Millennial – a Four-Letter Word?

I recently read an article discussing the levels of wealth currently held by each generation, which continued on to relate the amount each generation had when they were the same age as each following generation. During the few minutes I spent reading that article, my mind wandered off as I wondered about the myriad factors that have and are contributing to this reality.

How do we become the people we are now? Is it a personal choice? Are there contributing, external factors? Do our parents have anything to do with it? What about our friends or siblings? Technology? National culture? Hardships or windfalls? I think the answer is all of the above. Everything in our life, whether an active or passive influence, will contribute in some way to our becoming “us”.

The term “millennial” gets thrown around a lot these days, and it isn’t always positive attention. Being born in 1981, I am technically one of the oldest millennials. While this is a statement of fact, I don’t often find myself relating to the generalized definitions of my generation. Perhaps this is because I am old enough to be in some sort of generational transition no man’s land, or perhaps it is because the factors of influence that fall into the categories listed above were much different in my personal life that in those of the general millennial population. Whatever the reason, the mere fact that I am a de-facto member of the millennial generation has given me reason to pay closer attention to the nuances of my generation rather than simply file the whole lot of them into a stereotypical ideal and think no more of the matter.

We hear phrases like “Okay, Boomer” more frequently now, and it is becoming more of an insult than anything else. What is it about human nature that compels us to install barriers between ourselves and those who are different than us, and simultaneously labeling everyone on our side of the barrier the be the best of them all? Dr. Suess’s classic book “The Sneetches” is a perfect illustration of this principle. But I think I’m getting sidetracked.

The reality is, that every generation is going to be different, sometimes significantly, than the generations who have gone on before. Undoubtedly, I am a different parent to my children than my parents were to me, and than my parents’ parents were to them. This one, single contribution to our personal development cannot possibly be overstated, yet it is just one of many. The reality is that we are so closely intertwined and even interdependent with each generation co-populating this planet, that all of us getting along is a matter of basic survival.

The current unemployment rate is hovering around 3%, and in some states it is closer to 2.5%, creating a real challenge to employers trying to maintain a qualified staff of competent workers. Working along, living next to, or speaking only with those similar to ourselves is virtually impossible. It wouldn’t be very interesting anyway. So why don’t we ditch the generational, stereotypical labels and see what we can learn from each other. One generation will never be the same as any other, and that’s probably not a bad thing.

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