Two months ago, TIME published the Millennial-focused article and cover heard round the world. Well, maybe not so much round the world as all over social media and the blogosphere. My peers’ biggest issue with the story, or the two paragraphs of the article they read before the paywall kicked in, we got labeled as entitled (again). That article doesn’t need to get rehashed anymore, nor do we need to discuss millennial-specific entitlement, but I will tell you a little about my own entitlement.
For ten years of my life I was fortunate enough to experience the benefits of being an expatriate. For those unfamiliar with expats, we are people who leave our home country to live in another country for an extended period of time. This differs from immigrating to a new country because you are only going to be a temporary resident, in most cases. My family moved to Japan when I was ten and then to China when I was 16. One of the biggest perks of expat life were the travel opportunities. This is where my entitlement kicked in.
We were in a unique position to be sent overseas with a smaller company, so we received more attention than families being sent over with huge corporations. Perhaps it should also be a credit to my father’s intense negotiation skills, but we were granted first class tickets for our annual home leave trips. From frequent international business trips, my father had also amassed quite an impressive number of frequent flyer miles. In fact, I think George Clooney’s character from Up In The Air didn’t even have as many. Thanks to all these miles, my family tended to fly first class for many of our international excursions. Please remember this started when I was an impressionable ten year old.
By the time I’d turned into a hormonal-high-school teen, I’d visited almost 20 countries and would have frequent conversation with friends about the best airlines and most fun airports to have a layover. This, in my expat world, seemed normal.
In 2003 my family was off to Australia to celebrate the birth of Christ and ring in the New Year. As an irritable freshman I first put up a fuss that we were repeating a vacation destination by going to Australia, again. That was so last year. When we arrived at the airport, my Dad checked us in and handed over our tickets. I gasped in horror when I looked down to see economy class seats. With the spit and malice unique to teenage girls, I glared at my father and demanded to know why we were flying in coach.
“We aren’t flying in coach. Just you and your sister are,” he brusquely responded.
“WHAT?!” I screeched in a whispered scream. “Dad, you can’t make us fly coach. That’s child abuse.”
After that comment I’m lucky my Dad didn’t always seat me in the back of the plane, next to the bathroom, and pay a large man with a delicate digestive system to eat Indian food before boarding.
Money, power and luxury can do funny things to people. They can be a deadly combination that make you feel you are somehow always owed things in life instead of earning them. However, they aren’t the only factors that contribute to people feeling entitled. Frankly, most of us have entitlement issues. Whether you want to own up to them or not.
Now that I’m financially on my own, and routinely have to sit towards the back of the plane, I have shed the bratty travel entitlement of my youth. I’m ashamed of my childish comment, but also recognize how easy it would have been for me to become the type of millennial who feels my parents should be paying for my New York City apartment and still subsiding my lifestyle. By having my access to the Bank of Mom and Dad declined, it has helped me lose my entitlement and focus on how I can get back to first class. On my own this time.