According to The Atlantic, members of the "Greatest Generation" were born before 1946. It’s defined by those whose younger years were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II, two events my grandparents knew all too well.
My grandfather was born in 1926 and served in the U.S. Army in Japan during World War II shortly after graduating high school. My grandmother was born in 1927, and aside from the first semester of her freshman year, her entire high school experience took place during the United States’ involvement in World War II.
I was very lucky to have my grandparents with me until they passed away in 2016 and 2017. I owe so much of who I am to the lessons they taught me through the years. As our country continues to go through this rough year, it’s important to learn how previous generations coped with tough times. Millennials and Gen Z can learn a lot from the Greatest Generation.
Don’t Play the Blame Game
It’s common to hear someone blame external factors, like capitalism, for their problems or put the blame for societal problems on Baby Boomers. Can external factors and previous generations contribute to societal problems? Yes, and the rise of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic is proof of that. However, it’s important to avoid playing the blame game because it stops you from growing.
External factors like race, gender, sexuality, economic status, health, and disability can make it more difficult to succeed. But successful figures like Oprah Winfrey, Nikki Haley, and Michelle Obama didn’t let these factors stop them from pursuing their dreams. Instead, they used it to fuel their fire to succeed.
Playing the blame game stops you from growing.
Those in the Greatest Generation survived the horrors of the Great Depression. This made many of them, my grandparents included, very frugal when they reached adulthood. They didn’t blame the Depression for the problems they had in childhood. They used the frugal habits they had developed during the Depression to help them succeed financially. This also taught them to appreciate the good times because they knew how easily the good times could be taken away from them.
Hard Times Create Strong People
Between the political divide and a global pandemic, Americans aren’t having the best time right now. Hard times like these, or any traumatic event, can create either a stronger person or someone with a victim mentality. Similar to playing the blame game, victimhood often does nothing but hold you back from achieving your goals.
You don’t become a strong person by having everything handed to you.
There is strength in adversity and beauty in struggle. You don’t become a strong person by having everything handed to you. The same thing goes for society as a whole. It’s why the United States experienced a period of prosperity after World War II.
Growing up in the midst of crises helped shape my grandparents into strong people. Sometimes it’s easier to give in and give up because times are hard, but hard times make you appreciate the good times. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when I was younger and have had many ups and downs in my mental health struggles. There have been times where I’ve given into the victim mentality, but I only got healthier when I remembered that what doesn’t kill me is supposed to make me stronger. This mentality has made me a stronger and better person, just as it did with my grandparents and many members of the Greatest Generation.
Not all Millennials and members of Generation Z give into the victim mentality, but enough do to turn it into a meme. This is proof that we should take notes from the generations before us and work hard to let difficult times mold us into better people.
My grandparents taught me so many valuable life lessons through the years, including how to cope during tough times. We Millennials and Generation Zers need to embrace some of these lessons from our elders. If they made it through the Great Depression and World War II with this mindset, we’ll definitely be able to make it through 2020 if we take some pointers from them.