Lately, my soul has felt like a flickering flame. I keep blaming it on New York City, but here’s why: New York is an amazing city. But it’s also so completely draining. It’s the weirdest combination of feelings I have ever experienced. On one hand, the chaos of New York City, I feel, is kind of dampening my spirit in so many ways. But on the other hand, there are so many ways to get involved, become active in the world, and represent yourself and your community.
My spirit is a flickering flame. Society views us as “too young,” aka, incompetent. Because we are only twentysomethings, we surely can’t do anything. We have to “climb the ladder,” “work our way up,” “pay our dues.” And because adulting sucks, we are constantly seeing reminders about how people who are rich and famous now had once failed when they were our age. Like that’s supposed to make us feel any better? We get it, not everyone was born to be rich, famous, and successful. But why should our age be a detriment?
I had a conversation with one of my students yesterday. He loves journalism, and is passionate about Muslim-American representation in publications. He was having a hard time finding jobs that combined the two, so I suggested, “Why don’t you just start your own publication?” His eyes bulged out like I had suggested something as ridiculous as ripping off his own arm and making a tuba out of it. His response, “I’m too young.”
So, I’m going to call out some steaming bullshit.
Some of the most powerful changemakers in history were twentysomethings. Or, at least started their careers as twentysomethings that then led them to bigger movements. And while all people can have the passion to fuel change, it really was true when our parents looked at us as children and said, “They are the next generation of leaders.” Well, now we’re here. We are grown. We are the leaders. We need to be. Because otherwise, it’s all old, conservative, white men in power. And especially with this upcoming election, that just can’t be the case anymore.
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the movement to desegregate the public bus systems, he was twenty six years old. Twenty six years old. Two Six. Just to provide some context, I am currently twenty five years old, and I feel like I haven’t done much for the world other than make a few good lattes at Starbucks. Granted, maybe we all can’t be on Dr. King’s level…but at the same time, why not? Why can’t we change the world?
The answer is that we can change the world.
As twentysomethings, we have a unique position in the world because we are the next generation. We are the leaders. We have the power to unite, and always have. Take a look at history, and you will see a consistent theme: most large social/political movements that have advocated for change have all been led by young people. And if not led by young people, the majority of the members have all been young.
Now, it’s important to note – this isn’t to devalue the work of our older friends who advocate and live their lives as activists every day. Their experience, connections, insight is invaluable to younger movements today. However, the intent is to inspire our young people to make positive social change. “Young people,” aka us. The people who think we are too young, not experienced enough, blah blah fill-in-the-blank with any other excuse you may have.
The time is now. We must act now. We have the power to be leaders, and to lead this country, this world, towards positive social change.