Sitting in the restaurant booth directly in front of the 24 year old young millennial, who possesses a kind and soft spoken voice with a gentle demeanor, the middle-aged man listened and he watched.
I watched and I tried to remember what it was like to be 24. His eyes were young and taut without wrinkles just like mine once were. His hands were smooth and without wrinkles, just like mine once were. His eyes were filled with excitement but filled with fear as well; fear of what his tomorrow would be,
also just like my eyes once were.
Their lives now before them, today’s young millennials are faced with both the excitement and the challenges of just exactly how does one actually DO a Life? But it’s a different challenge for them than it was for our generation and the ones before us. The differences between how our two generations ‘do life’ are shaped by global events that span 30 years of time; not just events here at home.
Recently, I had the pleasure to meet this randomly chosen Millennial, Zach Lancaster. He’s a barista at a local Starbucks where one day I asked Zach if could I take him to lunch and discuss the life of a Millennial from someone I didn’t know at all. He agreed.
So for a couple of hours we two men sat in an Asian restaurant and discussed differences in our generations, each generation’s expectations and finding common ground. We discussed many things in a short time; his generation’s challenge of being ‘coddled by technology ‘, how it’s easy to hide behind keypads and not enter the real world where we must face people and discuss life verbally. We discussed his generation’s concern with climate changes.
Below are some questions that I’ve asked Zach. Some questions were submitted by my blog followers and I thank you for those.
Mark: ‘Given that college debt is a disease now and limits housing options, many of your generation are approaching life from a minimalist viewpoint; apartments, tiny houses, etc. What will your generation do with our, and our previous generation’s, collectibles?’
Zach: ‘My generation likes things that have a story attached. For instance, my grandmother made me several quilts and I treasure those. But we wouldn’t be apt to keep things that have no real meaning to them.’
Mark: ‘What does your generation think about Syrian refugees and stronger restraints on immigration into the United States?’
Zach: ‘That is complicated. But I fear the more we turn people away from our country, the more we will invite their resentment. And many are already mad at our country. It seems to me that limiting immigration might make a bad situation even worse.’
Mark: ‘What do you think about 911? How do the events of that day impact you?’
Zach: ‘My generation was raised under the understanding that terrorism exists and has to be acknowledged. 911 changed something for your generation, but we never had the chance to know what you lost. We never knew that America where you didn’t have the threat of terrorism.’
Mark: ‘What do you value more; memories or money?’
Zach: ‘Hmmm, well, I’d say memories. But the challenge here is that often it takes money to make memories. I did take an awesome trip out west..in a Prius! When you have money, you have more choices.’
Mark: ‘When you hear ‘Elvis’ or ‘The Challenger’, what do you think?’
Zach: ‘Well, I wasn’t alive during either, so to me they’re both an important part of history like anything else. But I’m not really emotionally attached to either. I had a professor who was so invested in Elvis music that even today this day he gets misty-eyed talking about the King. Having not lived through those days, I don’t have the same connection.’
Mark: ‘What is one of your greatest fears?’
Zach: ‘I think it would be that my career choice didn’t allow me to enjoy my life. Hopefully I can work in a museum, or teach. On the other other hand, I wouldn’t mind living in a van (#vanlife) and working remotely. I have so many opportunities, it’s hard to know what’s the right path to take.’
Mark: ‘What is the one thing that you want most in life?’
Zach: ‘I guess that would be a good community to live in. A community that I can participate in that is well grounded, sustaining and pedestrian. A community that is filled with people that are concerned about that community as I am. I would be ok living without a vehicle and walking to places that I need to or taking public transportation. Being mobile is important to our generation.’
Today’s Millennials can catch a bunch of flack for being perceived that they are owed something, for being lazy and for being not connected to reality. While I’m sure that there are segments of them that may feel that way, maybe it’s a bit like only hearing the squeaky wheels? We seldom hear of the younger generation that are productive and self sustaining. But I, for one, am sure that they are there; quietly.
Or perhaps it’s a ‘pit bull’ theory? It’s not the Millennials themselves, but rather how they were raised up by our generation.
In which case, we have nobody to blame but ourselves for handing participation trophies to them and not handing them responsibilities.
But we need to rest assured that there are plenty of young people that were born in the 1990’s that are shaping up nicely. Many of them are more than sufficiently prepped to take the helm as we generation Xers start to leave the workforce that they can’t get into and prove themselves.
Zach and his lovely young wife, who has a smile of infectious beauty, will be moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan soon to continue college and studies there.
Both of them have graduated from Union University. Both went there on scholarship and are graduating with zero loan debt. Zach graduated with a degree in ceramics and Beth with a double major in harp and English.
The only thing that I regret about meeting my new Millennial buddy Zach, is that it didn’t happen sooner.
That’s the best that I can tell about it,