I met an older woman the other day. She was exceptionally friendly and wanted to know everything about me. From whether or not my hair was dyed to how I managed to survive childhood with six siblings. When she asked what I went to school for, I told her communication. She, like most people, asked what on earth an education in communication allows you to do. I get this question a lot and it is usually easiest to explain with an example, so I told her that I had recently done a social media strategy for an up and coming non-profit in the GTA. It happened quicker than I expected, I am not sure why I was surprised as this had happened many times before. I got the look. The ‘ah, you are a millennial who cannot survive without social media or your cell phone and are contributing to the decline of society as a result’ look. Her face dropped as she muttered “a shame” and promptly left the coffee line, without a coffee. I kid you not when I say that I am 95% sure that my apparent successes ruined that woman’s entire day.
I tried not to blame her, even when the woman who was standing in front of us (mildly eavesdropping) gave me a smile and shoulder shrug out of pity— confirming what had just happened. Of course, it doesn’t really matter what this one woman feels about digital communication or what I choose to do with my career, but it does highlight an ongoing issue that has and will continue to exist. It would be naive to assume that everyone will be supportive of this field of work. Although, this was not the first time I had had an experience like this; in fact, I probably couldn’t count how many times on both hands. It is no secret that millennials take a lot of heat from older generations. Yes, I am probably far too addicted to my phone and I could stand to talk to my Google Home a little less, but what I won’t do is allow myself to feel discredited by a particular subset of individuals who do not understand my achievements. As a generation, we may not surpass the rest; I certainly am not qualified to say for certain, but disregarding a human being because of their career path alone is questionable. Think about it for a second. This woman was the kindest, chattiest, most personable woman for an entire conversation and because I muttered two words, she actually left the line she had been in for 15 minutes, without her coffee.
Of course, there are far greater forms of injustice in the world— racism, sexism, homophobia, etc,. I could go on, but I am not seeking to compare one injustice to another because there is no comparison; nor is it a competition. What I am trying to highlight, however, is that our personal successes are exactly that; they are ours alone. I have achieved far more than I ever thought I would. My grade 8 teacher told me that based on my performance to date, I would never go to university and I believed her. An old friend of mine told me that I was lucky I was good at makeup because I needed to make money somehow. My grade 11 metal shop (yes, you read that correctly) teacher told me that I would struggle to find a career because I required constant approval and feedback. Despite proving all of these lovely people wrong with two degrees and despite feeling confident in my achievements, I will never please that woman. I could end poverty and I am pretty sure she would still be disappointed if I did it via social media. You cannot please everyone and you probably cannot cure poverty with social media, but you can enjoy every sip of that delicious coffee.