During a casual dinner in Rockwell with a few friends, my friend Monina asked, somewhat arbitrarily, “What differentiates millenials from everyone else exactly?”
I had some thoughts on the subject, and shared them with the group. In trying to sum up the defining characteristic of a generation of people (which, notwithstanding the countless articles on this matter, is still a daunting if ultimately pointless exercise), I explained to Mon a theory I’ve been developing.
“Young people tend to frame life experiences through its impact on their personal happiness. Which is why, say, when you’re talking to them about a job, the issues they usually raise is a general discontentment, or a lack of passion, or a feeling that the work they’re doing is not what they are supposed to be doing. And when you frame this against the concerns of older professionals working with millennials, the criticism that usually crops up is the typical millenial’s propensity to quit and move around. What about reliability, they would ask. What about faithfulness?”
When I was younger, my friend Percy once told me that he didn’t believe in long-term relationships. He explained that, once the initial thrill (“kilig”) of the romance is gone, he gets restless and moves on. He mentioned that there’s no point continuing the relationship because the people involved tend to stay the same, or worse, stagnate.
But what about love, I asked.
“Then maybe you weren’t really in love in the first place.”
“Maybe, but who are we to say what love is or isn’t,” Percy argued. As far as he was concerned, he loved the people he was with, fully and completely, until he didn’t love them anymore.
When I was still living with my parents, my mom and I would sometimes find ourselves around midnight in our kitchen, while we’re both trying to scrounge up some leftovers because we were feeling hungry. And most of the time we’ll sit down and talk. Sometimes she’ll open up about her relationship with my dad.
And she’ll talk about promises kept and promises broken, and happiness and loneliness and sadness. But always, she will mention obligation, and responsibility.
“Your father is not a perfect man. God knows he is not the best husband. But he is responsible, and kind, and he is a good father.” And though she never said it, she obviously held a lot of love for my dad, even if the love has been re-forged and concealed by disappointment and some bitterness.
She mentioned that she tried to leave once, but that she thought about how it would affect her kids and decided not to. What was left unsaid, but was clear as day, was that she thought about how it would affect my dad too.
When my ex broke up with me, he said it was because he was not sure if he still loved me. What we had in the beginning is no longer there, he explained, and he felt we owed it to ourselves to look for something more.
But what about devotion, my mind asked. What about keeping promises? What about loyalty?
And if I was brave enough to voice my thoughts, he might have answered, “What about happiness? What about romance? What about passion?”
Ultimately, what about love?
And in remembering I think of two souls imagining love as two flames, one burning brighter than the midday sun, and another flickering, trembling, a light in the darkness.
Photo taken here.