Millennials — or Generation Y, as we’re also known — are an incredibly unique generation. We’re the newest generation of young adults, born after 1980, and we’re constantly taking the world by storm with new ideas. Before us, every generation grew up pretty similarly, so what is it about our generation that made us turn out so differently than the Baby Boomers and Generation X? I can think of several defining moments from my life that I’m sure other Millennials can also relate to.
- We saw & participated in the rise of the Internet. If you remember what life was like before the Internet, even from when you were a toddler, you fully understand how technology revolutionized life. If you remember using a rotary phone, mailing every single bill back with a personal check (or watching your mom do so), and calling a radio DJ to place a request for your favorite song, you’re fully capable of understanding how far our world has come. Think about it: now you pay all your bills online, listen to whatever song you want without waiting for a DJ to play it, and probably prefer to text your friends rather than make an actual voice call. That’s all due to the invention of personal electronics and the Internet, one of the most driving forces of our generation.
- Cell phones, formerly a luxury only for the wealthy, went mainstream. I was aware of the existence of cell phones in the mid-’90s because I watched Mulder and Scully answer their old-school Nokias every Sunday night on The X-Files. I didn’t actually have one until 2001, as a senior in high school. Many millennials actually had vehicles and driver’s licenses before we had cell phones. That puts us in a unique position to be able to appreciate the world before and after the advent of technology.
- 9/11 changed how we see the entire world. September 11, 2001 was a day that changed every American, there’s no doubt about that. For us Millennials, it occurred when we were kids or teenagers and truly jarred our former sense of safety in our country. Whether we personally knew someone who died that day or not, every American lost something that day: our security. If you told someone in 1970 that they had to remove their shoes and go through an X-ray machine in order to board a flight, they’d think you were mad, but, sadly, that’s the new norm.
- We couldn’t afford to go to college, but thought we had to anyway. We were still learning the old norms from our parents: if you go to college and get that piece of paper, you’re basically guaranteed a good job. While these views were still making their rounds, college tuition also went through the roof, making it difficult to afford for middle-class students and families. We took out student loans, oh so many student loans, because we wanted that magical piece of paper that guaranteed us a successful career. Am I the only one wondering where I can sell my degree and recoup all that money/debt?
- We graduated into The Great Recession. While we were busy earning those college degrees we couldn’t afford (and screwing ourselves into a lifetime of debt), the very job market that was supposed to save us was sinking faster than the Titanic. By the time we walked across that graduation stage clad in our caps and gowns, we already knew how bleak the outcome was. We had spent months applying for jobs with no luck, and many of us graduated from college without a job lined up or any decent prospects. We’ve had to take jobs for which we’re overqualified, move back in with family, and delay our own family goals due to these setbacks, so please be assured that this is no small crisis we’re dealing with.
- “Entry-level” jobs now require years of experience. After the graduation ordeal, we do what we have to do. We take that low-paying customer service job and tell ourselves it’s only temporary until we find something better. When we apply for jobs in our actual field, we continue getting the same response: “I’m sorry but we’ve selected another candidate who is more experienced.” By definition, entry-level should mean that no experience is required, but when the economy sucks, employers are going to hire experienced workers for entry-level pay because they can (even though it completely screws us over).
- The dating scene has been revolutionized as well, but not in a good way. Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers typically remember dating as something fun and magical. Millennials see it as a battlefield, and not the cool love battlefield that Pat Benatar sang about. Love is literally a battlefield for us because it seems like nobody wants true love, opting instead for worthless one-night stands. We want to find something real, but we’re competing against perfect bodies and rich trust fund babies so what’s the point?
- We’ve realized there’s no formula for successfully living the rest of our lives. Nobody has successfully completed life in the exact world we’re living in now, so we’re all just winging it and hoping for the best. We hope to find successful careers and relationships, but how to do so has been reduced to simple trial and error. Prior generations, please don’t be too hard on us. It’s tough to be trailblazers, but we’ll figure it out.