The Peter Pan paradox

Lost boys and girls of the millennial generation

millennial-vs-gen-x-online-colourMillennials, born from the early ’80s to the late ’90s, are unique in how singularly distinguished they are from the generations that came before them.

Known by many as the “the Peter Pan generation,” millennials are known for putting off many of the milestones of adulthood. They stay in school longer, they live with their parents well into their 20s, they play video games and obsess over pop culture.

I, a millennial myself, can’t deny that all of these things are true of me. That said, obviously, many of the traits associated with my generation are not going to be held by all, or even most, millennials.

Some argue that these characteristics are a consequence of our economy — that the steady rise in housing costs and entry-level job requirements has prevented my generation from making their own way in the world.

Others, like Tsukasa Arakaki, believe that we are a generation that has been smothered by overbearing
helicopter parents.

Arakaki, a member of Generation X, who now works for the municipal government, recalls a phone call from a millennial employee’s mother, who he was supervising at a previous job.

She had called to make sure that their place of work wasn’t going to be “too much” for her son to handle.

“I’m sorry, but if you don’t think your son is capable of working, then he should be at home,” says Arakaki.

This smothering, he says, has made many millennials precious and entitled.

Both of these are common observations about my generation, and I have heard these hypotheses echoed by several people.

It’s not uncommon to see a new hire on a worksite who expects to be promoted directly to a managerial role just because he or she graduated with a degree in engineering.

What some see as narcissism though, others interpret as confidence.

Taylor Tsuji-Vowel, a master’s student at the University of Calgary, who is currently working two jobs, says that calling us the Peter Pan generation is misguided.

“Millennials, I find, are big dreamers. We just aren’t looking for that nine-to-five job that pays the bills anymore. We want to feel good about where we work.”

Tsuji-Vowel, who also happens to be a medic in the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, says that the Internet opened up the world, and made exploration fast, cheap and easy.

Suddenly, it mattered what you liked and didn’t like. If you wanted to learn something new while living in Calgary 50 years ago, you had to keep your fingers crossed that there was a book in the library about it, or a course on it at SAIT.

How could somebody possibly know if they wanted to be an archaeologist without ever being exposed to archaeology?

As millennials, though, we are defined as having grown up as the Internet was starting to take our world by storm. We could be exposed to whatever we wanted, in whatever dosage we liked. Many of us could search for archaeology information online long before we knew how to find it using the Dewey decimal system.

Is it weird then, that we obsess about TV shows and video games in a world where Netflix is $9.99 per month, and you can keep a whole arcade in your pocket?

Meanwhile, those who came before us look at the Internet like it’s a tool to be observed, and used only when appropriate. And, every generation before us remembers the Cold War, when the existential threat of nuclear annihilation was just a part of day-to-day life.

The USSR collapsed before I was even a year old. All I’ve ever had to worry about is me, and what I have to do with myself.

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