighties or nineties and coming of age roughly around the millennial mark.  If Generation X was all angst and grunge and inner turmoil, then we Millennials are defined by our relentless optimism and
hopeless fascination with fame and technology.  We are the “Me Generation,” raised to value our personal happiness and to celebrate our individuality.  And we are coming of age in a world that is full of people who weren’t raised the way we were.
This book approaches the topic of “growing up” from the practical standpoint that in the modern world, no generation can be defined by the generations before or after it.  Our parents didn’t need to know how to make a LinkedIn profile after they graduated from college any more than the next generation will need to be taught basic computer skills in school.
As a member of the Millennial generation, I’ve found that the transition from adolescence to the “real world” hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be.  And amidst all the self-help books and generation-deprecating memoirs out there, there weren’t any practical guides to basic Millennial issues.  Getting a job is one thing…but how do you handle older co-workers who are constantly asking you for tech advice?  And while we’re bombarded with ads warning against our future wrinkles, no one thinks to prepare us for the moment when our childhood icons start showing up as “vintage characters” in trendy clothing stores.  And, really, how are you supposed to pick a grad school (or career) when society can’t even settle on a social networking site we all agree on?
Some of the advice in here is given with the understanding that there are plenty of books out there that offer endless advice about major issues, like jobs and relationships, though those topics are covered here too.  But mainly what I wanted to present was a guide to the things that only Millennials have to deal with.  We are, after all, a generation first and foremost concerned with ourselves.
So revel in your uniqueness! And enjoy the read…
Becky Heineke
Congratulations!  You are now old enough to be considered a “responsible and self-sustaining citizen” by the unsuspecting public.  Now what?
No doubt you’ve spent your formative years being told that a college education is all you need to succeed in this world.  Unfortunately, a bachelor’s degree isn’t what it used to be.  And neither is your infantile adulthood.  Many obstacles face you before you can truly call yourself a grown-up:  employment, maintaining friendships via the prickly world of social networking, pet ownership...  Luckily for you, there are lots of books already on the market that deal with many of these challenges. 
Unluckily for you, they’ve probably been written by people much older than you who have had far different life experiences than you.
So first, we must determine whether or not you are a Millennial.
The millennial generation, aside from being ultra-hip and pop-culture forward, has a couple of defining characteristics:
Mashable.com stock photo of The Millennial Human
- Millennials grew up in the “can do” era.  Remember the participation ribbons you got just for showing up to track meets once a week?  Remember the Reagans telling you you could be anything you wanted to be when you grew up?  Your Baby Boomer parents didn’t get that when they were kids.
- Millennials are the first generation in history to grow up as “digital natives.”  We’re also the last generation in history who – barring a cataclysmic technological breakdown - will be able to remember a time before the internet was part of our daily lives (though for some of us, remembering back that far might be a little hazy).  The people who study these sorts of things liken it as similar to learning a language as you grow, as opposed to picking it up much later in life.  Your parents, for instance, probably find computers to be less intuitive than you do.  They learned the ins and outs of computing long after they were already adults, whereas Millennials grew up with and around advances in technology.
Though we have yet to see the impact on the next generation, who is being born into a world more wired than ever before, what that generation won’t have is the perspective that Millennials do in terms of how quickly things have changed.  You may have grown up staring at screens, but you also remember how much those screens have changed over the years.  Each of you can probably remember the first time you got on the internet, what it was like to make the switch from dial-up to broadband, and how people communicated before everyone had a cell phone (remember car phones?).  Touchscreen navigation may make perfect sense to you, but you also remember that there was a time when Mario was two-dimensional and pixilated. 
That inherent talent for technology, combined with an appreciation for what life was like before it, makes our generation truly unique.  And if there’s anything to be said about being unique, it’s that other people don’t always understand where you’re coming from.

[Twelve pages of outlines (on topics as diverse as "Fictional Icons of Our Childhood" and "Common Office Personalities and How to Deal with Them") and a section on job advice later (yes, for some reason I was giving job advice)...]

