As a millennial, that label more fitting for a new Windows operating system than an entire generation (so called for being born within a decade of 2000), I've been led to believe I am part of a directionless group of self-centered children who don't enter adulthood until they turn 30.
Go back to 2010, when a New York Times Magazine article promoted a new term for twenty-something's who stay adolescent past their due: emerging adulthood. Leave it to a Grey Lady to find the youngsters lost in their ways again.
Yes, there are statistics to back some of this up. More of us are moving back home after college than ever before, in part because of a weak economy. According to a Pew Research Poll, us millennials are less likely to have strong political or religious affiliations and less likely to tie our selves down with marriage. We're also twice as likely to have posted a selfie than the generation before us. Surprise.
Are we all really Peter Pan's stuck solidly in Never Never Land until we turn 30?
And it's not just the grandma's and grandpa's calling us lost. More than anyone, we think of ourselves as adrift -- our decision making process not unlike a GPS constantly calling out "rerouting" as soon as we feel we've found our way. Just watch an episode of GIRLS, where twenty-something's struggle to find love, friendship, meaning and employment in modern day NYC. It's the defining show of the millennial generation, each character as uncertain about their future as the next.
The show's protagonist Hannah is our iconic lost wonderer. She runs haphazardly between short-lived jobs and unstable friendships and falls out of love a quickly as she falls into it. Naturally, she suffers from ADHD -- the millennial pandemic -- and makes regular visits to her psychiatrist.
The irony, of course, is that GIRLS was created and produced by the show's protagonist Hannah Horvath, a.k.a 28 year old Lena Dunham. Whatever you think of her attitude and obnoxious neon-yellow dresses, she's a driven and successful entrepreneur far from the directionless character she plays onscreen -- the driving force behind one of the greatest TV success stories in recent memory.
And perhaps the mistake we've made in assessing our generation has to do with our focus on the Hannah's instead of the Lena's. Countless Lena's out there are proving that a little imagination and motivation can go a long way, and that more of us are capable of shooting for the moon -- and getting there -- than we (and our social commentators) might think.
Much of this is because the barriers to entry to certain types of success are as low as they have ever been. Today, little more than a laptop, a cell phone and, mostly importantly, a strong imagination equip disparate twenty-somethings with the same basic tools as Fortune 500 executives, museum curators, news anchors, opinion columnists and non-profit directors. Today, a smartphone serves as a production studio. Countless blogs started in bedrooms and basements have served as the launching pad for book deals, TV shows and innovative ideas making the world a better and more interesting place.
The difference in who gets ahead -- the special sauce of the laptop and cellphone equipped -- can be explained by a commitment to quality and ingenuity. American business was always built upon these ideals, but today's young thinkers are delivering upon those ideals in new ways. And they're proving that drawing their own map forward is more in their own hands than ever before. Crowd funding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow those same bedroom and basement bloggers to transform their ideas into funded, profitable startups, businesses, publications, cafes, production houses and social ventures.
The fact of the matter is, there is more entrepreneurial opportunity for the under 30 set that ever before. If you are lost, if you feel overwhelmed by uncertainty, embrace the uncertainty. Uncertainty is another word for opportunity. Open your laptop -- or an old-fashioned pen and paper will do just fine -- and draw your own map. There are a thousand reasons you'll find your way before you're 30.
Will Levitt is a Brooklyn-based writer with a focus on food, innovation and entrepreneurship. He is the Director of Business Development for Taste Talks Food Festival and founder of Under the Egg.