Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Millennials -- 9/11's children

Out of the ashes...

So today is the anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, fifteen years on. Can't quite believe that. 

Big Ag and I were watching a special last night about that horrible day (although we're both old enough to remember it well) but looking at the interviews taken on the street in New York and across the nation, I realized that enough time has gone by that things look different now. 

Footage from 9/11 now really does look like something from out of the past rather than yesterday or last week. Fashions, hairstyles, cars, etc. all are now far enough behind the times that they can be identified as something that would look out of place in the here and now. 

One thing in particular I noticed was that there were no lumberjack/hipster beards, no man-buns and no organic, flannel or flow-y modes of dress among the younger, 20-somethings. People looked upscale and ambitious, rather than homespun, folksy and like they'd just emerged from Whole Foods with some kale and a bottle of kombucha.

rose a new generation!

I thought about that and here is my theory: The attacks of 9/11 and the wars that followed were so awful, so hard to look at and process that it kick-started into high gear the local, homegrown movement, at least among those up and coming kids who came of age after they saw the world change forever and for the worse. 

It's not a bad thing. There's been a resurgence in folk music, growing your own food, canning, natural clothing, letting your hair grow out and thinking, acting and being local. The cool kids are more likely to want to play the banjo or fiddle than dress up in glitter and play electric guitar. The young people I know don't watch the horror show that the national news has become. They shop at the farmer's market, and they go out to see favorite bluegrass bands at the local micro-brewery and trade produce from their gardens with each other.

If they travel, they travel small too. You're more likely to hear a 20-something plan on renting a room in Split, Croatia or backpacking through Vietnam than going to Milan or Monte Carlo.

And they're not moving to New York City and Los Angeles for careers, either. They're moving to Bend, Oregon and Austin, Texas because they like the vibe. Or growing produce in the vacant lots and crumbling shadows of vacated former empires like Detroit . They're embracing small-town life with the same gusto the generation before them embraced the bright lights and big cities, even if they happen to still live in a city.

Thinking local.

People complain that Millennials value personal time much more than money, insist on good self-care and don't want to conform to a corporate work ethic -- and they are therefore labeled as unambitious and lazy by their elders. But I think I understand where they are coming from. When confronted with the horrors that the world is capable of producing, they turned back towards a simpler life -- farming, sleeping under the stars rather than among the skyscrapers, and running a start-up business rather than living in the city and dreaming of "making it big." They understand that happiness is made in the here and now, and that this is all any of us are guaranteed -- a present tense to live in and make the best it can be.

The Millennials are the first true, post-9/11 generation. They are the little children's faces that saw the disillusionment, despair and disappointment of that God-awful Tuesday morning and as they grew up, deliberately turned their adult ones towards a smaller, more tangible and more predictable future. In the face of terrorism, war, the collapse of the housing market and climate change, they are living for today and living consciously. That's not lazy. That's smart.

So God bless them for that, and may they make things work on their own terms -- perhaps better than my generation did. 


  1. This is so interesting. And I totally agree. I think we grew up among such an emphasis on money and financial success and then saw during/after 9/11 how everyone turned to elemental comforts that had little to do with esteem. I also think childhoods filled with nothing real built a desire for the authentic. I never knew people had cloth napkins that were reused until I was like twelve! And so began my revolt against Dixie and Bounty and my yearning for china and linen! Though I will admit I still use way too much bounty. It's nice to read something nice about millenials!

    1. I had so many friends say the same thing, thank you! I think the Millennials get the short end of the stick in way too many ways. They may be the generation that actually, finally, does find a decent work/life balance. More power to them, I say.

  2. My children have a good work/life balance. They put in their time but are not workaholics. In fact, my son, who is in Information Technology, was told he probably wouldn't get a promotion because he was only putting in about 45 hours per week!

    My son has no problem with this and neither do I. A 40 hour work week is plenty. He is not materialistic. He and his wife are outdoorsy and love spending their weekends enjoying nature. I am glad they have that balance.

    1. Molly, people like your son and his wife are why I love the next generation. They really have a good grasp of what's important, and are having life experiences in addition to careers. SO important. You raised him right!