Millennials get a bad rap. Every time I see my generation depicted in the media, the headlines ask, "Is this our future?" and call us "the worst generation," as if we're all hell-bent on destroying everything our parents built.
Then comes the avalanche of adjectives tattooed to our identity: narcissistic, disconnected, impatient, unrealistic, lazy, unprepared, immoral. We even make up words like affluenza to describe that minority of millennials with no sense of responsibility or action and consequence, and it doesn't help that they get the majority of clout in our media-driven society.
It needs to stop. We're so much more than what you make us out to be.
This generation shift happens every few decades. Values and priorities change - not in the name of progress, but as a component of progress itself. You did it with your parent's generation, and now we're doing it with yours.
Don't worry. You're in good hands. We're not all hashtags and selfies.
Remember the ladder of success? You know what I'm talking about: graduate high school, then college, then get your first job, pursue that one career until you get a cushy retirement package while hitting your other milestones: a house, car, getting married and having 2.6 children.
You know - success!
Now take that ladder and chop it up for firewood, because millennials ditched that archaic structure when the Great Recession hit.
Most of us were in high school or college when our economy crapped out on us, so we can safely say that economic policies and the greed that caused it had nothing to do with us. When the recovery did come, we were the last in line to reap the benefits.
A fresh college graduate can't compete with experienced professionals, and the in-demand careers were suddenly crowded with overqualified applicants fighting for jobs that didn't exist. 18-25 year olds had an unemployment rate of 14.4 percent in 2013, nearly double of any other age group in the same period.
Combine that with underemployment and the inevitable collapse of Social Security, and you're looking at a generation that will, for the first time in our history, be economically worse off than the previous generation.
Our ladders were missing the bottom rungs, so we're ditching them entirely. That's why we're marrying later, having fewer kids, not buying houses or cars, living with less, and all-around scrapping the notion that the "American Dream" is something attainable and desired. It's a broken system, and we want no part of it.
We're fans of working smarter, not harder. If we can automate it or make it faster, we'll do it. Let it take away jobs. Reduce our hours. That's fine with us. We read the studies that a 30-hour, 4-day workweek makes us happier and healthier.
Our country is the only country in the developed world that doesn't legally have to offer paid vacation. Canada and Japan offer 10 days, and most of the EU offers 20 or more. We are not our jobs, and the expectation that employees should be more loyal to employers than what is reciprocated is antiquated and the rest of the world knows it.
Millennials recognize how one-sided that is, and are more than willing to quit and job hop (four times more than the previous generation) to find a job that flexes with their lifestyles.
So now what? Well, we're starting to redefine success as obtainable happiness rather than career and economic milestones.
While businesses are scrambling to figure out how to market to our generation and big businesses are offering us "opportunities" in the form of unpaid internships and desk warrior positions, we're not-so-quietly shifting our focus to social issues and personal happiness. According to Deloitte's 2014 Millennial Survey, we'd rather work for businesses that are addressing resource scarcity, climate change, and income equality.
We're more globalized and well traveled, and it shows in our sensitivity to other cultures, religions and ideologies. And, believe it or not, we're just as concentrated on family values as the generations before us.
MTV might not think so - but nobody watches MTV anyway.
We're focused on the right things, and considering how fast we can mobilize to address an issue, I'd argue we're doing the baby boomers and "the greatest generation" proud.
We have so much to offer, and now that we're entering the workforce in droves and most of us are of voting age, we're recognizing that we have power and a voice.
Millennials are knocking, and that's nothing to be afraid of.