Before I graduated from high school, I was voted “Born in the Wrong Decade”.
It was a big joke, of course, as most senior superlatives are. But, while many labels that were placed on me over the course of my high school career felt either wrong, unfit, or insulting, this one felt as though it fit.
Why? Because it felt true. I’ve always felt as though I didn’t belong in my own generation — and very often, even as I’m pushing 30, I still feel this way. I haven’t been able to permanently shake the nagging feeling that I just don’t belong.
When You feel Like You Were Born in the Wrong Decade
Part of that I-don’t-fit-in feeling was due to the fact that I grew up as an only child, regularly surrounded by adults rather than children my own age. I learned “big words” and adult conversation early in my life. When I first entered kindergarten, the other kids didn’t entirely know what to make of me, due in large part to the fact that I sounded so much like a grown-up. An old friend of mine humorously tells a story of a moment in class when I took on the role of the teacher when no one had asked me to, parroting her instructions word for word.
But there’s another part of it, and it’s that I’m what some would call an “old soul” — or so I’ve been told.
Old (Millennial) Soul: It means, in simple terms, that my soul lived in another decade, before it inhabited my body.
If that’s too spiritual for you, I get it, truly. So, we’ll go with some examples that will illustrate why and how you may know that you belong in a different decade.
You May Be an Old (Millennial) Soul If…
1. You speak and write differently than many other millennial writers do.
I tend to form full sentences when they aren’t always necessary. I choose “big” words when smaller words will do. In the process of writing this very piece, I’ve changed word choices and sentence structures at least four different times to words and sentences that sound more articulate. That previous sentence alone should give me away.
2. You’re not at all spontaneous.
Meetups with friends have to be planned. Activities should be organized. Schedules need to be made. I don’t like the idea of “let’s meet up and see what happens!” I rarely enter a meeting without preparing.
3. You like talking on the phone.
Sometimes, texting doesn’t always cut it, especially when the conversation is serious. I like to hear a person’s voice at the other end, and have a clear understanding of exactly what the person is saying. I feel as though that often gets lost in texting. And when I do text, I tend to write small novellas that clarify exactly how I’m feeling, so nothing will be misconstrued. Especially when I’m making plans! I write out “okay” instead of “ok,” and start sentences with capital letters. The only thing I’ll abbreviate is “LOL,” and only recently have I caught on to the trend of typing “v” instead of “very” — to my dismay, it is faster. Sometimes.
4. You listened to the Beatles before it was cool for millennials to listen to the Beatles.
As in… my parents started me on the Beatles from age six, there about. When it comes to music, I’m not only all about the Beatles… I went through an Elvis phase when I was in high school. My sixth grade Napster playlist contained tunes from Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and of course, the Beatles, that most of my classmates never even heard of. And I fully embraced the peasant skirt and top trend of the 2000s.
5. You still like Facebook.
I still like Facebook because I’m friends with a number of people in my parents’’ generation from my local community, who exclusively use Facebook, and wouldn’t dream of finding their collective way to Twitter or Instagram. Facebook, while it has become a place for baby boomers to share animated memes about how much they love their sons and daughters, is also a great platform for promotions. I am active in several community organizations and projects (and yes, they’re filled with boomers, making me among the youngest in the groups) that require me to promote events, and I raise money for a few charities that are close to my heart. How do I do it? Facebook.
But there’s one very big drawback to existing as an “old soul” in 2017, and it’s that your work world — whether that’s as a full-time employee or as an entrepreneur — doesn’t always “get it,” and you’re forced to adapt… when you don’t always want to. Sure, in a workplace where you’re surrounded by boomers, it is actually helpful. But your philosophies and rhetoric don’t always mesh well with other millennials… even when you’re a millennial yourself.
6. Other millennials find your verbiage confusing.
I challenge you to recall a moment in which a millennial in your working world just threw out the words “rhetoric” and “verbiage” like they were no big deal.
7. You find THEIR verbiage confusing.
“Personal brand?! What even is that?” I asked myself when I first heard the term. “Oh, I get it, it’s how you sell yourself. But you have to stay consistent with a brand on social media? I thought social media was supposed to be fun.” Add to that list terms including “thought leader,” “millennial space” and “influencer.” They all made me scratch my head for a second.
8. In-person isn’t always preferred, even though it’s preferred for you.
I dread the words, “Why can’t we just Skype about this?” or “Can you just send it to me in an email?” But, I know that we are heading toward a world where there are far more Skype calls and far fewer in-person meetings.
9. You’ve gotten along well with bosses.
Which sounds like a good thing, right? And for the most part, it is. But when your colleagues in your age group start to spread rumors that you’re a “rat” and label you an “ass-kisser,” it’s not so great. You’re immediately branded as someone others don’t want to work with because you’ll go running to the boss — who is often from an older generation than ours.
10. Sometimes, emails make you cringe, but your emails also make them cringe.
Emojis? In a work email? In business correspondence?! No, no, no. But I can imagine colleagues or fellow entrepreneurs rolling their eyes at some of the “big words” that I often use in emails.
11. You just don’t feel like you belong sometimes.
And you can’t always put your finger on why until you realize… you’ve always been made for a different time, but have no choice to adapt.
With all of the weird, non-belonging parts of feeling as though you’re an anomaly in a generation, there’s one aspect of being an “old soul” in a “new business world” that I truly treasure. Everyone — from colleagues to collaborators to your bosses – comes to me for advice. Personal advice, family advice, professional advice, you name it.
It’s as though people are drawn to me because I’m an “old soul.” And if I can help make the world a little brighter with some advice, I’m always happy to contribute.
Do you feel like an “old (millennial) soul”? Let us know your relatable thoughts in the comments below!