As the latest generation of youthful Americans, millennials are people who have reached young adulthood in the early 21st century. Depending on what you read, a typical millennial could be born anywhere between 1982 and 2001.
Being born in 1999, I fall under the umbrella of millennials, lumped in with all the youthful spirits accused of breaking the housing market, eating too much toast slathered in avocado, killing chain restaurants and boycotting napkins, among a million other ridiculous things.
I might categorically fall in with the millennials, but personally I don’t feel like I fit in well with my fellow young haters of cereal and yogurt (um, excuse me, have y’all ever heard of a parfait?).
I was born in the ’90s, but I didn’t grow up in the ’90s. 9/11 isn’t a defining moment in my childhood, but the election of Barack Obama to the presidency is. I don’t remember what life was like before cell phones, but I do remember how life in the United States changed after the Great Recession.
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I’m not really a millennial, but I don’t feel like I fall into the categorical generation that eats Tide Pods just for giggles either.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Our need to categorically catalog people born within 30-year periods of time is inherently arbitrary. It leaves ill-defined gray areas with people that are neither this nor that existing in limbo.
I’m not saying that I’m having some sort of identity crisis about it, because I’m not. I’m perfectly capable of making decisions about my day-to-day life without doubting whether or not I’m too hip to use coupons.
But as I said, trying to define all the people born between two dates by a group of specific characteristics is arbitrary. Not only because the dates meant to define the exact barriers of each generation are poorly built and inconsistent, but because these superimposed characteristics we so ardently use to explain why things are the way they are is also dangerously ethnocentric.
The way we describe the way things are for this generation only describes the way things are for American millennials. It ignores the millennials in the Middle East who, in 2011, started the Arab Spring revolts. It ignores the plight of Malala Yousafzai, who has been speaking out in Pakistan for equal access to education.
It ignores the nameless and oftentimes faceless 20-somethings all over the world fighting for change that get crowded in with the so-called moochers who still live with their parents in the U.S.
It’s like we so steadfastly hold onto the idea that everything must be divided when it doesn’t have to be. We treat time as we do land, drawing lines and building walls to increasingly, more decisively separate ourselves from the evil otherness.
For what, though? People don’t have to be divided by time, characteristics, culture or geographic location. When it comes down to it, people are just people — even millennials.
Kaylie McLaughlin is the assistant news editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.