A lot of the older generations claim that we millennials don’t yet understand how the world works, and I’m not going to pretend as if we have it all figured out, but they don’t understand how our world works, either.

Last night were the MTV VMAs. Yeah, it’s a bit of a shitshow in the entire genre of award shows, the rebellious, often problematic younger sister to the Grammy’s. That said, as it is run by a network targeted towards youth and each award is voted on by youth, I would argue that the VMAs are a better indicator of what’s happening in our world than any stuffy pretentious show about “art.” (And don’t get me wrong, I love those shows too, just for completely different reasons.)

Now I’m not saying my grandma could watch the VMAs and understand what’s popular with the average 14-24 year-old. There’s always some problematic moments and performances no one really wanted (I’m looking at you “Blurred Lines”), and sometimes they might even be performances we thought we wanted, until seeing them on the stage made us realize how wrong we were…I guess if I get to the point what I’m saying is, I watched this year’s VMAs, and I was actually kind of…proud.

Don’t judge me too harshly before you hear me out: there were plenty of cringe-worthy moments at the VMAs, (most of them including Miley Cyrus), but when I sifted through all of the usual MTV garbage I found a lot of things I could really get behind. So if you weren’t watching like I was, here were some of my favorite things I saw at this year’s MTV VMAs:

  • Diversity in every performance. Performers were black, white, and Latinx, and no matter the race of the performer, every single performance was full of diverse dancers, background singers, and featured artists, with Miley’s own performance filling the stage with the cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Please take note other shows.
  • Women (and some men) celebrating women. Say what you will about Taylor Swift’s girl power only being to take down another woman, but you cannot deny that she has taken each opportunity this year to celebrate what women can do when they work together. Between her team of women and Nicki Minaj’s gracious acceptance of Taylor’s apology for their misunderstanding on Twitter last month, and never forgetting how Nicki told girls they should be getting their own money, and never relying on men for that, the show was full of moments with strong, independent women sticking together.
  • Confidence. It’s hard to feel confident in a world always tearing down people. It’s hard to know the difference between narcissism and confidence, and much easier to think that if we tear ourselves down, others won’t get the chance to. Demi Lovato was someone who let bullies breed insecurities in her that led to damaging eating disorders and drug addictions, and yet there she was on stage dancing and singing her heart out and flaunting her healthy body, and it was so refreshing to see. Nicki Minaj was up there doing the same, and I maintain my stance that she is a positive role model for girls.
  • An appreciation for activism. I hadn’t watched the VMAs in a few years, so I forgot that there is an entire category called Best Video with a Social Message. I was so happy to see that it was one of the few categories televised, and even happier to see how much the message behind the winning song, “One Man Can Change the World,” meant to Big Sean.
  • Kanye’s entire speech. I love Kanye, and I feel like I’ve spent most of the last year trying to explain to people why that is when they all just think he’s an asshole. I’m not going to pretend that Kanye is without his faults, but he went up there and finally said something so real that even joking about running for president couldn’t make people claim he was just being a dick. There were two big highlights to his speech: bringing to light how weird award shows are for taking people who have worked their asses off to be successful, and inviting them to a show to be told their losers; and saying that we are the millennials full of ideas that will raise our children to believe in themselves no matter what the world wants to tell them. I’ll link the text to the speech here, but if you can hunt down a video version of it I’d recommend that even more.

If you’re someone who’s lived on the internet and learned about social issues, it’s hard to see what the world looks like outside of tumblr sometimes. If you’re like me, this political race is especially hard to follow, because it’s so frustrating. And some people take this entire election as a joke, but it’s not. Politics are not just a meme that will pass, they are our past, present, and future.

Watching the VMAs made me realize that at least even if many of the prominent politicians today don’t know what’s important to millennials in terms of social change, a lot of musicians and social taste-makers do. I could have watched them with my angry “problematic” glasses on, but I didn’t want to sit through nit-picking at the bad, I wanted to see the good progress we’re making.

I just want to say, whether you care about the VMAs or not (and ultimately Kanye wouldn’t want you to), feel motivated this Monday to hope. The internet is our stomping ground to discuss what is truly important to us and learn from each other, and as we get older, the world is our canvas to paint in whatever colors and styles we want. We are stronger together, diverse and equal. We can make changes, feel confident in ourselves, and not work to tear each other down. Find your voice, be it through a blog, music, videos, art, or anything else you love, and run with it. Just please, be informed when you do, and never be afraid to admit when you make mistakes. After all, we are all a bit problematic at some point.

I want you to know that whatever you have to say, it matters. Whatever you want to achieve, you can. Do not let your own voice be silenced as you work hard to just survive in a society trying to tear you down by telling you that what you want is hard so you might as well give up or never try. Do not be practical for practicality’s sake, take risks and build up your self-esteem and others. Things are only impossible until they have been done, so work hard and never give up. x.

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