You are Not “Not Special”

This POST certainly piggy backs my last couple posts…and I even get a little “controversial” here.

I saw this video today of a graduation speech by a teacher in the Midwest that I am expecting to see go viral in the next couple days (because of a general feeling that there is this plague of “entitlement” pervading our country) and I know that some of you will completely agree with this guy  (I also agree with a lot of what he says, especially the end of his speech, which I know was his overall point), but I challenge you to really think about the danger his type of rhetoric is creating by painting such broad strokes over an entire generation of people. I wouldn’t be so concerned about this if I didn’t see others espousing the same concerns, but without the same discernment and perception that the gentleman giving the speech has. When someone is devoid of that type of mature understanding, I’ve seen this type of rhetoric splatter entire groups of people with what feels like extreme hate and prejudice and have seen many people hurt and wounded as a result (which no matter how thick skinned you are or how good your intentions, you’re not in control with what you absorb on an unconscious level).  It goes without saying that there is a lot of concern out there about my generation (“The” Millenials”) and our so-called “entitlement” issues. I used to be all aboard that train of concern, but am proud to say that I no longer am. In fact, people used to give me a hard time because if I ever heard a story or read an article or book that supported the thesis of my  generation being spoiled, I would always slap my hand down on whatever was in front of me, whether a table or a dashboard, and scream “STUPID ENTITLEMENT!” (which was me expressing my own frustration with my generation). Now I wish that word never existed.

I do believe that there is a phenomenon out there that I like to call “B-Teamer” Syndrome. It’s the scenario where a kid didn’t make a sports team so their parents called the school and complained and the school was then forced to create another team for the kids that didn’t make the “A-Team”. Those kids have now grown up and seem to be bringing that mentality into the workforce etc. I have to admit that that mentality used to frustrate me because I felt like I worked my butt off to make the “A-Team” so why would these kids get to still play? The same was true with theater, they would always double cast the plays I was in and I felt the same in that scenario as well. I would think “C’mon, I worked hard to get here, why should I have to share this.” It’s clear that people are now starting to pick up on that phenomenon and blaming the whole self esteem movement for these B-Teamers who have now become “entitled” adults (but again what makes me mad is that idea gets painted on my entire generation as if this is some type of epidemic). But having lived some life since I was a kid with that “A-Team” mentality, I would now say to myself and those that relate to the “A-Team” mentality, the same thing I would’ve told the B-Teamers back then, “Life isn’t fair! So stop complaining!” Here’s an example of what I’m trying to say; I worked my a** off for 8 years to become a working Hollywood filmmaker (people that could make that a reality for me noted that I have the talent, the vision, and the work ethic to become one) and literally right when I was getting a huge opportunity to break through that ceiling, I had a seizure and found out that I had a potentially terminal illness that would effect my greatest asset (my brain). Now I could sit here and complain about the fact that I was robbed or I could see this unfortunate turn of events as an opportunity to be grateful that I now have a platform, with the assistance of the “entitlement” and “narcissistic” portals of social media, to tell my story and hopefully inspire others as I chronicle my journey, which praise God, has happened. Now how would I even have the courage and confidence to do that if I didn’t feel like I was special? I can guarantee you that there isn’t anything about my achievements that have made me feel special. It’s something much deeper than that. Maybe there is someone much bigger than my teachers, parents, family, or friends telling me that I’m special.

A quick anecdote (I love anecdotes lately for some reason); I actually had the insight to feel the gratitude I mentioned when I was still in the hospital and shared that with some of the people that were visiting me (it wasn’t easy for me to do so because I wasn’t sure that I really believed it or was just thinking it because I was in denial). Amy’s grandmother was so struck by my attitude regarding the situation, that at her church one morning she told a man a couple years older than me (with a young son) the story of me saying that I felt privileged that God would give me such a platform. Then two weeks later he came up to her and thanked her for sharing that story and explained how it completely changed his outlook on his own situation of dealing with a potentially deadly kidney disease. Even as he waits for a match, he continues to share his story and feel blessed. I think it’s important to distinguish that feeling special is different than feeling entitled. If we didn’t embrace our individuality and believe that that alone makes us worthy of having a voice then what’s the point to life?  As the graduation speaker said, embracing our own individuality can help the betterment of society, but another important distinction he makes is that selflessness is the key component to making that work. I’m talking to you Ayn Rand fans (I will however go back to my previous post and say that if Ayn Rand helps you to realize and understand this concept, then more power to you and her…the same goes if you feel the same about this graduation speaker…I will say that I have yet to meet an Ayn Ran fan who doesn’t paint groups of people and organizations with such broad strokes though…which I find to be very ironic, but I digress) Sorry about that tangent, didn’t mean to get so off track. I obviously have a beef with and am painting broad strokes on Ayn Rand fans and followers myself . Glad I caught myself though. Please forgive me…Anyway, my point is that I think people that are focusing so much on this issue of “entitlement” are completely focusing on the wrong things (or perhaps unaware of the fact that they are looking through a glass, darkly).

