Opinion The Youth Issue

Why being a Khaleeji millennial is hard work

"We are the generation that is torn between two worlds."

.للقراءة باللغة العربية انقروا هنا

By a well known media personality

Image: Shutterstock.

I was so happy about the photo I had just posted on Instagram. The lighting was perfect, and everything was on point. The brand I was affiliated with to display their jewellery would be pleased, and hopefully we would be able to sign a long-term agreement. I hoped that they’d choose me as their brand ambassador. Who would have thought that me, the weirdest nerd in high school would actually have any sort of influence on the fashion world? I chuckled before I put my phone on my nightstand, and drifted off to sleep.

Two hours later, I woke up to the sound of notifications on my phone. My post had gone viral and not in a good way. It was from one anonymous user, who seemed to have created their account just an hour ago for the sole purpose of sabotaging me.

“You’re a shame to your family!” read one comment. “Your grandfathers are rolling in their graves” read another. “Don’t associate our tribe’s good name with yours” read yet another, and it kept going on and on. Before I knew it, I made my account private, and curled under my blanket, in hopes it would all go away. Thankfully it was after midnight and my friends and family had not had the chance to see them yet.

As millennials from the Arab Gulf States, we are how, some would argue, the luckiest generation that has ever lived on this land. We don’t have to think about finding water. We don’t have to worry about food. The opportunities are abundant, and we can be whatever we wish to be. But it’s not as easy as some may think.

Our family was always the black sheep of our tribe. My parents were somewhat liberal in their upbringing of us, and so our career aspirations door flung open wider. When I wanted to work in the brand’s advocacy, and have my face plastered on different advertisement campaigns for my favourite jewellery brand, my parents jumped up at the occasion, and thought it was great that I was finally doing what I really loved. But the elderly in tribe thought it was shameful. “A woman shouldn’t be so available, so out there,” they thought. “Her image should be sheltered and preserved, and not for whoever to have it printed and displayed in their homes or wallets.” It wasn’t so different for many society members, either. The man I was in love with, told me that if this was the career I had chosen for myself, then maybe it was best that we went our separate ways. His mother would never approve of such career aspirations, he said, and her approval was pivotal to him.

We are the generation that is torn between two worlds. We are pulled back by our conservative traditions, and seduced by the opportunities of the future, and I’m the person who wants to have both worlds. My friend once told that she saw me as a woman walking in a path, where traditions were on her right, and her aspirations were on her left, and I was picking and choosing from both sides, in hopes of ending up with a beautiful bouquet that everyone would love.

To me, one of the biggest challenges that this generation is facing is finding a common ground and the right balance between their career aspirations and their culture and traditions. We respect our culture and traditions, yet we want to embrace new aspirations and new career options, and there is no one size fits all because there are different tribes and family values, and while some families welcome new career options, many haven’t. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, because different people adapt to change in different ways.

As for me, I wouldn’t give up on my dreams yet. I will work on strengthening myself in face of criticism, and go ahead in the direction of my dreams, equipped with my passion and the support of my family.

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