I, like many millenials, grew up with the understanding that one day I’ll make it past our parent’s income. Or at the very least, that I will match the lifestyle and living standard of my parents. I still struggle with the fact that I will most likely not have what we know to be a middle-class lifestyle. I feel entitled to it, especially as I went to a prominent undergrad and seminary. And so, I confess that I feel entitled to not only a comfortable lifestyle, but that I also desire to be exceptional (i.e., better than others).
The double-whammy for me was that for most of my 20s I was around high achieving, middle-to-high income earners in the KA (Korean American) immigrant church in EM (English Ministry) settings. Most of my fellow EM (2nd gen KA) members were able to live out their cosmic resentment stemming from our parents having to immigrate and living through unbelievable hours and embarrassment of lacking language and cultural abilities by buying nice things. The privilege of East Asians “making it” meant that we could become not just middle, but middle/upper class people. Even pastors could aspire to be so.
And so I did. With the resentment I felt towards God for giving my parents such a hard life, especially as an immigrant church pastor’s family, I felt especially bitter towards God. So I did what most millenials who are forced to do anything would do, I rebelled. But rebelling is tiring. Especially because I did so much of it earlier in my adolescence and my young adult life, it got old pretty quickly. So I went and did what my compatriots of my generation ending up doing: getting by. I might not have known this, but I despaired; I felt like no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, nothing had meaning even as it felt like I was “making it.”
I know how difficult it is to let go of bitterness and resentment stemming from things not working out or turning out the way they should. That is the source of our generation’s angst and discontentment, the need to react to what should have been given to us. Or to put it more simply, we don’t know what else to do besides throw a fit or become corporate drones because we are stuck in our current situation. Previous generations were given a “better” more forgiving plight of scholarships, social security and a growing economy.
Fear is the way I, and many of my generation operate. It is not the same type of fear of generations past – of being drafted into world wars – nor is it like the fear of protests or social upheaval. Fear for us millenials is not having meaning in anything or anyone. So this reminder allows us fearful, self-centered people to let go of that fear for a time when we are surrounded by people who care for us.
I am open to giving myself to others. That is a lot to say for an emotional stingy person with exacting roles in both West/East frameworks of the world. Roles and contractual relationships were the only ways I knew how to operate. It was onerous because it is exhausting to follow all the rules and duties and so protest or begrudging acquiescence what you might have seen. The church should not be a trap, where it tricks you or manipulates you to doing anything, and I now realize this to be true because of mentors, parents, youth and young adults who cared for me even if I was lazy, self-centered or anxious.
My church has seen me through my wandering, rebellion, despair and anxiety-ridden need to produce. I am so thankful for my mentors, parents, youth and young adults of my congregation who cared for through my childish need of entitlement. It is because of this gratitude I move forward in my work, relationships and my life in general.
KC Kye is currently serving as an intern for the Presbyterian Multicultural Network for the PCUSA. He also directs the youth at Church of All Nations, serves on the Presbyterian Cross Cultural Young Adult Network, and loves to do anything outdoors.