Us Millennials are really popular.
So popular, in fact, that respected publications from Forbes to TIME have written well-researched, scholarly articles on us, tackling compelling topics such as “Why Millennials Don’t Like Driving” and “Why Generation Y Doesn’t Want To Get Married.” There are even classes on how to “manage” us in the workplace.
And finally, for reasons unknown, someone cared enough about our predisposition towards potatoes to craft this highly analytical and thought-provoking piece entitled “Understanding Millennials—How Do Potatoes Fit Into Their Lives?”
It’s not satirical.
According To Statistics And Popular Belief:
- We’re entitled, lazy, superficial and narcissistic
- We’re waiting until later in life to get married, have kids, save for retirement, buy a house, buy a car and open a credit card
- We’re the most indebted generation
- We’re the most educated generation and the most underemployed
- We’re politically apathetic
But what do these dissertations and statistics really mean? Who are the faces (no, not selfies) behind all these numbers and trend lines?
I’ll tell you.
We’re the kids who discovered our parental instincts via a handheld device called a Tamogachi. Our first exposure to architecture was through K’Nex and we boasted about our structural masterpieces created on The Sims.
We learned the art of negotiation by trading Pokémon cards and how to debate during N*Sync vs. Backstreet Boys arguments. We remember Tang, Capri Sun and Kool Aid Bursts. We’re embarrassed at how much money we spent on Beanie Babies and the fact that they’re now sitting in a box in our basement.
And more importantly, we’re the generation that has grown up alongside technology. We can identify the jarring sound of an AOL dial tone just as quickly as an iMessage notification. Our distrust in politics was cemented while watching President Clinton fall from grace and our innocence was shattered when we watched the twin towers fall before our eyes.
The Great Recession has colored our young adult lives and obstructed our progress in becoming what society considers to be a fully-functioning “adult.”
So, as a fellow fruit-by-the-foot eating, college debt drowning, car-less Millennial, here’s what I believe defines our generation:
1. We Don’t Settle.
When I was a kid, I was constantly asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question always piqued my imagination as I envisioned my fruitful adult life: creativity and the big city were the beacons of success. We were told we could do it all. No dream was too big and no idea was too foolish.
This idealism has followed us all of our lives. There’s a reason we’ve put off things like marriage and having children in favor of self-discovery and professional development. We don’t want to work a menial job that doesn’t feed our soul and we don’t waste time on relationships void of any real connection. We aim high in nearly all aspects of life—be it a career, a marriage or a new apartment.
Some may label this “entitled” or “selfish.” We see it as cautiously articulating the life we want for ourselves.
2. Technology Has Affected Us. And We’re Okay With That.
Millennials are never going to boast about walking to school uphill both ways in the blistering heat and bitter cold. You won’t find us telling tales of working in a factory at the age of eight like our parents and grandparents before us.
You don’t necessarily need to stomp your foot in the ground to make your imprint in the world.
Instead, we see success in our intellect and in our ability to create something that the world’s never seen before. We find fulfillment in ingenuity and impact rather than the size of a paycheck. Ironically, a lot of these hefty goals can be achieved from the comfort of our desktop computers—because we know that it is possible to change the world from the tips of our typing fingers. This isn’t a lazy way of life—merely a different way of leaving our everlasting, albeit non-physical, imprint.
3. We Embrace Uncertainty And Never Give Up.
In a fast-paced world wrought with war, globalization, political turmoil, social unrest and international epidemics, Millennials have attempted to grow up. I say “attempted,” given the high level of unemployment, record-breaking student debt and bleak job market that has served as the backdrop of our young adult lives.
Despite nearly every economic factor seemingly working against us, we’ve still managed to remain optimistic. Because although we’re the least likely to believe in any one religion or political party, we believe in ourselves. We’re the go-getters, the self-starters and the self-reliant. We revel in the communicative landscape we’ve helped to create and we’re energized by the multitude of outlets for our many impassioned voices. And for every moment it feels like the world’s on the brink of chaos, we know that we’re also on the brink of a breakthrough.
What does being a Millennial mean to you? Share your story in the comments below!