A Letter to Gen Z

This document is an amalgamation of all the thoughts I’ve had over the past few weeks. I will probably have more thoughts over the upcoming weeks, but this is a start.

For most of my life, I knew 2020 would be a big year of change. It’s the year I would graduate college, live on my own, and start my real, adult life. I didn’t know that I would be picked up off of my dorm room floor, thrown across the room, and then shoved into the washing machine, and then the dryer, for an unknown number of cycles. I guess it’s a bit dramatic, but sometimes that’s what this year has felt like. We are in a global pandemic, people are taking to the streets to protest basic civil rights, and of course, the backdrop is set with climate change. Somehow, despite all of this uncertainty, I am more confident than ever in our generation, and the generations after us. For the first time in a long time, I think we have the power to change the course of history. The global pandemic has allowed us a pause at one of the most crucial points of our lives. If we utilize this pause correctly, we can do so much.

Staying educated

“Learning is a lifelong practice that allows us to think more critically, imagine more radical dreams, communicate our demands, empower our communities, honor our ancestors, reclaim our history and outsmart our oppressors. The learning does not stop beyond this moment. We must keep educating ourselves for the rest of our lives.”

Like a lot of people, the Black Lives Matter movement has given me the activation energy that I needed to figure out how I can work on myself and the internal biases I have. I’ve realized that when it comes to content consumption, I tend to gravitate towards books, movies, and TV shows about people who either look like me or have similar experiences to me. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong in that, but it limits my perspective. I have decided that I would like to challenge myself to read and explore content that is out of my general mental comfort zone, things that I might not naturally gravitate towards.

To be completely honest, I have been struggling to figure out my own opinion on social media activism. It is necessary, but reading through a bunch of Instagram posts, twitter threads, and making a couple of donations is scratching the very surface. I fear that if we don’t push ourselves to engage outside of this realm, we will, as a society be stuck in the same situation we have been in for hundreds of years.

I want to challenge myself to read, listen, watch, and truly engage with content that is out of my comfort zone, not just for this next month, but for the rest of my life.

Doing things with intention

Staying educated is important, but the other part of the equation is taking action. Right now, the actions we are seeing as part of this movement are in the form of protests, whether it is on social media or in person, and they are absolutely necessary. I’ve been trying to understand what kinds of actions I can take not just now, but for the rest of my life.

Soon, I’ll be working in a company, a pretty big company. As someone who is young, I am excited. I’m excited to practice and learn new skills, and yeah, I’m excited to make money. I’m afraid that once I start working, I’m going to be so caught up in those two things, and that I may forget that I still need to be taking actions that fight against lots of problems in our society. As a generation, we need to start actually holding the companies we end up starting in the future, or the companies that we end up working for, fully accountable for their actions.

To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to be easy. I feel like as someone at the bottom of the corporate food chain, especially in a large company, it is easy to feel like you don’t really matter. However, if we all challenge the companies we end up working for together, it could lead to some change. It is really easy to get caught up in the work, and be satisfied with the money, but if we want to genuinely think long term, not just for your own lifetime, but for future generations, we have to start taking actions now.

We need to start asking lots of questions to our team leads, managers and upper management. We are really smart, and we have a lot of energy, and we are probably a lot less jaded than our managers. It’s really easy to be passive, and to accept things, but we need to continuously challenge the systems we are a part of. Educating ourselves and doing the research is a large part of it, but we also need to question and speak up. Ask the questions.

Why are we doing this? Who is this helping? Are we doing this just so we can make more money? Why is making money necessarily better? How is this going to impact the environment? How is this going to impact someone’s mental health? Why have we always done it this way? Where are you getting these facts from? Who is writing this research? Why are they writing it? and so.many.more

There is going to be a moment in time when we will start to take leadership roles in companies and we will have a lot more power. I keep seeing companies make superficial statements about accountability and I feel like that is not enough. These statements need to be followed through, and as employees, we are responsible for getting our companies to follow through.

I guess what I am ultimately saying is that we can’t afford to be lazy, we can’t afford to just think about ourselves, and we can’t expect other people to do the work for us. We all have to work together. We have so many tools at our hands that make us incredibly lazy and we need to actively think about how we are using those tools so that we can all be active participants in society.

Why I think we can do something

Over the past few weeks, I feel like I have seen and talked to many people my age about race, the environment, and so many other issues that plague our society. Perhaps I am living in a sort of bubble, but it seems like there is a lot of motivation to mobilize and change the broken system we live in.

For the first few months of quarantine, I held a lot of anger inside of me, specifically towards older generations. It was easy for me to blame them for creating a lot of the broken system we are a part of. Over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that pointing fingers rarely gets anything done, and that every generation makes mistakes. We generally take actions based on the things we know during the given time period. We do not have the power of hindsight, so we will definitely make mistakes. However, as a generation that has unlimited access to information, we have the power to understand large scale problems and all of the mistakes of the past. Technology is a double edged sword, but if utilized correctly, it is incredibly powerful. If we read, think critically, and take action, we can change a lot, and hopefully for the better!

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