I have tried to make a difference in my community and the lives of those around me. I have worked on seven political campaigns, founded an educational nonprofit, taught at a mission school in Alaska, and ran for public office. I now sit on the board of directors of four nonprofit organizations, write political analysis for a bilingual multimedia news organization, and serve as a small group leader at my church – all while simultaneously working a job and continuing my education.
The opportunities I have had, have given me the ability to gain skills and coordinate with people in a way that is untypical for someone my age.
However, the hopefulness that has propelled me is depleting, and frustration is gradually taking its place.
I live in a society where the older generations have systematically eroded the notion of American success and pride and, in turn, replaced such values with a nihilistic outlook and grim prospects for the future.
Today youth are bombarded with world-changing environmental threats and disasters – in addition to rising geopolitical tensions and national polarization never experienced by any living generation in the United States today.
Education costs for those tasked with leading the United States into the future are crippling. The economy is weak; inflation is sky-high.
In addition to those things, the dissolution of family values and a crippled public education system have added to record high rates of youth depression, drug addiction, and suicide.
Despite this, I regularly hear people say that the younger generation is weak, soft, ungrateful, and unmotivated – I disagree.
I live in a world where the older generations on both the Left and the Right use personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, culture, religion, sexual orientation, and heritage as political chips that do nothing but divide.
It guts me that as opposed to simply being both a person and an American, my value as an individual is tied to the perceived color of my skin, the origin of my birth, my gender, my sexuality, and my socioeconomic status.
To Democrats, I am defined by a perceived and lingering notion of “white privilege.”
To Republicans, I am defined by the fact that I was born overseas and am somehow less of an American because I do not fit into their typical mold of individual being.
Oddly enough, the uncertain challenges that loom over the United States in the not-so-distant future dishearten me considerably less than the stubbornness of the individuals who have led us to where we are now.
I have come to the determination that what the older generation fears more than anything is not the “evil” of their opposition prevailing but losing the custodianship of a power they cling to so dearly.
I have come to this conclusion because I have consistently been met with fierce adversity in nearly every field I have worked. People who claim to have the same communal interests have challenged my age, maturity, intelligence, capability, dignity, and morality, in addition to all the demographics I mentioned above.
It is interesting to me that although I am regularly told that the problem we face as a nation is that youth “won’t get involved,” in many of the areas that I have worked in, people older than I have taken advantage of my help and, in turn, treated me with blatant disrespect.
Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “I Have a Dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
With the same spirit as Dr. King, I hope to one day live in a country where, as a person, I am judged not by the perception of my age, political affiliation, or letters behind my name but by the content of my character and the abilities of my mind.
I struggle with the reality that most of the established professionals I work with tend to choose to interpret my silence as a lack of understanding, my haste for youthful angst, my challenge of the status quo as stubbornness, and my focus as unsociability.
It seems as if I am too focused, I am socially awkward, and if I am too social, I am not focused enough. And, if people fail to explain things clearly, then I am the one who lacks understanding.
If I am too white to be a minority, too foreign to be accepted, too conservative to be progressive, too progressive to be conservative, too young to be a professional, and too inexperienced to be a leader, then what am I?
In a country where so few people act beyond idle comments on social media platforms, I am regularly met with fierce resistance from groups of people who claim to be “interested in improving the condition of the world” yet ultimately work in circles to accomplish very little.
It often seems to me that when older people “who have more experience” say they wish youth would become more active and involved, they are primarily interested in having young minds to impart their “wisdom” on more than they are interested in preparing the next generation to eventually lead.
Young people are not just warm bodies to be bossed around and commanded.
I am exhausted by an older generation, which has caused the majority of the problems that we face in the world today, acting as though they have superiority over the generations after them that they seem to have forgotten.
While I hold that the test of time is one that cannot be replicated in any other way and that those who have lived longer than I, have a wisdom and knowledge that I do not possess- I believe that considering the state in which we find the world today, the notion that status quo and the repetition of benign practices will lead us to a better tomorrow, is foolishness.
At the age of 19, I am already tired. I am tired of spinning my wheels, tired of dealing with stubborn people who are stuck in old ways, tired of being trivialized by those around me, tired of being pushed around, tired of being told that my generation is weak or lazy, and tired of liberals AND conservatives indoctrinating youth with their own blatant social and political propagandas.
More than anything, I believe there is always a solution in a world full of problems. So, despite the resistance faced by my generation, I wake up and move forward each day.
Eventually, the younger generation will be left with the duty of leading the world forward. I hope the youth of my generation still care.