Who are you calling Millennial?


Every thirty years or so, the aging generation can’t help but call the upcoming generation lazy and disrespectful, with no “real” appreciation for how the world really works, thus writing off a mass of people that have yet to really prove their worth.

Depending on how you look at it, I am a full-blooded Aquarius, or a feisty strawberry-blonde, or a fiercely independent eldest child. Regardless of how you think I got there, I know one thing’s for sure, I despise labels. I cringe at being reduced to sweeping generalizations. Even my earliest blog “About Me” profiles even describes me as a paradox.

Last night, my dear friend Steph (a producer for a national talk show) and I got into a discussion about the Millennial generation. She had joked that I was on the oldest end of the definition, thus I should be a leader. I immediately steeled up. I am NOT a Millennial. No, I will not be reduced to the negative stereotypes that I am entitled, pushy, whiny, or incapable of actually holding a job.That’s reserved for those other people, you know, the young ones…hmmm…

So, what’s the definition of a Millennial, then?
The first half of Merriam-Webster’s definition describes the Millennial generation as those born from 1980 onward, or as other have cited, those aged eighteen to twenty-nine in the year 2010.

Okay, let’s not get too jumpy yet. I am barely a Millennial, being on the fray of those years. Some experts may even say say I’m not. To me, defining generations solely based on birth years is highly debatable for me, especially when it comes to those fringe years. After all, socio-economic status, geographic location and education can easily either stunt or surge growth.

In other words, don’t call me a Millennial just yet.

Looking at the second half of the dictionary definition for Millennials, seems a little less debatable, albeit horribly dry. “…brought up using digital technology and mass media; the children of Baby Boomers; also called Generation Y.”

If we infuse that rather dry definition with a little more life, one could say Millennials grew up with a computer and internet access at some point in their formative years (from age thirteen through college).

Oh…crap. Steph, with the help of Merriam-Webster’s, got me.

My Millennialism
I had AOL when it was first released, during my teen years. I used e-mail to connect with others. While best practices for using the internet on research papers was still developing as I was graduating high school and well into college, the face of the world was changing. I began to find all sorts of new music, sharing my favorites with strangers as Napster was taking over my college campus. I was practicing Spanish by visiting foreign chat rooms and starting up conversations with those living in Mexico, Guatemala and Spain. I was able to order pictures of my adventures shared with those across the world with a simple click of a button.

I was plugged in. My scope of understanding was global.

And that, is among the more positive attributes of Millennials. Amongst this wily group, less racism exists. There is a more global understanding of the way things work. This generation spent their formative years becoming increasingly aware of how small the world really is, and just how the smallest movement can ignite a change..

Oh, geez. It was at this point I started to cave. Fine, I might in fact be a Millennial.

Now, it helps that my natural strengths lie in a relational capacity, and that I was raised by parents who taught me to see the world through unfiltered eyes (as much as one possibly can).

No, I’m not like my brother, who started gaming with people all over the world at age 13. No, I’m not like the actors I’ve worked with who are addicted to their Sidekicks or their Blackberries, instant messaging each other at all hours. No, I don’t wear my self-expression on my skin in the form of body art. But, when you dig a little deeper into Millennial attributes (as I did with Pew Research Center), you’ll find a lot of interesting characteristics of Millennials. These include the following very boiled down list…

Millennials…

  • • Embrace multiple modes of self-expression
  • • Have a profile on a social-networking site
  • • Have posted a video of themselves online
  • • Are frequently tattooed as well as pierced
  • • Are the least overtly religious American generation in modern times (yet not belonging does not mean not believing)
  • • Place parenthood and marriage above career and financial success
  • • Are on the course to becoming the most educated generation in American history
  • • Get along well with their parents
  • • Respect their elders
  • • Rarely are military veterans
  • • Self-identify politically as liberal

Suddenly, I’m not ashamed to be among the masses that came of age in the Millennium (even if I still don’t ever want a tattoo).

Whatever you do, though, don’t box me in. The feisty strawberry-blonde, the eldest child or the strong-willed Aquarian will break that box faster than you can say “Millennial.”

Click above for my actual results from Pew Research Center's "How Millennial Are You?" quiz

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