If their detractors are to be believed, they’re to blame for almost everything, but Seattle millennials say the world’s woes are not their fault.
Give it a rest, boomers and Xers.
Millennials have heard plenty by now about how they’re just the worst generation ever.
If their detractors are to be believed, they’re entitled, narcissistic, selfie-taking, self-absorbed, “everyone gets a trophy” brats, and they’re to blame for the demise of everything from cereal, paper napkins and bar soap to chain restaurants, the diamond industry and even democracy.
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“It’s completely unfair,” said Ashley Krzeszowski, 24, of West Seattle. “We’ve been handed a broken system and we’re just doing the best we can.”
Krzeszowski just graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in cellular, molecular and developmental biology and applied mathematics. She has a job at the same lab she’s been working at for the last few years and yet she is still living with her parents.
No need to judge, she said; it makes “prudent financial sense” for her to do so at this time and with the cost of housing in Seattle as high as it is.
“As a group, we work hard and try hard,” she said. “But when my parents bought their house, it was two times their annual income and now houses are 10 times most people’s annual salaries.”
“Give us a break,” she said. “All we’re really asking for is enough pay for our phones, treat ourselves to a cup of coffee every once in a while and buy a dress off the sale rack. Is that really too much?”
Cheryl Kaiser, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, admires the Millennial Generation and finds her recent crops of students a “joy to teach.”
They’re creative, unrestrained by convention and willing to take risks, she said. In addition they’ve grown up in tough times and have had to be a little more scrappy than their parents. They ought not take the criticism to heart.
“Each generation tends to see the new generation as not as good as their own,” she said. “You see it all the time.”
The generation we belong to is part of who we are; we share norms, values and ideologies with our age mates, she explained.
“If our generation does something in a specific way or holds specific values, we come to think of those as the right way, the good way and if one generation sees another doing something different, it can feel threatening, as if there’s something wrong with their way.”
“It’s easier to blame the other group and say they’re doing it wrong than it is to question how we’re doing it,” Kaiser said.
Tim Miller, a 52-year-old musician who plays music at Westlake Park with his friend, Paul Vegors, 24, said he knows that tendency well.
“It’s silly, but it’s human nature really,” Miller said. “When you are threatened or in pain, you’re going to look around for someone to blame because someone else has to be responsible.”
In a piece written for The Center for Generational Kinetics, Curt Steinhorst writes that people in his generation do not like the phrase “millennial” as it brings with it connotations of laziness and entitlement. In downtown Seattle, a dozen or so young adults who were asked about their generation seemed to confirm that.
Many flinched when asked if they were millennials and then explained why they felt they were really a bit on the young side to be held accountable for such a litany of woes: the death of golf, vacations, the 9-5 workweek and the lowly cork.
“We’re just growing up, and it’s not all our fault,” said Sandra Quiroz, 19, who works near Westlake Center.
“Don’t they know that a lot of things that are going on are not really under our control?” said Pinkeo Phongsa, a 15-year-old visitor from California who believes she is in the much-maligned generation.
“I really think that everyone is just kind of looking for a scapegoat for a lot of things,” said Angela Olson, 24. “There are things about the way society is going that seem wrong, but it’s not all millennials’ fault. We can’t really take the blame as we were made this way.”
“They don’t want to blame themselves, so they blame us,” said 25-year-old William Co, who works at a tech firm near downtown Seattle.
“Every generation blames the next one,” said Rian Ellis, 27. “Given enough time we’ll be complaining about the next generation as well.”
But maybe not. Perhaps age really does bring with it a little chance for wisdom, or at least a little charity.
“You can’t really blame them,” said 69-year-old Tim Micek. “They’ve got it much tougher than we did. They get nothing but my sympathy.”