Perhaps I’m as self-centred as all those pundits say I am – as a member of Generation Y, I perhaps have a bit of a preoccupation with how awesome I can be. All I can say is that it feels a lot better than having a preoccupation with how doomed I am, because I imagine that the problems the world will be facing 10 or 20 years down the line when I’m 30 or 40 might be helped by the fact that I bothered to believe in myself to do some kickass learning and connecting when I was in my 20′s. Added to that, for some inexplicable reason, some really smart, awesome people who are older than me and who have done a lot of stuff, have been actively nourishing this belief in me, and, well, I have the makings of getting really full of myself.
I find this faith charming, but odd sometimes. Wasn’t I just yet another Communication student in 2005, with a fascination with blogging and geeky tech stuff? How did I end up running Transit Camps, when there are still more days than not when I find myself too shy to talk to more than 5 people in a single day? I’m not used to all this civic-ness that people attribute to me. My self-image has yet to catch up with the stuff I’ve actually done.
I like David Eaves’ post about ChangeCamp and the long tail of public policy; I think it explains where I am and how I’m liking my politics at the current moment. We could chalk it down to me being too Canadian, or highly representative of my demographic (under 25, non-white and female), but I’m typically unable or unwilling to assert my ground on what I believe until pushed, and definitely afraid to put these ideas on paper (even in this virtual realm) most of the time. (Joe Clark will call me “not a writer” for this reason.)
I’d rather my politics be based around having fun, but the fun makes the painful parts worth it for those going through it. Someone’s got to do the heavy lifting: the stats crunching; the policy paper/thesis writing; the evaluating, the 2-hour meetings in windowless rooms; the protests in the freezing cold; the applying for insurance and road closures; the set-up and the take-down. I like the idea of developing participation methods engaging to anyone no matter where they are in the spectrum of time to give and willingness. It acknowledges that everyone, by virtue of being a member of the community, is welcome to participate in whatever capacity they can or want to, and that even those participating in less intense ways can still bring value, while gently insisting that richer, more involved participation is always possible and needed.
What does this have to do with Generation Y? I’m thinking back to Civic Life and the Information Age by Stefanie Sanford, the book I read during my research, and the picture it painted of Millenials and Tech Elites. The task at hand is to know the rules well enough to bend them, reconcile the values behind them with the ones we’ve learned for ourselves (in collaboration with our peers), then to synthesize the new solution that truly makes use of and capitalizes on the technology we know.
I see myself as a bit of a use-case for how someone goes from being observant and well-informed, to becoming active, engaged and exercising empowerment in a meaningful way. (At least others find it meaningful; I have quite the chip on my shoulder about it all, really.) And I don’t think the journey is complete by any means; and it is likely a journey without an end destination. The narratives about how one goes about affecting change remain as muddled as ever. It also happens to overlap nicely with the Gen Y search for meaning, enjoyment and creativity at work.
In other words, just as there is no use in me asking someone to create my dream job, there is also no use in me asking someone to create the government I want to interact with, and I’m still young and idealistic enough to want to do more than just whine about it.