There are few activities as wholesomely ego-stroking as delivering a good blog entry.  Though blogs exist on nearly every subject
imaginable, the personal blog – one written about the author’s life – remains a popular way to convey detailed information to family and friends.  Lacking the word count limit of Facebook or Twitter updates, and allowing the author to post pictures within the body of the text, a blog is like a memoir that’s being written and published in real time.
Consider blogging if you are: 
1. Wordy.
2. Excessively narcissistic. 
Consider Facebook if you are:
1. Alive.  Let’s face it.  Everyone’s on Facebook.
Consider MySpace if you are:
1. Stuck in the past.  Let’s face it.  MySpace is dead.
Consider Twitter if you are:
1. Unable to punctuate and/or spell. 
2. Enjoy hashtags.
Consider LinkedIn if you are:
1. Boring. 
2. A nerd.
3. Legitimately looking for a job.  (Unlike most other networking sites, this one does have an air of professionalism about it.) 

[And then there were some more pages, with topic headings like "The Perils of Facebook," "Emoticons:  As Complex as Real Emotions Nowadays," and "Online Fame:  How It Is Both Like and Is Not Like Actual Fame".  I may post more of this in the future.  I really wish I'd known enough to write this book because I'D KIND OF LIKE TO READ IT, MAN.]


  1. HA! I would've read it ... and if only because I am probably just out of the millenial area with me being born in 78 .... but I am feeling like one reading the introduction :)

    The aera of computer hit me in the "midst" of my life when we first got one :) so I kinda grew up with it and kinda was long enough an outdoor-sy and own-fantasy child to appreciate both worlds

    I am as always not sure anything I say makes sense tho .lol.

    Annie Sasha

    1. I think you could easily argue that you were a Millennial. :) About a year after I wrote all of this, I read a book on our generation that put the starting point in the mid-seventies. I've also read things that would suggest that you have to have been born in the nineties...in fact, all of this led to me coming up with this big theory about how our generation doesn't have a collective identity, and part of that stems from no one knowing who, exactly, is part of our generation!

      But anyway, ha, yes, I get exactly what you're saying about getting the best of both worlds! It's sad, in a way, to think that we're the last people who will ever know what life was like before the internet was part of our daily lives. (As we've talked about many times before on this blog, life was different, but we all seemed to get along just fine without it. :))

    2. oh yes, it def is sad.

      Especially when you see how it did change the society, for the good in some ways - and the bad IMHO for the most part. I think kids these days miss out on a lot of OWN experiences. They climb trees and mountains but only virtual, never knowing what it really feels like to stand on top of a mountain. As a kid. Nevermind if they ever do that when being an adult.

      And yes, life was still enjoyable without mobile phones nevermind smartphones and the internet ... :)

      Annie Sasha

    3. oh btw. happy easter and fun on the egg search :P

    4. Thank you, and a belated Happy Easter to you, too!! Just got back last night from a long weekend at my parents'. Whenever I go there, I generally steer clear of the internet, and I always come back thinking about how very little I missed it... :)

  2. I would totally read this book. Please post more excerpts.

    1. I'm planning on it! (I went through what I had for the social media one and it was not nearly as interesting. Sadly.)

  3. This is a great blog entry. I wish you had written it, too, but I will settle for excerpts of what was written. The 1970s were coined the "Me Generation" because everyone was off trying to find themselves by doing est, getting rolfed, and reading Gestalt Therapy Verbatim by Frederick Perls and pretending to understand it. The movie, "Semi-Tough" with the (then) ubiquitous Jill Clayburgh captures this decade perfectly. "That 70s Show" did a pretty good job, too.

    I want to say more about Millenials and job attitude but I haven't had enough coffee yet. Maybe later.

    1. I think the biggest difference between the Me Generation of the 1970s and the current Millennial generation is that people (kids!) today have so many more vessels through which to celebrate/promote/talk about themselves (this blog being a perfect case in point). It's like, not only do you have people believing themselves to be important, but you have a society-wide system in place that allows them to corroborate that view.

      And I think the effects of that are only going to be compounded in the generation following this one. Interesting times to be alive and observing our species, for sure... :D