The Millennials aren't people with an apocalyptic bent who think the world is going to end when a year ends with three zeroes (that's these kooks): they're basically equivalent to Generation Y, the generation after my generation, i.e., Generation X. (See more here and here.)
On Twitter, I saw that blogger Lee had taken a Pew Research Center "How Millennial Are You?" survey/quiz, so I decided to take it, too. Lee scored only 12% Millennial. My score, based on fourteen survey questions:
You can try the quiz here.
What are some characteristics of the Millennials, and why do I seem to fit in so well with them? To answer the second question first: my theory is that I'm basically a 300-pound man-child: by Korean standards, I'm a child because I'm not married yet (yet being the operative word), despite being 43 years old, and despite having seen and done much in my life. By American standards, I'm a man-child because, at age 43, I haven't held a "steady" job for at least five years in a row. Sookmyung University probably counts as my steadiest work (three consecutive years). Also by American standards, I'm a huge man-child because one of my dreams is the eventual acquisition of two large-screen HDTVs with an Xbox 360 video gaming system so that I can play full-screen multiplayer video games with my friends (one friend at a time, of course). I think my immaturity is part of what helps me be a popular teacher where I work: I normally don't have a hard time relating to most kids. Some kids piss me off, but I tend to think that's inevitable. Diversity implicitly includes the probability of conflict. Ask any thespian ensemble what happens when you get a roomful of divas together.
To answer the first question second: what are the characteristics of Millennials? According to that unimpeachable source, Wikipedia, they are:
•civic-mindedness (i.e., strong sense of local/global community, opposite of nationalism)
•sense of entitlement
•rejection of social conventions
•personalities heavily influenced by technology
•lessened sense of keeping up with political affairs
•lessened need for a philosophy of life
•tendency toward irreligion
Wikipedia also notes that the above traits of Gen Y may apply more to white members of the generation than to non-whites.
And now it's time for some introspection. An item-by-item consideration of the above traits, then:
Narcissism: I blog, which is a big hint that I'm narcissistic. Guilty.
Civic-mindedness: while I do feel a certain loose, vague unity with the affairs of my town, county, commonwealth, nation, and world, I don't know how strongly I feel it except at certain times of the year, such as July 4th. Sometimes my affinities and loyalties take me by surprise, such as when I'm watching a Korean program, or a documentary about US soldiers, or a show in which Anthony Bourdain is rattling on about France. At such times, I often feel a sudden pang of love for the places and people I've encountered and have come to adore.
Self-confidence: Not sure on this one (as this very sentence demonstrates). I've always had issues with self-confidence. About the only area in my life in which I feel I can afford to brag is my competence in French. Aside from that, there's not much else to brag about.
Tolerance: I'm generally an easygoing, tolerant guy. Like a good libertarian, I think people have the right to do whatever they damn well please, without undue meddling from the government, as long as what they do doesn't infringe on others' rights to do as they please.
Sense of entitlement: As with self-confidence, I never feel entitled to anything. On the plus side, this makes me a very thankful individual. I'm often thankful for very little... despite all the bitching and moaning that makes it onto this blog.
Rejection of social conventions: I wouldn't call myself an out-and-out nonconformist; in fact, I often sneer at the "I gotta be different!" crowd, who so often seem sadly self-obsessed and enslaved to others' opinions (i.e., whatever the masses call the norm, nonconformists have to do differently, which means they only react and never act). I don't go for wacky hairstyles, stupid piercings, garish tattoos, weird clothing, or any of the other superficial trappings of the "Look at me!" crowd. At the same time, I don't subscribe to Korean notions about early marriage, or stereotypically American notions about what constitutes "success" in life, so perhaps I'm a little bit nonconformist. That said, I wouldn't mind being out of debt and living comfortably. That'd be a load off my shoulders.
Technological influence: Email wasn't popular until long after I had graduated from college in 1991. All the same, I am a child of email, and can't live without it. This dates me, to be sure: younger folk tend to eschew email in favor of texting, which is more in-your-face and more in tune with our ever-accelerating culture. I did, however, make the acquaintance of video games way back in the prehistorical mists of the 1980s. I had an Atari set, poo-poohed the joystickless (and thus dickless) Mattel Intellivision, craved an Atari 5200 (which I never got), then latched on to computer games like Doom and Quake. My next encounter with next-gen video games was when my brothers got the first-edition Xbox and started playing Halo. Like a druggie, I was hooked. So, yes: I'd say that I'm a child of modern technology, unafraid to use computers and computer-driven hardware (like self-checkout counters at groceries), and blithely GPS-ing my way hither and thither through life.
Diminished political sense: I disagree here. My political awareness skyrocketed in 2003, when we invaded Iraq and I found myself the only anti-war member of my close group of friends. Ever since that time, I've made myself aware of what words like "liberal" and "conservative" mean, and have gotten much better at sniffing out the sometimes-hidden ideologies of various journalists and other writers and thinkers. I'm much more politically aware now.
Wealth-consciousness: I'd say I'm conscious of other people's wealth, yes, but not in a competitive sense. Although I chafe under the burden of my many debts, I don't often think about what it would be like to have the wealth, status, and prestige of America's upper crust. In fact, when I do fantasize about being obscenely wealthy, I find the fantasy often curdles as I imagine the many, many responsibilities that come with owning so much shit. My thoughts are more likely to turn toward the simplicity of temple life than they are to turn toward life as one "to the manor born."
Lessened need for a philosophy of life: I'm philosophical by nature, so this isn't me. While I can't say that I have a single, fixed philosophy of life-- it changes rather regularly-- I can say that I do need to operate according to some sort of moral and metaphysical compass. I refuse to see life as absurd or meaningless, which I suppose will always make me partial to religious points of view. We stand on this tiny planet surrounded by a cosmic beauty of which we are only dimly, dimly aware. To stop and bask in that magnificence for a moment is an amazing feeling: the universe is congenial to my existence. Carl Sagan, staunch atheist that he was, was nonetheless gifted with a numinous feel for the amazing vastness of the cosmos. The whirl and collision of life and matter is impossibly complex, impossible to track. Surely, then, we need to have some small raft, some philosophy, to help us navigate this immense ocean? So, no: I suppose I part company with the Millennials when it comes to needing a philosophy of life.
Tendency toward irreligion: Well... see above.
Of the eleven characteristics I listed above, I'd say that I match up with Millennials on about four or five of them. That puts me at less than 50% Millennial, in opposition to what the Pew Research survey is claiming about me. All the same, this was a fun exercise in self-awareness and self-honesty. Take the survey, if you want, and feel free to share your results-- and insights-- in the comments.