Some time ago, my friends and I realized we could get things to go our way if we followed two rules: Be confident (act like you know what you’re doing), and—when things don’t go our way—say “I’m not mad, just disappointed.”
Welcome to my generation. Not much different from yours, dear reader. Not especially if you are a millennial yourself.
Forever disappointed at the state of things, and forever heading uncontrollably into a nasty wreck.
Forever hopping into bandwagons, wearing a million and one bracelets for a million and two causes.
Saturating your social media feed with confirmation bias.
If I’m being honest (that’s a good goal, isn’t it?), all these stereotypes are all too familiar.
Here to play into the prejudices of my and my audience’s (read: you) stereotypes, I have agreed to talk to all of us on this blog and—as honestly as possible—give you a little insight on how I see my life and religion’s role in it.
Fortunately for us, religion has always had a distinct role in my life.
As a high school student, I spent what spare time I had pretty involved in church. Several youth leaders and even youth pastors threw me and my fellow high schoolers, along with the couple adults that were afraid of their age, into workshop after workshop, trying to figure out the direction to take us so we didn’t become statistics.
These focus groups always left me and my friends with a bad taste in our mouths and the leader and “older” people with a sense that they might be the first group of adults to finally understand us.
What always happened was that the youth pastor with a Ph. D. in Adolescent and Youth studies tried to categorize and explain what my friends and I were thinking but too young to articulate with us present, and never once asked us if he was correct in his assumptions.
I realized then that that moment was the last time I could explain from first-hand experience what was going on in the mind of a teen inside the church.
I promptly opened up Microsoft Word, created a tacky cover page and changed the name of the document from Untitled to Untitled: Church and Religion through My Eyes.
I stared at that screen for what seemed like hours, felt warm inside about the start, and closed the document and crawled in bed. Tomorrow, I told myself, I’d know what to say after sleeping on it.
If you were to boot up my parents’ computer today, under the folder “Pablo’s Files,” there’s a 13 KB Word document, proud owner of a tacky cover page—and not much else.
When I was approached to comment on religion and Adventism through a millennial’s eyes, I smirked and thought about that document. If my 16-year-old self could read what I’m about to write he’d probably feel slighted at how far off from the truth I am.
That’s the point, I think, of this whole mess. I’ve got to realize that what I write down here, reader, is no longer representative of what our youth are actually thinking. Seven years ago, I thought I was inundated by the media around me, but the alphabet soup of apps has only gotten thicker.
I want to be honest with myself, and by extension, you, the reader. All opinions are purely individual, biased, and laced with such a potent brand of cynicism that lady Macbeth would kill for a vial.
What I crave most of all is a community. I crave the presence of friends and mentors. Whether you’re one of the million types of introvert or extrovert, having someone or some group to share in our defeats and victories and silences is what drives us.
I enjoy moments of silence. I do not mind passing hours without speaking, so long as there’s someone there to share it with.
I equally enjoy listening. This is useful, since my major was and my (still) dream career is to be a writer, giving voice to survivors and fighters of the normal world.
Then there’s times I can’t be shut up. I want everyone to know about my day, and about the obstacles I’ve overcome or face-planted into.
I don’t like to assume things, but I’m going to throw an assumption out and hope it doesn’t splat someone or me in the face.
We all crave a community.
I don’t mean one where it’s all rainbows and butterflies and unicorns. I mean one where we can share silences, voices, face plants and victories and get more than a pat on the shoulder.
Where do I start?
Mean what I say, and choose my words carefully. “How are you?” should not be on my list of greetings if I don’t want to hear a long and honest answer about how someone is really doing. “Are you ok?” should make way to “Is everything all right?” (Guilty of that one. Recently, actually.) I suppose you can boil it down to “Am I doing everything in my power to make sure everyone around me has their needs met?”
I hear you, this isn’t what you wanted to hear. You want facts and my views to correlate with the statistics shouting that my generation is leaving the church in hordes.
If those are the answers you seek, I will disappoint you every week. I will touch on subjects that matter to me and why they should matter to you. I might engage in editorializing, but I want you to disagree with me.
Communication, then—how I act, how I speak, listen, do silence, and meet others where they are and not where I want them to be—communication is the key to life. Let’s commune.