A Valentine To My Students

ValentineMillennials, born 1981-1999, were the coddled and helicoptered generation, they say. And for that, the word “narcissist” has been slapped on them.

Yet they are anything but self-absorbed.

In fact, the Pew Research Center labeled them, “Confident. Connected. Open to Change.”

Turns out, the Millennial Generation is introspective, empathetic, complex and hopeful.

Yes, their parents may have been overly attentive, but maybe that offered a sense of security during a childhood plagued by September 11, the Great Recession, news from Iraq and Katrina and — for the older ones, Oklahoma City and Columbine.

These kids were also more likely to be raised by single parents than past generations.

And they are the most connected ever, thanks to the Internet — and thanks to being the most multi-racial of our history, too.

Between adversity and connectedness, it’s no wonder they have become a reflective, compassionate and multifaceted lot. To paraphrase New York Times columnist, David Brooks:

While some pain can be destructive, and should be exited as quickly as possible, other wounds may open a deep awareness of what others are facing. This pain draws you deeper into yourself, beneath your routines where you see that you are not who you had thought you were. And then it smashes through the bottom floor of your personality, revealing yet another area below. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.

Millennial Generation

Millennial Generation

Millennials repeatedly showed empathy while being photographed for a slideshow that accompanied the New York Times piece by Sam Tanenhaus that informs this post.

One young man sought success because,

The better you’re doing, the more you can share with other people.

This generation gave us Occupy Wall Street. And they are seeking to join the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and Teach for America in record numbers.

When the economy crashed in 2008 they learned that you can’t count on jobs and wealth. So they seek to acquire less, not more.

Two-thirds would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 doing work they find boring.

They aren’t into prestige brand names, and prefer doing business with enterprises that embrace humanitarian values, especially those that support solutions to social problems.

Millennial’s are more likely to be “faithful vegetarians” than are Gen X’ers — by a factor of 4. And by a factor of 12 compared with boomers.

Oh, and organically farmed cottons that are “completely free of pesticides, chemicals and bleach,” please.

No, these descriptions will not fit every single Millennial. But they fit this generation more than any that have come before.

Source: NYTimes, “Generation Nice” by Sam Tanenhaus

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 12, 2016, in psychology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. I was born in 1981, right on the cusp. I have always leaned toward a Gen X mentality, though, being that I do remember Oklahoma City and I was in 11th grade when the Columbine shooting happened. I guess it’s nice being able to identify with either generation when I decide to. And I’ve got to give it to the Millennials on one thing – they’re innovative.

  2. This is such a great, positive post that makes me feel very optimistic about the road we all are traveling on in the future. I have to agree (and flip on my previous thoughts about the Millennial Generation), as I think through it all they have become just as you have written “more introspective, empathetic, complex and hopeful.” and this will allow the world a better chance to evolve and become much more tolerant than where we are today.

  3. I agree. The level engagement I witness from millennials- and this could be in part because they are so much more visible through the Internet- is so much more than what I myself and those around me conveyed when we were at the age range that they are now. I’m very impressed for the most part.

  4. I’m one of later Millennials, born in 1996, and I feel inclined to agree! During my retail job as a cashier and clerk I faced many rude customers. Yet, the Millennials never gave me a bad time! Even when they disagreed with our rules and policies they were extremely polite. Others, on the other hand, would begin raising their voice and sometimes demand to speak with a manager. I think the internet is a great help in the open-mindedness of Millennials. The internet exposes us to so many different point of views and people. Without the internet, I would not be as wholesome as I am now.

    • I also work as a cashier in retail also & find what you said so accurate!! I’ve noticed that the older people have become so demanding, rude & selfish that they don’t take the time to realize that they can’t always have it their way whenever they pick & choose. Meanwhile a lot more often the millennials seem to be more understanding or seen less causing a fuss.

