Five Wonderful Things About Millennials

When I created the main character for my Awakening series, I wasn’t thinking about generational issues. I wanted Tara Spencer to be young enough that it was believable she’d never had sex, I wanted her to have a strong reason other than a religious one for choosing to remain a virgin, and I wanted her to discover she was nonetheless pregnant when it would most disrupt her life. So I made her a pre-med student and the oldest of five children, so she understood exactly how much responsibility being a parent involves and avoiding pregnancy mattered a great deal to her educational and career goals. The term “Millennial” wasn’t one I recall being all that aware of. But I made Tara 21, and she’s now 22 as I write Book 3, so if she existed in real time, she would be a Millennial.

Awareness of the Millennial generation is more a part of my day-to-day life these days. I teach law students, most of whom fall into the 22 to 28 age range, and, now that I write full time, I read more blogs and listen to podcasts that are produced by or aimed at Millennials. On the other hand, most of the lawyers I work with (I still practice law part-time) are Baby Boomers or older Generation Xers. Their clerks and junior lawyers tend to be Millennials, though, so I’ve heard plenty of complaints about the (lack of) work ethic of twenty-to-thirty-year olds. But as I thought about and further researched the Millennial generation, curious how or if my main character fit within it, I realized how much I like about people in that age range. A few of the main reasons:

They seek advice from adults, particularly their parents. When I was in my twenties, I rejected most of my parents’ advice as irrelevant. They were more than forty years older than me, how could they possibly understand anything I was going through? The older I get, the more I realize how many things my parents were right about, or at least had useful insight regarding. While Millennials get a lot of flack for relying too much on mom and dad (and I personally find it hard to understand how 85% of them could name a parent as their best friend), there is a lot to be said for taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of people who’ve been around a lot longer than you. When I rely on marketing tips from authors more savvy than I or seek input from a lawyer with a couple decades more experience, I don’t call that being too dependent, I call it being smart and efficient. Many Millennials are smart and efficient.

More so than previous generations, Millennials value and respect differences among people. Part of it is that, in the U.S. at least, they are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation to date. They also are the most social both on and off line. They are more likely to know people with different sexual orientations, different religious and philosophical beliefs, and who are part of different racial and ethnic groups. In contrast, I grew up in a part of a middle income suburb that was almost entirely white and non-Hispanic. I never had an African-American classmate until my first year of college or an African-American professor until my fourth year. Religious diversity where I grew up meant some people were Catholic and others were non-Catholic Christians. The first time I saw a synagogue was on a field trip in high school. That was also the first time that I heard anyone say he didn’t believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. I love that Millennials are so much less likely to live in worlds where everyone is so similar to them.

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On a related note, and perhaps for the above reason, Millennials as a group care about other people’s feelings. If they unintentionally offend someone by using a word or term, they’re less likely than members of previous generations to insist they didn’t mean anything by it and the person offended should just “get over it.” Millennials would rather look for another way to express themselves that won’t offend others. Likewise, people in the Millennial generation are more likely to believe that everyone can get along and to look for ways for that to happen, rather than assuming that people of different genders, races, religious backgrounds, or sexual orientation are so radically unlike that it’s as if they come from different planets. As someone who found the stereotypes about gender in the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus books frustrating and reductive, I’m happy many Millennials reject that type of thinking. Also, on a personal note, having grown up with a mother who often spoke her mind, to me at least, without a thought for how her comments might sound (most famously, “You couldn’t get your first novel published, why would you waste time writing another?”) but who generally did not intend to make me feel bad, I’m all for everyone taking a few extra minutes to consider the effect of their words.
Social issues still matter when it comes to finances. Many twenty-somethings finished college or graduate school during the recent recession when jobs were particularly scarce. Despite having more limited economic resources, they are concerned with the values of the companies from which they buy products and the employers for whom they work. More than 50% of those in the Millennial generation buy from companies that support causes they care about. Millennials also push their employers to issue more honest public relations materials.

Perhaps related to both their economic circumstances and their social consciousness, Millennials generally value experiences and quality of life more highly than things. One life skill vital to my personal happiness that I learned from my parents, who grew up during the Great Depression, was to thoughtfully consider how I spent both my money and my time and make choices based on what I found important, not on what society in general found most alluring. My mom and dad were among the last to buy a color TV, never owned more than one car at a time, and never bought a grocery that wasn’t reduced for a sale or based on a coupon. Yet they spent money taking trips to Europe, including to sites of religious significance to them, signed up for adult education classes, and donated every month to several charities. Interestingly, Millennials are making similar choices in some ways to those of the Greatest Generation. As noted above, they are more apt than their parents to buy products based on the manufacturer’s and distributor’s ethics and values than price. Many also share cars rather than own them outright and prefer smaller living spaces that are more environmentally sound rather than working longer hours to pay high rent. Along the same lines, they prioritize taking trips to other countries over purchasing homes and value their free time more than how much they could earn if they worked their lives away. While this last leads to charges that they are lazy and/or entitled, and no doubt some are (just as some people in every generation could be called that), my guess is they will live longer, healthier, and happier lives than the generations before them did.

So, in all, I’m happy Tara, at least for the moment, is part of the Millennial generation, though, as with any individual, she shares some of the traits of her generation and not others. Please feel free to share your experiences with people of various generations below.

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the occult thrillers The Awakening and The Unbelievers, Books 1 and 2 in the Awakening series. A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you’d like to be notified of new releases and read reviews of M.O.S.T. (Mystery, Occult, Suspense, Thriller) books and movies, click here to join her email list and receive free a short horror story, Ninevah, published exclusively to M.O.S.T. subscribers.