Coffee Shops. Vinyl. Tailored Clothing. Tiny houses and apartments. Thrift stores. Nonlinear paths. These days, millennials are redefining what it means to live and live well. We are taking our dreams and deepest desires into account when planning for our lives and our futures.
Instead of settling down and having families, we are focusing on ourselves and marrying later, if we even marry at all. We are pursuing other paths than graduating high school, graduating college, finding a career, settling down with a mortgage and a car payment, and raising a family. More of us are traveling, taking gap years after high school and college, pursuing career as well as passion, and living for experience rather than material comforts.
Critics of millennials and subsequent generations call us many things. They say we’re lazy, entitled, self-consumed and perpetually consuming. This comes into contrast with previous generations who spent time in social conventions, savings accounts, and nine to five jobs. They say we have no idea what it means to be an adult because we are refusing to truly grow up and face the realities of the world, and that we are just obsessed with the newest and latest products and trends that encourage and propel consumerism.
However, what they don’t see is that millennials aren’t any of those things. In fact, there’s a large portion of the millennial population that rejects the concepts of consumerism and that longs for the nostalgia and aesthetic of all things “old.”
“When you buy a piece of vintage clothing you’re not just buying the fabric and thread – you’re buying a piece of someone’s past.” ― Isabel Wolff
In today’s economy, there’s a portion of young people, mostly college age and early twenties, that are choosing to forgo the mall and its retailers, who are pushing new clothing lines all 52 weeks of the year, and are opting for the consignment shops and community stores where they can get a durable sweater or pair of jeans for a fourth of the cost. This not only makes millennials more skeptical consumers, but also more money savvy consumers. And, this thrifty mindset is translating into all areas of life.
According to an article by the New York Times, millennials are choosing to stay at home with their parents, saving their paychecks, and incorporating public transit into their lives as opposed to moving out right after their various avenues of education and buying their own methods of transportation.
Plus, the millennial generation tends to value more aesthetic reasons, rather than social reasons, that come with the purchase of the latest and greatest. They would rather spend the big bucks on fewer quality items that make them feel comfortable and expressive instead of just buying a few of the same cheap shirts and pairs of jeans, mortgaging a house with too many rooms, and leasing the latest car on the lot.
In their quest for quality, the millennial generation is also tending to spend more money on experiences than things. They’re valuing more traveling, less working, and living within their means to still make their dreams come true. They’re shopping at Whole Foods and other health food markets for the freshest, sipping on the finer cups of coffee from their local coffee shops, taking trips by train instead of driving to save money and the environment, living in smaller homes with less possessions so that they have more money to spend on the aforementioned experiences, and buying vinyl instead of digital downloads all in the name of obtaining a level of human experience that’s not given by just purchasing the latest and greatest.
“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ― Marcel Proust
And, while these millennials who are trying to recapture the simplicity and aesthetic of the generations before are visiting those thrift shops and hipster cafes in pursuit of vinyl and real espresso, they are also learning from the generation before them.
We’re learning not to just accept the steady, stable job just because it’s easy and gives us good benefits. We’re learning to value time with family, because we see just how finite it is. We’re learning to value making ourselves happy while also making others happy. We’re learning that effort and quality, trump laziness and quantity every time. And, we’re learning that getting things done quickly and efficiently leads us to success and time to pursue our hobbies, which should make us just as happy as our careers.
Lastly, millennials value truth and transparency. More are becoming open and honest, not only with those around them, but also with themselves.
Now, I’m not saying that millennials are all good and no bad. I’m just speaking for myself and some of the many millennials I’ve met who genuinely want to make the world a better place through valuing experience rather than material; to spend time rather than money. It’s with this mindset: to live more with less (thank you to the Minimalists for this- if you don’t know who they are, you should definitely check them out) and to enjoy the little things, the little moments that make life truly worth living.
So take it from a millennial: yes, some of us are lazy, entitled, and all-consuming; but not all of us are. We have old school values, interests, and aesthetics that have lasted over the years and continue to be popular today. Just as time goes on, so do the record players, the milk steamers, and the exchange of green currency. It’s not that we’re not spending money, but we’re spending it differently; and that’s okay. Just because we value different things than the generations before us, doesn’t mean we don’t have values.