3 Musing about Millenials

If you were born before 1978 I am writing to you. Millennials are classified as people who were born after 1980, or as people who became adults in the new millennium. So I’m giving you a two year buffer to classify people you don’t like or who just don’t quite make it…  because I’m a millennial and I’m right.  We like to classify people in America. We label and tag people for the purpose of better understanding. However, there has never been a more widely applied generational label than, “Millennial.” Seriously, it is the single most overused generational label! It is used by generations before 1980 to describe essentially EVERYONE they don’t understand! Before my generation, we tried a variety of generational labels (baby-boomers, yuppies, workers, gen-x, etc). Usually those labels cover a 10-15 year period. But then I was born and broke the system! Lol. No…. sociologists just got lazy.

Now Millennials are either the worst or the greatest, the most misunderstood or the least complex, the most diverse or the least willing to unify. It really depends on whom you speak with as to what we are. I’m a millennial… so by default I’m amazing (or that’s what I’m told I think of myself)… that’s my authority in this post. I am what you are trying to classify. And while it irks me that you lump me in with the current class of 18 year-olds, I’m willing to take the label if it makes you more comfortable. So, please, don’t write me off.

Here are three things I’ve noticed are different about Millennials.

  1. Time does not heal our wounds, it reminds us not to go through the same trouble again. I’ve been offended by people in the past and one common refrain shows up over and over from the generations pre-1978. “Give it time and you’ll be able to be friends. Time heals wounds.” This is not true for millennials. You see, we watched as our parents did this and we saw the false nature of this kind of relationship. We saw you smile when people passed you in hallways and then watched as you made passive aggressive comments that you may or may not have noticed. So, we vowed never to be like that. We marked those actions out in our minds as unhappy hypocrisy, right or wrong… it’s what we did. We seek authenticity. This is why my generation is so bad at politics and why so many of us love it when an old foolish man simply says what he believes (right or left). We trust what you tell us and when you break that trust, we walk away. Don’t get me wrong… we forgive, but we don’t come back for a second helping and unless there is some resolution and even contrition, indeed, often we won’t come back at all.
  2. We don’t care as much as you think we do about “belonging.” This seems to be the marketing push from the older generations. “We have a place for you!” Images of chairs and coffee bars are thrust upon us. Pictures of groups of people smiling and laughing together are appealing, but not for the reasons you think. You may have a place for us, but what if your place stinks? Millennials don’t simply want to belong, we want to matter. More than that, we want to be around authentic community that matters. We imagine those people are laughing because they are fulfilled in their purpose in life and as a result they are finding happiness. This is not new. You want to matter as well. The difference is that we don’t think of impact as something that is done through a career or a life-choice. We think of impact in terms of moments. Millennials will take a job that they don’t necessarily like if it frees them up to make moments count somewhere else. Why do you think we revert to anecdotal evidence whenever we try to prove a point? We are the only generation that responds to the question, “what do you do?” with answers that do not include our job and almost always launch into a story about something we think is important. In short, our self-identity is not wrapped up on what we do for a living or even what our hobbies are. Our self-identity is wrapped up in where we believe we are impacting the world around us. This is why we will quit jobs that are perfectly stable to chase dreams that are nowhere near stable.
  3. All categorizations of Millennials are false! (including what I just wrote) You are dealing with too great a subset of humanity. Basically, the term Millennial is used to describe 20+ years of people who live in various cultures with few common denominators. During those years, the internet has become common place, cell-phones were made available to everyone, and personal computers became common-place and even portable. Not to mention advances in education, medicine, and entertainment. Ohhhh don’t get started on entertainment… just look at music: Hair-bands came and went and are now resurfacing, rap became hip-hop became pop and back around again, Punk-rock became grunge became alternative became #whateverthey’recallingitnow, music became bad, and the pound sign became the number sign became hashtag (dumb). Add to that the infusion of multiple cultural variables and influences made available in this digital age and you have a control group that spans the globe. Any good scientist would tell you your sample size is too great. So, toss it. Instead of dealing with my generation like a category, deal with us like people. Figure out how the individual ticks and do the hard work of relationships. Stop dismissing us because you don’t understand “our generation.” No… you can understand us just fine. You’re just lazy and don’t want to take the time. So, no more blogs like this one ok? Stop reading the categories and start doing the work of knowing people. I promise you’ll have more meaningful relationships as a result and you might just find you like some of my “generation.”

Thanks… that is all.

 

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