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The Six Big Life Lessons I Learned From Millennials

Hey boomers, there's a lot they can teach us.

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Nadav Machete
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My kids, 30 and 33, live across the country from their dad and me. When we could not be together in person, they invited us and their friends to an online game. We played Quiplash, where you vote on each other’s answers to silly questions. I didn’t do terribly well at the game but learned a lot from these youngsters. They talked about the challenges of their careers, their favorite pastimes and hopes for the future.

A New Outlook

My children grew up in a safe suburban neighborhood because that is where my parents told me to raise kids. I was further instructed to start having them before age 30. I bought a house, got a reliable car and followed the script given by my predecessors.

By contrast, my son and daughter live in Seattle apartments and show no signs of procreating. Neither owns a car — they walk or take public transportation everywhere. This generation is writing its own script.

Who are the millennials? Born between 1980 and 1994, millennials came of age during the turn of the last century. Also known as Generation Y, they have seen sweeping changes in technology, gender liberation and public policy. They adjust easily to cultural shifts and may have something to teach their elders.

What Can We Learn? Here are six major attributes of Gen Y, and what we Boomers might learn from them: 

  • Millennials adapt to change.  

Because they have seen so much transformation in their short lifetimes, millennials tend to embrace it. Whether it is the latest technology or a new job, this age group jumps in with both feet. While I might dread learning a new phone, my kids act like it’s the best toy in the world. If a job does not lead to growth, they find one that does. Since the only certainty in life is change, it makes sense to examine our lives and keep moving forward so we don’t get left behind.

  • Millennials value experiences over material goods.

I saved memorabilia for my kids to go through on their last visit and couldn’t believe what they discarded! Don’t worry, I rescued some of it, but they tend to live in smaller spaces and do not want great-grandma’s china. At half my age, however, they have taken more trips outside the country than I ever will. Let’s create memories, not storage problems.

  • Gen Y pursues passion.

Millennials talk about “side hustles” which means using skills to create an extra money stream. Many of them, like my juggling, unicycle-riding son, spend time and energy on hobbies. Is there a skill you can share or something you’ve always wanted to learn? It’s a real morale boost to acquire new know-how and it keeps those brain neurons firing.

  • 30-Somethings believe in self-care.

Millennials spend time and money on fitness and other healthy pursuits but it doesn’t stop there. Mental health is important to them and, fortunately, seeking help for personal issues has lost its stigma. Everyone struggles now and then. Look at your insurance card; chances are a counselor is a phone call away. You’d want your kids to seek aid if they needed it. They want that for you, too.

  • Open-mindedness is a hallmark of this group.

Our children’s generation, when talking about nontraditional marriage, are fond of the expression “Love is love.” Gone are the days of thinking everyone should be attracted to a member of the opposite sex or someone of the same race. Remember, changing your stance is a sign of growth, not weakness. Let’s keep growing.

  • Social responsibility is something our children take seriously.

I was always taught to vote for leaders who would improve my own lot, but Gen Y circulated a meme during the last election that read “Think of the most vulnerable person you know and vote in their best interest.” Millennials are environmentally aware and give to causes dear to their hearts. Our daughter is a big believer in the arts so she serves on the boards of two theater groups. Is there a cause you’ve thought about supporting? We gain when we give.

Boomers and millennials are different in many ways but, from what I’ve seen, we can trust our children to make good choices. A fellow 60-something and I agreed we should not pester our unmarried children about settling down. Now our patience is paying off. Her son just announced his engagement and my daughter’s wedding is planned for next year! During my recent online visit, I found a group of responsible, caring young adults who gave me great hope for the future. Let’s keep learning from one another!

Bonus Tip: If you are offered avocado toast, say, “Yes, please!”

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