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Millennials and what it means to be one

By Melissa Crowe
March 7, 2012 at 4 p.m.
Updated March 7, 2012 at 9:08 p.m.


What are they known for?

The Greatest Generation, born before 1925: saving the world during World War II The Silent Generation, born 1925 to 1945: traditional values and civic instinct, Great Depression Boomers, born 1946 up to 1964: work hard and play hard Generation X, born 1965 to 1980: the MTV Generation, technologySource: Pew Research Institute

Each generation seems to have a personality of its own.

Millennials, the newest generation entering adulthood, are forging theirs.

A 2010 Pew Research Center study defines millennials as confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.

The Crossroads' millennials hold true to those traits. With an introverted eye, they recognize their generation as one that at times may be lazy, but still cares for family, education and social awareness, and applies lessons learned from their parents and grandparents.

While their entry into the workforce may have been slowed by the recession, many maintain positive outlooks.

Taylor Esco, 27, of Victoria, said his generation is "perfectly capable" of moving into the positions of their predecessors.

"There are no limitations," Esco said. "Every generation is critical of the next. . It's just going to get better."

Although Esco is among a small percentage of millennials who served time in the military - the Air Force - he is in the majority for his generation's priorities.

He wants his new marriage to be successful. He wants financial freedom, a strong career, a good quality of life and, eventually, a family.

"Because of what we've learned from past generations, there's more focus on enjoying life," Esco said. "If you ask most people, a good time to have kids and get married is 30, you're just better prepared."

According to the study, four-in-10 were raised in divorced households - a larger share than was the case with older generations.

While millennials, like older adults, place parenthood and marriage above career and financial success, few are rushing to the altar. Just one-in-five millennials - 21 percent - are married now, about half as many as their parents' generation at the same stage of life, according to the study.

Ashley Godfrey, 25, of Victoria, is holding off on wedding bells.

"Marriage is not my immediate thing," she said. "I won't change the goals I have in my life."

The full-time licensed nurse recently enrolled at Victoria College to finish her bachelor's degree and would like to earn a master's before taking over her parents' business.

"With my grandparents, school wasn't a major issue. It was get married," she said. "You went from the house of your parents to the house of your husband."

After seeing her mother struggle as a single parent, work her way through school and eventually gain success, Godfrey said she does not want to start in the same situation.

"I saw what she did, and I learned from it," Godfrey said.

According to the Pew study, millennials are on course to become the most educated generation in American history.

While the demands of a knowledge-based economy drive the trend, enrollment has grown in part as adults turn to academia because they cannot find a job.

Godfrey hopes finishing her education will give her more stability in the future.

"My grandmother's ideas of my generation are just how things have changed," Godfrey said.

"She thinks we're wild and crazy, that our skinny jeans are provocative," Godfrey said. "She tells me she just doesn't understand."

Godfrey said the changes are essential.

"I can't have a job without knowing how to use a computer," she said.

According to the study, almost a quarter of surveyed millennials say technology sets them apart from other generations. But more than the gadgets alone, it is the way they have fused their social lives into them.

Joshua Garrett, a 23-year-old University of Houston-Victoria senior, said his focus is to use his creativity and experience the world.

"Career is not a main focus. ... I'm not extremely concerned with buying a house and getting married," he said. "I want to produce art and produce entertainment."

With the resources and connections brought with technology and electronic media, millennials have "the luxury" to create, he said.

"I think we're probably the luckiest generation," he said. "We have way more opportunities" than generations past.

He recently worked on a film project with a California-based director completely through the Internet.

"With the way the Internet is, you can be anywhere and do just about anything," Garrett said. "We have so many resources to pull from."

However, he fears a large portion of local millennials ignore the opportunity.

"Locally, they're lazy," he said. "They say, 'There's nothing to do,' yet very few are actively trying to make anything happen."

Instead, he sees his generation spending their lives browsing Facebook.

Andre Chapa, 28, of Victoria, said millennials are "mobile phone-centric."

"It's good because it's easy to keep in contact. Everybody is very tangible," he said. At the same time, he said, cell phones and technology created a generational disconnect.

"My 5-year-old nephew will probably never have to write," he said.

His parents' generation, the boomers, are opposites, he said.

"My dad . defines a man by how dirty he is when he comes home," he said.

For Chapa, who works for an eye- and sunglass company, and for many millennials, that definition does not fit.

"We're at that cusp where a lot of kids know how to work, but they're finding different things that are available," he said. While the Golden Gate Bridge was built with brute strength, "it's computers that allow that bridge to keep standing."

"It's going to be interesting to see what happens in Victoria the next 10 years," Chapa said. "We're going to be taking over very, very soon."

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