Friday, September 11, 2015

A Millennial's Manifesto

While I fall into the age category of being a "Millennial," I first cringed at identifying myself as one. After all, I don't share a lot of the stereotypes of a Millennial (whatever that means, right?).

Before going further, here are some great resources from Pew Research to bring you up to speed on Millennial demographics:

Like most Millennials, I am between ages 18-35. My wife and I were both in our late 20s when we had our first child. We do not own a house. I had difficulty finding a job after college and so I do not have a job related to my undergraduate degree.

But, I differ in a few keys ways. I'm married (or rather, I married relatively early). I participate in organized religion. I am debt free and I am working on an advanced degree.

We Millennials been accused of feeling entitled, of being anti-social, and technology addicts. Now, I don't pretend to speak for all Millennials; but as one of them, I'm entitled to some latitude in vindicating and explaining ourselves.

Already, I've used the one word used most often to describe us - "entitled." We have been branded as the entitlement generation (perhaps with a little accuracy.) But, there's more beneath the surface - things the current statistics can't explain or describe.

Millennials are just trying to pursue the American Dream. What's so wrong about that? We just interpret the idea of what "the American Dream" means in different ways than past generations.

But, when it comes to work, we are disenchanted by the back-breaking hours of our parents' generation. We don't want to be rich now, but we do need our basic needs to be fulfilled (ever heard of Maslow?). Why put in 60-70 hours a week for 40 years, just to enjoy the last 20 years of our lives? Why not just work 40 hours a week and enjoy all 60 years?

Thus, Millennials' emphasis on health and activity. We know we'll be living a long time, so we also know we'll be working a long time. We want to be able to enjoy those years in good health.

We are also tech savvy if you haven't noticed. While one of our generation's vices might be our over-use of technology for entertainment purposes, we have a keen sense of its power to improve our lifestyle and productivity. We'd rather have the latest phone in our pocket and the latest software on our device than have a fancy sports car. It is our generation's way of getting around.

More importantly, we've become frustrated with and confused at complex social and economic systems - health care, stock markets, public education, higher education, and cultural rituals like college admissions and the job interview/application process - all are systems that are supposed to be helping us rather than hurting us. So, it's not that we feel we deserve certain privileges, but that we just want things to work and be simple. Why shouldn't these things be designed to benefit everyone, rather than a few?

We are not politically apathetic. Rather, we are disillusioned with the current system and the two major parties. (Hey, our boots may be new, but this isn't our first rodeo!). We've quickly realized that neither party has the capacity to enact any real meaningful change. We are very much concerned about the state of the nation, as well as local issues. We simply struggle to find organizations that promote our values in a way that is meaningful to us.

We do want families and children, we just want to be stable enough to enjoy family life and provide for our children. Sure, we might mature a little later than previous generations, but we still want to be functioning adults. Perhaps some of us just need a little more help in adjusting to adult life.

Millennials have been at the front lines of the recent libertarian-streaked movement against police brutality. When it comes to our attitude towards authority, it's not that we don't trust authority figures, it's just that we have high expectations for them. These authority figures also include teachers and doctors. After all, our parents taught us that these are important people in society and as such we expect them to fulfill their roles. We want to be able to trust authority figures, but are disappointed when we can't.

We don't have the same notions of "equality" as our parent's generation. Equality is not a threat to us or our way of life, and we are skeptical of those who try to artificially fix the system in the name of equality. We want to be free to treat others equally and are more accepting of those who differ from us. In fact, an increasing percentage of us Millennials belong to minority groups, so we get it.

We're already beginning to get a glimpse of the post-Millennial generation. Those born shortly after the 1995 "cut-off" year are those just entering college now. They probably don't remember September 11, 2001 (think about that really hard for a moment). Those older Millennials born in the early 1980s probably have two or three children now. You think Millennials are hard to deal with? Believe me, this new generation scares us as much as our generation scares our parents.

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