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Enough With the Labels (Please)

Photo Courtesy of lynda.com
Written by Jodi Sterling

I cannot provide you with one name for myself. Though various media outlets consider me a member of “Generation Z,” I have often and consistently been mislabeled as a millennial: prefers to be in touch with technology rather than people, intelligently able to find solutions to issues quickly, and makes a decent amount of money.

  1. Socially resourceful through technology

Mom: I was groped by a man on the train. What should I do?

Me: I’ll think of something.

Google: …?

Dad: You’re smart. Rather than me having to end things, maybe you can write a nice post on Facebook about how your old man needs a kidney.

Me: I’ll think of something.

Facebook: …?

I am not a millennial.

The day my uncle told me that I was killing my father because he continued to work full-time to pay for my college education, despite him being prone to kidney failure, I called my half-sister, and she said, “Just do you.”

Along with “millennial,” people provided additional definitions for myself:

Ghanaian-Chinese academic advisor: Self-sabotager

Caucasian health counselor: Not a good fit

European studies professor: Wrong

Peruvian ex-friend: Fake

My unconscious: Poor nigger

  1. Makes a decent amount of money

After two years of university, I worked an entry-level job at a tech start-up in Times Square. I was the youngest employee and often did not feel a part of the conversations that took place.

Co-Worker (MongoDB Computer Software Lead Engineer; late-twenties; six-figure salary): I received my master’s at Columbia, and I received an offer from Uber and Google. When you think about it, anybody can work at Google. I’m sorry, what were you saying on the phone?

Me (MongoDB Patron; 20; $15.13/hr): My father is under kidney dialysis, and my mother underwent chemotherapy.

Mom (Background Actress; 46; $10.50/hr): He’s right, anybody can work at Google and make a lot of money.

Homeland [generation] says no.

  1. Prefers to be in touch with technology rather than people

I visited a youth organization that focused on helping urban young people of a low socioeconomic status. I wanted to learn more about becoming an intern; instead, an intake counselor mistakenly signed me up as a youth member.

After asking me personal questions about my family dynamic, income, and sex life, the intake counselor told me I was officially entitled to free counseling, health services, and free meals. I went to see a therapist once a week and participated in youth group discussions.

Kid with lisp unsure how to mourn the death of his brother.

Therapist:  Just close your eyes.

Teen confused about her summer spent at a mental institution.

Take a deep breath.

Friend internally conflicted about being a black boy who cries.

Wiggle your toes.

I did not look at my phone.

iGeneration begs to differ.

In NYC, names referring to myself continued to be conflicting:

Jamaican-Belgian co-worker: Precious

Kind therapist: Anthropologist

Black preacher: Israelite

Old friend: Genius

Who am I?

I am not a figure of pity nor a pudding who eloquently rephrases systematic repressions, but one who refuses to speak of my generation with half a mind or one hand tied behind my back.

My unconscious: Painter of hidden portraits.

About the author

Jodi Sterling