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Hope for Facing an Unknown Future


Every millennial has a story about the disconnect between their lives and the suggestions from their parents. The one that we like to titter about — but that has decreased in actual use because some older generations had to reenter the workforce — is how we should print our resumes on nice card stock, dress up and walk in to speak to the owner of the company and ask him — always a him — for a job.

We all knew that was the fastest way to get escorted out of a location, depending on our level of determination.

Some of us did this, and when we did, we were told to apply online. We'd tuck our tails in, go back home to copy and paste from a resume we already submitted into an online black hole, and do a round of ethically dubious questionnaires about whether we'd snitch on the customer stealing baby formula and if we truly hate unions as much as the company does.

The New York Times speculated this week that "This Isn't What Millennials Middle Age was Supposed to Look Like" with a dive into readers' experiences about failing to hit developmental milestones, listing suggested ages for mile markers of success like an insecure mother capturing if their toddler potty-trained at the right time.

What the opinion piece missed out on is that we already had a nagging feeling for decades that our experiences were not going to match up to the experiences of our parents in some very drastic and unrelatable ways, and there are continual reminders that we need to encounter these experiences without any guidance.

For example, recently, artificial intelligence made a jump in how a filter can slightly tweak your face in real-time video. It's so subtle — and that's the insidious part of it. You believe you can bring that image to life if you just try harder. If I just trimmed my eyebrows or added more makeup, I could look like that. But an army of estheticians and cosmetic surgeons quickly made videos that reminded people that makeup could not alter your bone structure or altogether remove skin texture.

That didn't stop me from watching a spiral from a friend of mine who was absolutely determined to make her face match that filter. Three videos from her popped up within a day or two, and each time she dropped the filter to examine how well her newest round of makeup would align, her smile would falter just so slightly; she couldn't be perfect. None of us can, but it doesn't stop us from trying.

Sure, during my teens, there were offhand comments about how magazines Photoshopped their photos, but we also watched some of our traumatized mothers repeat the mantra, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

We call them almond moms now, laughing at how many times we'd have our mothers ask us if we were actually hungry or if we just needed a glass of water or a few almonds to tide us over.

To break that chain, I know I'll have to craft a conversation with different layers for both my daughter and son. Beauty can be altered to conform to an unrealistic standard that you cannot hope to create or will see across from you on a first date. Your girlfriend might have stretch marks without ever having had a child. Your face will have a texture that no pore filler can smooth when he leans in to kiss you.

And, as is universal, their belief in me will be hampered by an imperiousness of youth that I also remember. But it's the universal themes that can bring them hope.

I hope they walk into their new world and see the blurred edges like I've learned to see in mine. When they wake up in a hospital bed, it's the crooked tooth in the smile of the person they love that means familiarity and care. It's the tiger stripes on a wife's belly that remind them how she fought to bring your kids into the world.

I want my children to know that even though there are those who would like us to experience the filtered world day in and day out, it's the unfiltered world that holds the true magic of life.

Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma.

She can be reached by email at cassie@mcclurepublications.com.