The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. We’re all a part of the millennial generation. According to Wikipedia (which we’ll use as a source, since we’re all millennials here): Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are the demographic cohort following Generation X. There are no precise dates for when this cohort starts or ends. Demographers and researchers typically use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years.
This week, Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian will share their thoughts on how or whether they feel like the labels and stereotypes associated with millennials apply to us.
I have seen this video shared by people on the internet so many times. Every time there’s a caption like “Simon Sinek saves the world.” “Simon Sinek on how to fix millennials.” “I blame the parents.” Blah. Blah. Blah.
If you have 20 minutes, Simon’s observations are interesting, if condescending.
John Christ, a comedian, has also capitalized on our cultural “truth” about millennials in a series of amusing, if condescending, youtube videos.
I hate to be a “snow flake” or a “whimp” who just can’t take a joke…but I feel like these kinds of things, while they may have their place in our conversation don’t really capture the whole story here. I’m so frustrated by the stereotype of millennials. Maybe I’m being a millennial here, but…these things don’t describe me. I don’t feel like I’ve been ruined by text messages, Facebook likes, instagram or participation trophies. I’m not traumatized by getting unfriended by someone. I don’t feel like I’m allergic to work. I don’t feel like I’m entitled to a corner office.
I do feel like I was played by the system. I believed that by working hard in school (and I worked very hard and got really good grades), I would be able to get a good job when I graduated from college. You know, the kind where you can pay off your student loans and pay the rent for an apartment that didn’t have a cockroach problem. I didn’t need a corner office, a fancy title, or free snacks.
I expected that I could find an entry level white collar opportunity in some field. Accounting. Banking. Consulting. Something. Anything. Literally anything. But that was a luxury reserved for people who graduated in another time.
I graduated from college in 2009. And, I don’t know if you know this, but the World economy nearly collapsed, the housing market went belly up, and on top of that we (the collective, United States of America, “we”) ended the shuttle program, which was kind of a big deal for Florida’s Space Coast where I happened to find myself as a freshly minted college graduate in search of a first job.
I applied for a lot of jobs, and I got several. At one point, I had three part time jobs. All paid less than $10/hour. That was not fun. But, I struggled to find a better opportunity, for every “entry level” job I found, there was this line at the bottom “minimum five years of experience.” Where was I supposed to get this experience? I thought about moving somewhere else…but how was I supposed to afford to move? What if there weren’t any jobs there either?
At one point, I thought, “I have a degree in mathematics, surely I could get a job as a math teacher.” BUT….no. Budget cuts in our local school system meant that they weren’t hiring smart, enthusiastic people without a teaching certificate. So…I thought about going to graduate school to actually get qualified to do something, but wasn’t wild about the idea of borrowing more money and still not actually having a job.
I feel more like the guy in this Zen Riddles for Millennials than the millennial getting engaged or the people being described by Simon Sinek.
Maybe I’m too bitter about this. Maybe I don’t have enough perspective to see the reality of this situation. Maybe I don’t know a diverse enough collection of millennials to really appreciate how shallow, entitled, and addicted to screens we all are. I’m just saying…I think there is more to this story.
I’m not saying I’m retroactively entitled to a job. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to figure out some things. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for the career and business I’ve found. But I am saying that this should be a part of the conversation.
While brainstorming topics for the blog, Maggie tossed out a suggestion she’s mentioned before: Let’s write about what it means to be a Millennial. And I said…
Okayyyyy….but I’m not even really sure what that means.
Which pretty much says it all.
I’ve heard the term peppered throughout popular discourse— disparaged by baby boomers, contrasted with Gen-Xers—without ever actually tuning in enough to define what it entails. But what I’ve learned since Maggie’s suggestion about my inclusion in this generation is rather handily contained in my response and reaction.
For one thing, I had an absolutely “millennial” solution to my problem. (Insert eye roll here) I immediately Googled the term, pulling up the Wikipedia page to skim through general definitions and subject headings. My adaptability to ever-changing technologies and information sources is undoubtedly a salient feature of my generation, and one that I’ll happily acknowledge. I’m glad I remember when few people owned a personal cell phone or computer, when email was new, and when school research papers were drawn together using mystical elements like card catalogs, libraries, and reference books. Simultaneously, I’m glad that by the time I was in college, accessing online source material was common and expected, so I learned to be a discerning consumer of this new stream of information. Growing up with the growth of the Internet has saved our generation from the struggle faced by some of our parents in becoming literate with these new technologies. I’m grateful to have absorbed early that not everything you read on the Web is reliable, and that there’s really no such thing as privacy in that space. I like my inclusion in a demographic that straddles a recognition of what digital technology has given us, while possessing an ease of facility in its use. (Gracious, these kids today don’t even know what a pay phone is!)
