Please, Stop Calling Me a Millenial
Because, seriously, I'm not one.
I was doing a very millennial thing the other day - scrolling through my Newsfeed, on my smartphone, in a local (non-corporate) coffee shop, and I stumbled across 2 articles that caught my attention. One was about the line-up at the World's Largest Music Festival, also known as Summerfest, which graces Milwaukee's lakefront every year, and the other was an article on Wimp.com titled, "26 'Back In The Day' Statements That Millennials Will Never Know".
I clicked on the latter, and it immediately brought back memories of Summerfest because the first statement said, "We had to agree when and where to meet, and if someone didn't show up, you couldn't call or text them - you just had to assume they died." I just about died laughing. I couldn't tell you how many times I stood under the Miller Lite Oasis sign, scouring the crowd for my friends, with about 5,000 other people also looking for their friends because no one had cell phones "back in the day".
I began to laugh even harder as I read number 3 which stated, "Back in my day, the HOUSE had its own phone number," because, my house did have its own phone number, equipped with its own phone which I had to use it to call my friends and tell them to meet me at 7PM at the Miller Lite Oasis - and that I'd assume they were dead if they didn't show up on time.
And then I read number 7, which candidly talked about having to print out directions on MapQuest to get somewhere. I know that the first time I drove to Summerfest from my parents' house as a teenager, I definitely had a printed set of directions to get me there. And prior to Mapquest, I had to use an actual map.
And the list goes on about things that describe my childhood to a T.
I was born in November of 1985. A gallon of gas was $1.09, a postage stamp was $.22 and the Bears were on their way to their only Super Bowl title to date (thank God I'm a Packers fan)! Life was relatively simple growing up in the Milwaukee suburbs, and I'd say that my friends, and even my younger brother (born in 1988) had a pretty similar childhood.
There's a lot of talk about this microcosm generation - The Oregon Trail Generation, or "Xennials" that consists of kids born from the late 70's to early 80's, but it probably extends into the late 80's and probably has a lot more to do with where you grew up, not just when. For example, trends always start on the coasts and work their way inward, so while kids in California had oxen drowning in 1979, they may not have been dying of dysentery until 1987 in Michigan, because "back in the day" things moved a lot slower.
So, I'd like to make a request. To sociologists, employers, and anyone else who tries to slap a label on me and my peers... Instead of categorizing us by the year of our birth, categorize us by our experiences. I would garner that a child who grew up before 1990 had a childhood much similar to that of a Gen X'er or even a Baby Boomer than a child born after 1990. Myself, and many of my peers grew up without social media, without cell phones, and without the internet - we were well into our adolescence or teenage years by the time any of these things became mainstream.
We had to rewind movies from Blockbuster, Pluto was still a planet, we had to write in cursive, we had to blow into our game cartridges to get them to work. My parents had an encyclopedia set - there was no Google to go look up answers. I got banned from Napster by Metallica, but prior to that, it took me hours to download a song, and before I could download music, I would tape songs off the radio with my boombox.
I had my best friend's phone number memorized - I had a lot of phone numbers memorized. When I finally got a cell phone, I was 16. It didn't have texting capabilities, and I was a legal adult by the time I sent my first text message. There was no fancy "talk text". At best, you could learn T9. There was no Siri or "Okay, Google" - my cell phone made calls and I could play Snake. That was about it. There was no such thing texting and driving.
And yet time, and time again, I'm being lumped into a category of people whose childhood I have very little in common with. I grew up in a different world than that of what is probably a true millennial. And please stop confusing Millennials with Generation Z. We're not teenagers who are eating Tide pods, we're adults with real jobs, student loans, and 401Ks.
So to the Gen X'er and Baby Boomer that assumes I came into this world with iPad in hand and a fistful of entitlements, please understand that my childhood and my values are probably a lot more in line with yours than you realize.
Oh, and if you're heading to Summefest this year, there's no need to stand by the Miller Lite Oasis to wait for me. Just call me when you get there - or better yet, send me a text - just not while you're driving.
This is an updated version of this article. The original can be found on my LinkedIn profile.