  5. As someone who was born in 1996 Im on the younger end of the spectrum but I identify with a lot of what you are saying I do remember 9/11 not so much when it actually happened but my mother was on the east coast at the time visiting my grandparents (we live in california) and she ended up being stuck on the east coast for a month. So yes I was young and did not quite understand why everyone was so upset but I do remember that time well because I missed my mother and I knew even at that age that something terrible had happened. Now being almost 20 I have seen the footage of the towers and have been to the memorial. understand now but I still always missing my mother first when I think about 9/11 and I remember missing her birthday because its the 15th and she was still stuck.
    I do think that my generation is a powerful one if we look at the presidential elections going on right now the primaries between clinton and sanders have been much closer then anyone thought they were going to be. When I log on to my Facebook I don’t see people partying as much as I see them talking about politics and the state of the world and the state of schools and how we as the youth can help to change that. I remember in high school when I didn’t think we could do anything but we are strong. My generation is a force to be reckoned with and I am happy to be a part of it. As a proud Millennial, vegetarian, and student.

    • So you were around five when this happened. It’s strange for me to think about being only five then and experience this. And then see what it was really like when you grew up. Thanks for sharing about that time. Love your generation!

  6. I thought this was very insightful, as I was born in 1990, one of those “90’s kids.” I remember events that shook America such as Columbine (though I was young) because of how active my teacher was in current events and also 9/11 because of how vividly I remember that entire day. One thing I truly have to agree with his how beneficial the Internet has been for our generation. I remember just being a kid, in a house with no cable TV, so after cartoons ended on TV at 5PM we chose to do different, more productive things. I could remember going outside to play with other kids (and we were unsupervised), to using all of my imagination in playing with Legos, to reading books, something the current generation seems to be losing touch with.

    I know that society has since gone through some significant social and technological changes, but that has allowed us to thrive. Perhaps it’s just me being one of those people who “would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 doing work they find boring,” because I am one of the lucky ones who is living their dream job every single day as a teacher. I found the value in the joy of doing my job, which in turn has pushed me to be a better teacher every day. While I don’t necessarily connect with the latter part of the article, I understand how and why the other Millennials have such a lifestyle, more about our growth, but the ability to share and help others grow as well.

  7. I absolutely love my generation. I was born in 1996, so I am in the latter of the millennials, however what I have learned and experience throughout high school and now in college is that this generation really is something special. Never has there been a more liberal, open-minded, and caring group of people (generally) than within this generation. I think a lot of this has to do with the internet. Outside of the great social changes that the internet has provided, we have seen a fascination and acceptance of cultures outside of our own. Whether that be someone in the LGBT community, Europe, or even someone in a different club at your high school. Now, our generation is definitely not perfect, however the open minded and introspective mentality that is ever so common within it is what will continue to improve it.

  8. This is nice to hear about my generation, as majority of the time what I hear from my family and many others is “you know whats wrong with your generation?” followed by what they disagree about what a few people in my generation are doing. I do believe that millennial are definitely different from previous and they do seem to have the attitude that less is more and they are very happy with it. The idea of doing what you love is a major aspect of life, instead of going to school to study a subject to work in a field that they hate. I do believe though we can still learn from previous generations in certain aspects of life. And I believe that this generation would be the best to do so, because they know how to take the good from the past generations to push themselves forward and also help progress the newer generations to come.

  9. I totally can relate to this post! Being a millennial myself (1991😁) I remember the majority of these events. I remember seeing the news broadcast of the 9/11 attacks, & feeling the after effects of it, the war, sadness, & worry of the economy. & to this day always thinking of how good we had it before all of these events occurred. Because of the fall of the economy I never really got to see my parents until after a certain time & only for a little bit because they had to work more hours in order to support my family. Over time a lot of my values & opinions have changed. Topics like the environment, politics, & being a better person, & helping our communities become better are always revolving in my mind & are a great concern. I just wish it wasn’t just the millenials who are taking notice. We need change for the better & we need it fast!

  10. Aishani Kumar

    This is truly an empowering, and truthful, notion about the millennial generation. With so much focus on the doubts and differences of our generation, it’s important to recognize the many positive aspects. Millennials may be considered the “babied” generation, and maybe the wealthy were. But, the majority of American middle and low class millennials felt the implications of each social problems. Parents were gone; fighting in the war, working in tech, recovering from the recession, keeping their kids in school. Our generation has absorbed all of the tragedy these past years have brought our country, and want to erase it. We understand that the only way to make success for ourselves, and for all of America, is to take the positions in which we want to see change. With millennials’ unique moral compass, and the desire they have to share it within social networks, it’s clear that this generation is sure to rock the boat.

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