“Isn’t life disappointing?” -Tokyo Story
A quick Google search for the term, “Millennials,” results in a slew of unflattering adjectives: lazy, worst, entitled and idiots. Characterized as those who were born in the 1980s through the early 90s, most millennials are now 20-something year olds beginning to carve a name for themselves and establish an existence in a world that is far from rosy. While millennials were too young to be actively engaged in the Persian Gulf War, they quickly learned that “evil” existed beyond just movies and books when two planes slammed into the twin towers on September 11th, 2001. The ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan defined their transition from adolescence to adulthood. Today, it is difficult to fathom the fact that there used to be a time period in which global terrorism wasn’t touted as the first reason for any terrible event, whether it be a plane crash, an explosion or a shooting.
The decade was topped off by the 2008 financial crisis, which obliterated job opportunities for many young Americans graduating from universities and in search of their first real jobs. The crisis also left many older Americans without jobs as well, increasing unemployment levels, which peaked at 10% in October 2009. The repercussions are still being felt several years later. The burst of optimism and energy felt when President Obama was elected as the first African American President has now largely waned and young adults have become more apathetic.
A generation molded by these events, millennials continue to follow the trend of delaying marriage, and many are in search of more meaningful lives. Below, is a brief overview of the millennial generation.
Population of 25 to 34 year olds as of 2010 (thousands)
The darkest shade of purple shows the highest concentration of 25 to 34 year olds. California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois were the top 5 states with the highest concentration of millennials.
Interview with the Director of Student Relations at SIPA, Ken Lawson
Ken Lawson, the director of student relations at the office of career services at Columbia University’s school of international and public affairs, believes that the integration of the internet in the lives of the millennials is makes the generation unique. However, this same technology that defines the millennial generation, for him, creates both a disadvantage and a challenge for millennials to find a job and start a career.
Are Millennials Any Different?
Are millennials unique? Are they different from the previous generations? Every generation has had to face their own set of crises that defined their young adult lives. The baby boomers that were born after World War II had to live during the Cold War era, fight in the Vietnam War, and deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis. Going back further, The Greatest Generation was born before 1928 and had to grow up during the Great Depression and fight in World War II, which killed and wounded more than a million American soldiers. Each generation has had its own collection of challenges and setbacks. And while there seems to be a tendency amongst the baby boomers to berate and dismiss the millennials as lazy and selfish, they probably experienced similar treatment from their own elders when they were protesting the war in Vietnam and inequality, while experimenting with drugs and listening to rock and roll.
Video Interview: Bon Duke, Photographer / Director
Yasujiro Ozu’s 1953 film, Tokyo Story, tells the tale of an elderly Japanese couple who leave their humble abode in the countryside to visit their children in Tokyo. Their children are working professionals leading busy lives, and hardly give their parents the attention they deserve. While the elderly couple is disappointed by how they are treated, they realize the basic truth of life, which is that children will grow up and become detached. Parents will get old, and one day, they will die. Time will continue to pass and life will go on. In this cyclical nature of life and death, millennials, like every other generation, are forced to face the challenges of their time. In time, they too will become old and will give rise to another generation that will have their own similarities and differences.
While the tendencies to define an entire generation with just a few overarching characteristics is tempting, it is important to keep in mind that even within a single generation there are vast differences. The idea of labeling the next generation as selfish, lost and misguided is not just tethered to today’s millennials. In fact, it is a universal theme that has existed for a very long time and will continue to do so as the old generation fades and a new one emerges.
By Jessa Cruz and Dain Lee