Leeds School of Business
(Catherine Plevak/CU Independent)

Opinion: What it really means to be a millennial

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I was in the supermarket the other day when I had a rather strange encounter with a gentleman named Thomas. I was carefully placing a carton of cage-free organic eggs into my shopping cart when Thomas – rudely – stopped me to tell me, “A millennial like you has no concept of money. You can all use a blow to the head to knock some sense in there.”

I was so taken aback by this statement that I abandoned my shopping cart like the Titanic and rushed to my car. After a few minutes of contemplation, one thought resonated with me — why did the word “millennial” feel like a blow to my stomach, as if he intended it as an insult? Why was I so bothered by the use of this seemingly normal word?

I could have stood up for myself and for my generation, but instead I retreated back to a childlike state of fear. I do not blame dear Thomas for this — I blame the word “millennial” and every assumption attached to it. Something intangible struck me so deep to my core as if my enemy was standing in front of me with an AK-47 ready to take off my head.

There are always going to be people who believe the worst. There are always going to be the Thomases of the world, gallivanting about, insulting young people in supermarkets or wherever else they see fit. Is the problem that these types of people exist or that we, as millennials, haven’t done anything to change their minds? I’m not sure where the preconceived notions came from, but they exist, and it’s a real problem. It can be chalked up to ignorance, but that doesn’t make it okay for people like Thomas to constantly walk around with the filtered perspective that our generation is all the same.

We millennials are stereotyped as being tech-savvy, when in reality some of us are learning at the same pace as everyone else. We are talked down to based on the assumption that we party too much and live our lives too freely. We are all too young, too naïve, too uncultured, too entitled. These stereotypes wear down on our identities, and we lose pride in who we are as a generation. There has to be something that can be done, even if it’s only on a small scale.

So, my fellow millennials, do we stage a march on Washington? Or do we go for something a little more reminiscent of the French Revolution?

I think that there is no simple answer, and that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to see some change on the forefront of stereotypes. We’ve got to do great things in this world; if not for us, then out of spite for Thomas! We need to become local politicians, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and anything else sparked by passion. We need to show the Thomases of the world that there’s more to a millennial than being tech-savvy and taking selfies. 

After much consideration after my embarrassing encounter with Thomas, I promised to myself never to let someone intimidate me or insult me based on a label. Next time (if there even is a next time), I will stand up for what I believe in most — myself. Hopefully this somewhat heroic tale will inspire fellow millennials to speak their minds and convince the Thomases of this world to be less judgmental and more understanding that just because someone falls in a certain category doesn’t mean they conform to the assumptions surrounding it.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jillian Edelstein at jillian.edelstein@colorado.edu.

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The CU Independent, or CUI for short, is the student news outlet for the University of Colorado at Boulder. We cover news, sports, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment and more. Our mission is to provide news and commentary that's for students and by students — about the things we care about.

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