Something to keep in mind, and this isn’t meant to victimize anyone, (but if you don’t think that we as human beings are an extremely vulnerable and impressionable species especially when we’re growing up then you definitely have some issues that I suggest you work on), is that not all of us are so special that we got treated and coddled the way this guy in the video above describes. Some of us tragically lost a parent when we were teenagers, some of us got abandoned by our parents all together (whether literally or figuratively; as in they check out or don’t take an interest in us), some of us never got a trophy or glowing reviews for anything or by anyone, some of us got Cancer or suffered from other disabilities, some of us grew up in abusive or alcoholic households, and a majority of us grew up as latch key kids (divorced) homes (which from what I can tell is never a great situation). In fact, I would risk my reputation and say that most of us,” millennials”, didn’t grow up very coddled at all, and are quite resilient in spite of what some of our “priorities” as adults appear to be. B-Teamers may be unrealistic in their expectations, but I don’t think that they necessarily feel entitled, I mean, don’t get me wrong, they are definitely annoying, but how could anyone be certain of another person’s attitude? There are too many variables at play to consider why anyone is the way they are. I would love to blame this supposed “problem” on the self esteem movement, helicopter parenting, too many government “safety nets”, the media (especially Mr. Rogers), video games, participation trophies, Facebook, Twitter, and smartphones.

Maybe the speaker is right though, maybe my generation does need a reality check, but I highly doubt it, because we only witnessed 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, Sudan and other calamities. We only watched the Arab Spring catch fire while experiencing the greatest economic downfall since the great depression. When this was happening we also saw the largest national debt, ever, grow exponentially before our eyes, while being forced to find work in the most competitive job market in the history of America all while inflation exploded and our paychecks didn’t (also while a broken congress did nothing to help the situation) and while a lot of this was happening, keep in mind that divorce rates doubled, and the rate of Cancer and heart disease skyrocketed amongst those under 40. I would love to think that the world is black and white and all you had to do was pick yourself up by your boot straps (does anyone even own boot straps anymore?) but I’ve been forced to appreciate the beauty of the color grey this past year. I just want to add that when you consider these stakes, I think you’ll be very proud of the type of leaders and heroes that my generation is producing and will continue to produce (remember that we’re still young at this point). So what if we know that we’re special? Or that we know that we have value beyond our achievements? Do people really think that we don’t understand that things take hard work? No one is above reproach with this.

If you’re someone who uses the word “entitlement”, or complains about people with “entitlement” issues, or actually thinks that you deserve things, then I would suggest that you are in essence putting yourself above others, and how is that not entitlement? You can’t sit here and tell me that you haven’t needed those little awards/rewards in spite of your achievements along the way and even complained about life being so “unfair”. Whether you’re rich or poor; college educated or self made; man or woman; gay or straight; white or not white; fat or thin; young or old; believer or atheist; scientist or theologian; healthy or disabled; mediocre or exceptional; A-Teamer or B-Teamer…you are SPECIAL!!!  No one decides that, it’s just innate in you simply because you’re a human being. Just to be clear, I’m not saying that we are all playing on an even playing field or even that we should be (otherwise like the speaker said, how could we differentiate ourselves?). There are most certainly disillusioned people out there that aren’t willing to put in the effort to create change and opportunity for themselves (or others), but I would say with confidence that those people are few and far between. For those of you who believe otherwise, I would recommend you try an experiment and remove the word “entitlement” from your vocabulary and see what happens. I’ll bet you $50 that you’ll be a lot more patient with others as well as with yourself and I’ll also bet you another $100 that you’ll feel a lot less stress in your life. Once you do that, all you’ll have to do from there is sit back and watch my generation do amazing things like make a good dent in ending poverty, make renewable energy viable and profitable, mine asteroids and go to Mars, and most importantly find the cure for Cancer…Pretty notable achievements, right? Well what can I say? We’re just special like that!!!

Much Love,

Alex

P.S. Fernando, I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow. How ’bout we continue this streak of clear scans, bud! Sound good?

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