April 22, 2014

Misty Watson: Turns out, I’m a millennial

The word millennial always conjures up this image of a guy wearing skinny jeans, Converse high tops, a plaid button-up shirt, thick-rimmed glasses, a hat, facial hair and a messenger bag slung over his shoulder.

He sits in coffee shops playing on his iPhone. He drinks green smoothies, eats Nutella and would never dream of throwing something away that could be upcycled. (I still hate that word.)

And he’s a self-entitled know-it-all lazy brat.

All we ever hear is how annoying millennials are, how they won’t work, how hard they are to manage in the workplace when they do get a job, how all they ever think about is themselves, how they’re always glued into technology, how they communicate ineffectively and the list goes on. In fact, I heard some of these things mentioned on Monday by business leaders at the High Demand Career Initiative as they were telling educators the problems they face with those entering the workforce.

Millennials are the complete opposite of the beloved “Greatest Generation.” (Sometimes when we use that term I wonder if we’re forgetting the Japanese internment camps during World War II, the civil rights movement and the fact that women weren’t seen as equals.)

Up until a few weeks ago, I probably would have agreed that this new generation is just a bunch of slackers.

Turns out, though, I’m a millennial.

I was a bit disgusted by having that label. I didn’t want to be one of those people. I don’t want to be thought of as someone who barely finds their way through the world and only thinks about myself.

That’s just not who I am. I don’t even have a smartphone or a tablet, and the only reason I own skinny jeans is because my only choices these days seem to be skinny jeans or high-waisted mom jeans. I don’t communicate poorly. At least I hope not, seeing as though I have a college degree in communications.

How can I be a millennial?

Millennials were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, and I was born in 1982. That means I’m on the older end of this generation getting so much hype for all their negative traits.

Now I want to jump up and down and say, “Hey, you’ve got this all wrong. We’re not all slackers who only think ‘me, me, me.’”

The recession is at least partly to blame for this misunderstanding of my generation. I have friends who want to work, have advanced degrees and struggle to find jobs. I have other friends who entered the workforce happily and were rewarded after a couple of years with pay cuts instead of raises. Their workload has also increased. Their benefits have been cut. I know of people whose positions were cut completely as companies found ways to save money and became more “efficient.”

Are we really a generation of slackers? Or are we just jaded by circumstance?

We’ve got a lot of great qualities, too.

We’re quite tolerant of others. Being tolerant would have stopped a lot of wars, a lot of deaths and a lot of pain. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2010, millennials believe their tolerance is part of what makes their generation unique. It isn’t a quality listed by any other generation surveyed. (Of course, millennials also list pop culture/music and clothes. Way to go, millennials.)

The survey shows millennials are more accepting of gay marriage, gay couples raising children and people living together without being married.

Why? We respect others’ freedom to make these choices.

Helping others in need is also a top priority for us, according to the survey, falling just behind being a good parent and having a successful marriage. So much for the “me, me, me” attitude.

We wouldn’t insist on eating at restaurants who use free-range meat, use recycled materials and stay far away from non-decomposable materials if we only cared about ourselves.

So maybe millennials aren’t all bad.

Of course, I still can’t explain the obsession with skinny jeans and using the word upcycling.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can contact her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.

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