My name is Samantha Walters and I am what you would consider a “millennial executive” over here at Colocation America. Every Monday (get it, get it, Samantha on Mondays – the S.O.M column) I will write a little something on whatever is on my mind from business practices to current events and everything else in between.
This week’s topic is about Millennials and delaying adulthood
Over the last month I have been bombarded by articles about Millennials. It seems like every time I open my inbox, there is another company telling me how to market, train, and, even, how to love Millennials. Usually written by a Baby Boomer (born in the 50s) or a member of Generation X (born in the 60s – 80s, debatably), these articles are all about what “we” value and how “we” think. Some of the articles reference research while most just, well, seem to give opinions based on minimal interaction with Millennials.
So let’s take a moment to step back and define a “Millennial.”
According to William Strauss and Neil Howe, the writers of Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069 and Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, Millennials are people born between 1981 and 2004. Although “Millennials” is the most used term for this generation, others have sprung up overtime including “Generation Me,” coined by Jean Twenge in her book Generation Me, “Generation Y,” by Ad Age (who later said “Millennials” was more fitting), and, more recently, “Trophy Kids,” a term created by Ron Alsop.
However, my favorite, and perhaps the most fitting term, goes to American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis which labeled Millennials as the “Peter Pan Generation.” According to Shaputis, the “Peter Pan Generation” signifies the generation’s tendency to delay certain aspects of adulthood.
Let’s stop here for a second—what does it mean to “delay adulthood?”
Rumor has it (but is actually a real thing noted in academic journals), Millennials tend to go through the “rites of passage” events associated with being an adult (i.e. getting married, having kids, and owning a house) later in life than previous generations. This is not to be confused with other traits associated with Millennials like “lazy,” “idiots,” “broke,” and, “screwed.” Many researchers have attributed this “delay” to the economic hardships that this generation has experienced. Think about the 80s, 90s, and 00s—talk about some economic f*ck ups.
Then again, perhaps it is not the economic situation that has left this generation lagging on the whole adult thing. Perhaps the Peter Pan Generation just wants to experience things solo for a while, or the abundance of information has started shaping the conscious choices young adults are making. For example, have you read a blog for parents lately? Talk about natural birth control!
Whatever the reason, it’s true, Millennials are delaying “adulthood” a bit, but is it a bad thing?
Flat out I am going to go for a no. Ok, ok, I am completely biased. To many members of my inner circle, I am the golden child for the Peter Pan Generation complete with a Peter Pan action figure on my window (and, yeah, that is a real thing). I have somehow avoided all aspects of adulthood when it comes to having my own family or owning property. I happily enjoyed my parents insurance until I was 26 and, honestly, their support when I deemed travelling as more important than my phone bill. I took advantage of the “as long as you are in school, you can live with us” approach my parents took while I obtained my Master’s degree and, currently take advantage of the free Walters Pet Hotel for my little Peanut (a girl dog if you were wondering).
Again, I’m going to go with a no. Sure, if I was to take a survey on my adult-ness I may seem like I am losing the race. Heck, for the first part of my 20s I was not even in the race. So, yes, I am just another statistic. Then again, perhaps our understanding of an adult is not correct. Perhaps our definition is outdated and no longer fits what an adult is in the 21st century.
While I may have neglected my left ring finger, not all has been lost. During the time while I have been in limbo between being too old to be a teen and not grounded enough to be an adult, I have accomplished some pretty cool things.
While I was fortune enough to not worry about insurance or finding a place to live (something that not every Millennial will have an opportunity to enjoy), I was volunteering aboard and locally, creating and growing companies, writing a novel which I did not finish, learning that I can cook Matzo Ball Soup (but not hash browns), and discovered that I now get sore when I throw a football for too long.
To sum it up, the years I was busy playing Peter Pan are the years I learned the most about who I am and who I want to become. For example, I have learned that your family is what you make it, knowledge is power but can be packaged in many different ways, and that Happy Hour can lead into Happy Night, Rough Morning. I have seen what life can be when you work too much and not enough. I have seen the world from a different continent and with different people.
Just because my road to adulthood looks different than the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers does not mean that it was time wasted. Chances are, other Millennials did the same thing too. Instead of looking at Millennials from what we do not have, look at what we do have—globalization, technology, and knowledge. We are the generation with the power of information behind us and a vast amount of experiences.
We are not delaying adulthood, we are embracing the time before we have a partner, kids, and a house—is that a crime?