Laura Youngkin, a self-proclaimed proud millennial, theatrical producer, and creative consultant founded The Brave Millennial, “an organization dedicated to supporting and promoting millennial women in the American Workplace”. She recently sat down with Harris, III to talk about the difficulties facing millennials, what it truly means to be a storyteller, as well as defining ourselves as creators and so much more!
Laura grew up in Texas, where she says “everything is a competition” from sports to violin, to debate – but these school competitions quickly helped Laura understand that she possessed skills as a storyteller.
“That is actually the easiest title for me. […] In the second grade is when I was like ‘Oh, I’m a storyteller”, because in Texas, growing up, everything is a competition. […] And so in the second grade, I was in the UAL Storytelling Competition […] and basically the whole thing is you go into a room with eight other 2nd graders and 3rd or 4th graders and a teacher or an adult reads a story and then you have a few minutes to think about it, and then they read the story again and then one by one you’re called to another room and before a panel of judges you retell the story you just were read 2 times and you’re judged on your ability to improve and basically retell that story on the fly. […] So I won second place out of all the kids. I went from round to round and had to do it multiple times that day and I made it through every round and I won second place and I was the youngest kid on stage with a ribbon and everybody made such a big deal about and I was like ‘Oh, I guess I’m really good at telling stories!”
It’s always impactful to have those defining moments of our lives to look back on where we realize we are really skilled at something. However, danger lies in trying to categorize ourselves based on these skills and Laura pointed out that we have to be careful not to have black and white boxes that we can fit our descriptors into. It is okay to be multifaceted, and it is okay to find identity outside of our job titles and the question of “what we do”.
“When I was at a point in my life where my creativity identity was completely linked to the company I worked at, it was very easy for me to answer that question and it was an impressive sounding answer. When I left and I kind of went through a whole journey of reimagining what I wanted to do and how I wanted to use my skillsets and my creativity and my penchant for story I had to redefine the answer to that question.”
“When you let go of that [mask] and have to kind of reimagine professionally but also personally the answer to that question ‘Oh, what do you do?’, […] it was challenging for me to have to step back and redefine that answer”
As a fellow proud millennial, Laura’s points on the struggle to define ourselves outside of work or school rang very true. Society and oftentimes, social media, tell us we have to have nice easy bullet points to define ourselves, but this simply isn’t true. We are allowed to be diverse individuals, and this is what can make lumping generations into one category dangerous. She wrapped up her conversation with Harris, III by pointing out that as a society we have to be careful of this practice.
“It would be helpful for the older generations, and this includes my parents’ generation […] I would like for them to not see us as children because we are adults now and millennials are the largest group of people in the workforce and we are moving into leadership in different industries and capacities. Everywhere I went last year, I talked to Gen-X’ers, baby boomers as well as millennials and I ask ‘what are the stereotypes you think or know or feel about millennials?’ And these two words get repeated more than any other words and that’s ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled’. Now, there are lazy and entitled people of every generation and we all know that. I don’t think that ‘lazy and entitled’ is really a fair assessment of millennials as a whole.
“You really can’t generalize a whole [generation, or] millions and millions and millions of people in that way.”
While the term “millennials” often has a bad connotation, Laura pointed out that there have, of course, been those people in her school life and work life who have championed the work and efforts of those in her generation and she wanted end on a note of gratefulness.
“I’m so thankful for the mentorship, and advocacy, and championing […] that people of other generations, whether they’re 7 years or 40 years older than me, have shown me throughout my life. Frankly, my career […] you know, your teachers and coaches when you’re young [are really important people in your story]. And those adults helped me shape the idea or shape my own dream about what or who I might be. And then again as an adult, going into the workforce, those mentors, or even just fantastic colleagues that were 10-20 years ahead of me, showed me a lot of grace and let me make mistakes and helped me rebound from those mistakes and learn really valuable lessons. And they’re great friends, but I’m grateful for the time they invested in me. Now I do feel a responsibility to reinvest that into people coming up behind me.”
Legacy is an interesting thing. What legacy will millennials leave behind? Whatever it is, Laura is working with The Brave Millennial to make sure it is one of positivity and great impact and we here at STORY can’t wait to watch the positive impact that Laura, herself, is going to continue making on not only her own generation but also the ones that came before as well as the ones that are coming after.
To listen to the full podcast, click here.