This past week I quietly celebrated my 30th birthday. No super b-day bash, no party at Chuck E. Cheese, and no jubilee. Having a birthday in June, I am either blessed or cursed to reflect on my day-to-day operations at least twice a year – the other of course, being the first of the year.Born in 1982, I fall into the generational grey area. According to experts (Wikipedia), I could be apart of the Generation X or Y, and have several nicknames from Millennial, GenNext, to EchoBoomer. Bottom line is that I am a child of baby boomers, who were children of the silent generation. What does that mean for me? Well, most experts have no clue what this means for me, or for America… Awesome!
The one thing I have going for me that older generations seem to struggle with is that I am adaptable and flexible to new technology. With that, I have found myself online reading over several articles written that are trying to get a handle on what 30-year-old people like myself are going to do with their lives. Human resource experts can’t seem to figure out why we don’t want to stay in one job for 30 years. Auto experts have their panties in a twist because we no longer want to drive anymore. Real estate experts are worried we no longer care to own homes… and the list of what EXPERTS are trying to analyze goes on. I use the term experts for an obvious but ironic laugh.
…Great article from GOOD, but they’re not really tie-wearing experts – [link]
I’ll let the older generations in on a little secret of ours… we aren’t like you anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the same pressures to go to college, get a job, find a wife, buy a house in the suburbs, and have kids still exist. Most, including myself have taken the standard path that many other Americans have historically taken. Whether we are aware of it or not, the American Dream is being realized at a young age. This isn’t to say everyone is reaching these goals as fast, or if at all. In some cases those who have put things on hyper-drive to get to the end goal hear the Talking Heads song, “Once In A Lifetime” playing in our minds.
The majority of those in my generation grew up in fairly safe and average towns. The fight to make it out of the mills or factories had passed with our grandparents. It’s not that hard work isn’t out of our genes, but the chicken broth soup three meals a day and inhaling coal fume days have long been gone. Sure, the argument can be made for all of those who haven’t had fortunate upbringings and for the struggles that are seen all across the U.S. as we speak.
Which leads me to my next paragraph entitled, “Now What?” For me personally, I have seen that a college education opens doors, but doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the job or even get paid a worthy rate if you do. Say you do get that job for XYZ Corp, chances are they don’t set you up with a plethora of vacation days, have benefits that may cover a stubbed toe, don’t match a 401k, don’t have tuition reimbursement, and don’t have a pension plan. We’ve seen changes from the good ol days (really? that’s why you had to create unions right?), that no longer are the same benefits from working long and hard paying off. Before you know it the rug may be pulled out from underneath you and you’re 54 and without a job. Scary stuff, and everyone recognizes it.
As for owning a car, the average cost of ownership has gone up so much that it is no longer worth it for many. So some, the lucky ones, have decided to go without. The rest of us schlep around from point A to B to C just to conduct our everyday business (thanks single-use zoning). Cars have been at the heart of ruining beautiful functional cities and what is left to drive to is really nothing great at all. So now more young adults choose to live in cities that are walkable and bikeable and that they don’t need to hop in a car to live.
The concept of Placemaking is that by creating a place that PEOPLE can feel comfortable and invigorated in, they will choose to spend more time in, and in certain circumstances live in. Our view of home ownership must change. Not everyone needs to own a home. Sometimes apartments are perfect for people. Sometimes Brownstones are the right fit. Maybe a 1,000 square foot home is better than a 3,500 square foot home? It doesn’t have to be one’s dream to own it though. Owning in my terms means free and clear. Obtaining a 30 year mortgage doesn’t mean you own it either. Instead of trying to get people into houses, we need to get people into cities that fit them. Build an attract environment and many good things will follow. For my generation, that means sprawl won’t do any longer.
I guess this is a pretty long-winded rant – that’s my birthday gift to you. In closing, my generation has virtually the same basic wants and needs as every other. Like everyone else, the most important thing in my life when I was 15, is not the most important thing in my life now. It’s wise of us to reflect on our own personal history and try to interpret it as much as we can so that we can progress into the future. That being said, it only makes sense that our Cities, States, and Country do the same.