I also admit to accompanying many of my peers in a trend of “delayed rites of passage” compared to early generations. While I moved away from home, got my degree and became financially independent not long after University, I haven’t married, bought a house, had kids… frequently pointed to as milestones of “adulting.” I also check other Millennial boxes like my career flexibility and desire to follow personal interests and passions in my job. Other points ring false for me, though, (such as the idea that Millennials are less religious, since my faith is critical to me and my worldview), and it is this rejection of the label that is perhaps most telling.
From Wikipedia, I learned my favorite thing about being a Millennial, which is that only a minority of us actually identifies as being Millennial! So I thought, oh yes, I’m a Millennial (but not really, don’t put try and box me in and think you’ve understood me!) What I garner from this point is something I see reflected in the entire article– constant references to our make-up as the most diverse generation, as well as the most educated. For better or worse, perhaps this awareness of our variations, paired with our knowledge of diversity in the larger world, makes us rail against identifying as groups. I mentioned briefly in our feminism post that I push back against self-identifying with labels, this slivering up of societal segments. Perhaps its’ my Millennial narcissism (cue second eye roll) that leads me to see myself (but also others!) as incredibly complex creatures that resist defining. Perhaps it’s my Millennial social liberalism that desires to see less fragmentation in our society and this pitting ourselves into different camps with different goals and motivations. Maybe it’s my Millennial positivism (umm, not totally sure this is me, actually) that hopes for this!
I dislike like the idea of belonging to the ME generation in many ways; I may in fact believe the selfie stick is what’s wrong with society at large. But if my Baby Boomer parents sought to instill in me a sense of self-esteem and specialness, the effect might actually have been that that while I often struggle to see ME this way, I very much believe this about YOU. The fundamental uniqueness and value of the individual is elemental to me, and it’s how I’d like to approach all my interactions with others, as much as I may fail practically at this.
If I’m important, so are you, so are we all. Millennial enough for you?
I’m a millennial and I love it and I love millennials. I love our selfies and our internet slang and our memes. I love our technology obsessions and our new expectations about what our lives should look like.
If you belong to an older generation and you dislike millennials, I have some difficult news for you. It isn’t millennials you hate. It’s change.
For centuries, the invention of the printing press was considered the most pivotal moment in the history of civilization. Suddenly information could be mass produced. Knowledge could be handed out and passed around. Ideas could be shipped across borders in boxes.
Before, the world’s intellect was contained in small collections of rare, hand-written manuscripts. Only scholars and priests could read – no one else had any reason to. Suddenly, with the printing press, everyone had a reason to learn to read. Knowledge was diffused among the people, and with that, power was likewise diffused. Lay people could read the Bible for the first time in history, and Protestantism could be born. News could be disseminated and political pamphlets spread around – that’s how a revolution was begun and the world’s first modern democracy was born. And once people had a reason to read, people could also write. People could maintain relationships with loved ones across long distances through letters, giving them greater freedom to leave home and pursue new and better opportunities.
Once the printing press was invented, the world caught fire with intellectual growth and unimaginable possibilities. Everything changed.
Now, think about the invention of the internet.
No more is the printing press the most pivotal moment in the history of civilization. Now, the entire world’s catalog of knowledge and ideas is accessible via my smart phone or your Apple watch. I not only can talk to my friends anywhere in the world at any time – I can meet entirely new people anywhere in the world on social media. I can pay bills, consult with a doctor, get a degree and petition my government all online. I can broadcast my own ideas to the world, and if they resonate with other people, I might be heard by millions.
The most pivotal moment in the history of the world is this one, right now.
The power and possibilities of the internet have expanded so rapidly and are still expanding so rapidly that we have no idea where they will lead, what new responsibilities will come, what new problems, or how we will face them. That’s scary, but it’s unstoppable. The future is exploding. And we are alive to see where it all goes and even to participate.
I think about all this wildness, all this excitement, all this danger, all this newness, all this profundity… And then I hear people talking about how the young people today should be more like the young people of yesterday.
It’s like a record scratch. What? Do you not see what’s happening? How could my generation possibly be like your generation? And how would we survive this cultural explosion if we were?
Your generation, your youth, were great. And so are ours. It’s not better, it’s different.
The march of progress is inevitable. And when something like the invention of the internet happens, that march becomes a tidal wave. So, you can disdain these developments and most of all the way they’ve changed people. Or you can appreciate the extraordinary magnitude of this moment and marvel at the unprecedented ways in which humankind is adapting to this radically new environment.
I’m a millennial but I’m an old millennial. The kids my husband teaches are young millennials, and they’re much different than me. I hope I never grow to look on their habits, attitudes or values with disgust – they were born into a different world than I was, though our births were only 15 years apart. I hope I always maintain a joyful curiosity about the perspectives of the young and an openness to the wondrous complexities of progress.
For now, I’ll proudly wear the millennial label in honor of this spectacular moment in time.
In the words of every millennial’s favorite Broadway musical, “Look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now.”