The media loves millennials. Journalists and commentators love to laugh at our quirks, criticize our work ethic, call us entitled, and generalize our experience. But what do millennials think?
Millennials know that our parents are worried about our generation. We understand why; we are not perfect. Young adults face very real struggles, some of which are unique to our generation and hard for others to understand. But we are also a generation of dreamers, technological savants, and world travelers. We are not a lost generation as some might say. We have a lot of potential. Sometimes we just need a little help tapping into it.
Concretely, millennials are the generation that was born between 1980 to 1999. However, for the purposes of this paper, we are focusing on today’s young adults, ages 18-30. That’s more than 70 million millennials in the United States alone who are about to move into our prime adult years.
Millennials come from highly diverse backgrounds. We are single-minded. And we de ne our sexuality and gender differently than previous generations. We are less focused on race and more accepting of differences, but we also still struggle with bullying. We care for our health by eating our vegetables, exercising, and not smoking as much as previous generations. A lot of us have traveled. And even if we haven’t, we have grown up in a world where the click of a button takes us to faraway places with unique and interesting cultures.
An Uncertain Future
We are the generation that never used an encyclopedia for school because the internet was always faster and better. And we tend to believe that education is worth it, despite the debt we are incurring. A lot of us think we might never marry. Most of us probably will– but later in life than our parents did. We are optimistic. We think that someday we are going to be millionaires, though we don’t know how or when. And yes, sometimes we can be a bit entitled.
Above all though, we hope the world will understand that our future success cannot be measured by the same standard with which our parents’ generation measured success. The ‘white picket fence’ dream worked for them. It will work for some of us. But our generation has more opportunities than ever before. The rate at which our world moves means that we have more potential to be different and unique in what we do. And all of that means that we have more choices than ever before–and that’s cool. Contrary to popular discourse, most of us are hard workers. We like challenges. But at times, all of the opportunities and expectations can feel confusing, overwhelming, and stressful.
The Anxious Generation
Some people call millennials “the anxious generation”. And who can blame us? For us, the race to the top begins at preschool. From before most of us can remember, we have been told that we need to prepare for the highly competitive college application process. The underlying sentiment is that if we do not do the preparatory classes, extracurriculars, and hundreds of hours of community service, then we will not go to college and will not get a job. That’s a lot of pressure for a child.
We are not living in our parents’ basements in greater numbers because our generation is inherently lazy. Smoking pot, eating too much or too little, and obsessively playing video games are not the problems. These behaviors are symptoms of deeper mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. A lot of us are simply overwhelmed and confused about who we are, what we want, and how we get there.
It is easy to feel like the fast-paced world has passed us by. Sometimes we just need a little help getting up off the couch again. But often we don’t know how to ask.