Millennial Musings: The Weird State of Feeling Both Young and Old at the Same Time

“Things have changed for me. And that’s OK. I feel the same, I’m on my way.” — That Green Gentleman, Panic! at The Disco

I’ve been thinking about this line lately. It’s from “That Green Gentleman”, a song that came out in 2008 when I was a twenty-year-old in college. At the time, I thought I felt this song’s message since college was a whole different world from the alma matter I stayed in for 12 years.

But today, at 32 years old and a year-plus into a global pandemic, this line hits completely different. It reminds me of another song that aged like fine wine:

Has there ever been an existential crisis that bopped this hard? I don’t think so.

Of course, I’m a very different person now than I was then. But for the most part, I still feel the same. I’m still me. I still have some of the same insecurities, just on different things.

For some reason, 2008 still feels like 5 or 6 years ago to me. I still have vivid memories (and sometimes dreams) of college, which was probably the last period of my life where I was truly carefree.

It’s weird getting to an age that you once considered “old.” That realization of “holy shit, Tito na ako” is still something I can’t wrap my head around. And it’s not that I haven’t accepted it — I have, long ago.

But to be constantly reminded of it in some form or another (thanks, social media), is something that still feels wild to me. I guess I'm just not used to pop culture figures generally being younger than I am, or with seeing old schoolmates settle down and have kids.

The year I was born might have played a role in this. If you go by the Pew Research Center’s classification of millennials (1981–1996), then I am somewhere right in the middle — and I can’t help but feel the gap between elder millennials and our younger gen-mates.

I grew up at an analog age, after all. I wasn’t a very active kid, so much of my childhood was spent glued to either the TV or to books. When I wasn’t watching or reading, I was drawing or listening to the radio.

By the time my teen years rolled in, technology had only started accelerating to the breakneck pace it’s on now. I got my first cellphone at 13, (3310 gang, what’s up?) and with it, my first real taste of autonomy.

The ability to instantly message someone, privately, at any time, anywhere (LOL remember pagers?) felt like living in the future. You no longer had to hog the home phone, and risk having your convos overheard.

And even with slow-ass dial-up internet, the world seemed so open, so filled with possibility — right until someone needed to make a call and you had to log off.

Then, college rolled in. And with it came color-screen camera phones, broadband internet, and social media (hello, Friendster and Multiply). These things made being an adolescent pretty interesting. It normalized cyberstalking to some degree, and digitized the concept of social currency much further than we thought possible.

And then, smartphones arrived. The world changed even faster. We now had actual computers in our pockets, which really changed the way we live, work, play, and even date.

Imagine browsing through potential life partners while taking a dump. Thanks, technology.

It’s been pretty wild seeing all these major technological breakthroughs happen in my lifetime. Especially since every time they happened, I was always at an age where one can be considered “young.” As such, I’ve always been an eager early adopter of tech. I loved tinkering with gadgets, and seeing just what I can do with them.

But then something happened: I got older.

Of course, this happens to everyone. But I doubt this change has felt quite as fast as with the generations before us, as they didn’t have the maddening “always-on” feeling that comes from having high-speed internet you can access anytime, anywhere through smartphones.

I mean, do you ever think about how wild it is that most of us have a social media account that is over a decade old?

Think of how perfectly preserved your cringy college-era memories are on Facebook. Be annoyed at how often it reminds you of how far you’ve come while also making it feel like your youth wasn’t that long ago. Shit’s wild. I can’t tell you how many old, problematic posts I’ve deleted out of sheer embarrassment.

But ultimately, I think it’s in the workplace where I and other Millennials have really felt this uncomfortable transition into real, actual adulthood. I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that we were the young ones getting flak from our elders for working differently than them.

We were the bright-eyed idealists eager to prove ourselves — just on our own terms and conditions. We were the generation that worked hard — but you didn’t see us sweat because of how well we’ve utilized technology to optimize our workloads.

And with how constantly we update our social media accounts, we’ve always come across as the “me, me, me” and the “better at looking busy than actually being busy” generation.

Now, the tables have turned. We’re the middle managers now, and Gen Z is the new “problem child” in more traditional workplaces because they are even more impatient and outspoken than we ever were.

This is to be expected, I guess. And look, I’m not saying Millennials are perfect. But at least for us in the older half of this generation, there’s still enough childhood memories from a simpler, pre-internet age to make us grateful for how far we’ve come technologically.

I imagine growing up at a time when you actually had to wait for the exact day and time for your favorite show to air just makes you a lot more patient. Especially when you had to sit through countless commercials to finish them.

And yes, the internet did eventually ruin our attention spans and made us impatient about accessing content. But at least we had developed our minds to some degree before that happened.

I can still remember when I can devour novels in days. Now, I can’t even get through a long-form article without peeking at my smartphone notifs.

This makes me wonder how much worse the average Gen Z person’s attention span is. After all, they grew up with broadband internet, which means they immediately got to enjoy Youtube and its search bar and pause button, with only the occasional *gasp* 15 seconds of unskippable ads to dampen their viewing experience.

This is not to shit on Zoomers. I’ve not nearly old enough to reach that Boomer/Gen-X attitude of “back in my day!” posturing. It’s just interesting to me that while I’m in the age where I can still understand why they like the things they do (ugh, Tiktok), I can no longer ride along to it with them as easily.

Of course, being single probably plays a part in this. Settling down and having kids is one of those traditional markers of being an adult. And while there are some in my age group who’ve reached this stage (congrats), the vast majority of us haven’t.

The numbers back this up: Millennials are marrying later and are having less kids than the generations before them. And it makes sense because our economic reality is vastly different from our parents. We’re making way less than they were, while the cost of living has only gone up.

Our generation also prizes experiences over possessions. We’re more likely to splurge on trips and concerts than cars or condos. YOLO is the motto, and for better or worse, that’s made our future prospects seem less promising than previous generations.

Here’s one particularly sobering example: the current tuition in my old high school is not something I can afford for my children, should I have them. That’s quite disheartening. Imagine not being able to give your kid the same opportunities you had.

If that’s the economic situation you’re faced with, then of course you wouldn’t want to bring kids into this world. Especially when you don’t even feel set in whatever career path you’re on currently.

And that’s really at the root of this all, isn’t it? Today’s careers are just so different from what our parents had. From spending decades in companies and reaping the benefits after retirement, we’re job-hopping every few years just to get a good raise, because loyalty almost never pays these days.

Various industries are also getting disrupted, so a lot of the traditional careers just aren’t as lucrative as they once were.

Now add this damn pandemic to that already shitty situation, and your life plans get delayed even more. Just having a job that covers your basic expenses is a privilege these days, so it’s hard for me to complain about making way less now than I did pre-pandemic when others have literally emptied their savings just to get by.

It’s frustrating, of course. But what can you do but tough it out? We Filipinos aren’t resilient by choice, but by circumstance. There is simply no other way.

Now I don’t really have a strong, concluding statement for this whole piece. This is literally just me musing about this weird state I find myself in, and hoping that if you, the person reading this feels the same way, then maybe you’ll find some comfort in knowing you’re not alone in this.

So take care, and be well. Here’s to not being constrained with old ideas on what being an adult is, nor to being pressured with having this or that at a certain age. Because the truth is, no one really knows what they’re doing, and no one really knows where the world is heading.

We might as well get comfortable with that discomfort. ❤

writer, dreamer, home cook