The millennial generation is known for more than its iPhone models and heavy use of social media websites. We are also famous for delaying our adulthood. For the first time in human history, 20-year-olds are eschewing socially dictated commitments by opting for education, self discovery through travel and living with their parents rather than marriage, child-rearing and financially stable jobs. This surprising trend begs the question of why millennials are deferring their adult duties in the first place and whether we should continue following this trajectory. I believe that postponing our adult responsibilities stems from scientific and social advancements and should continue to be encouraged.
Critics of our generation attribute our delayed adulthood to innate laziness and a sense of entitlement. This caricature of millennials is false because it fails to take into account the jump in the United States’ standard of living over the past century, the recently prevailing acceptance of women in higher education and the workplace as well as our dramatically increased lifespan. The last factor especially contributes to our late induction to society. Our decision to delay marriage and other rites of adulthood is for the same reason that we opt for later retirement: We are simply taking into account all of the implications of a longer lifespan.
Now that the question of cause has been at least partially answered, we can safely turn to a cost-benefit analysis of delayed adulthood. Delaying marriage is wise because our college years are a tumultuous time of overturning old prejudices and constantly revising our identity. It would be beneficial for the millennials to wait until the dust settles and we become more financially and personally stable before saying our vows. It is also well documented that the millennial generation is having a difficult time landing jobs. Our generation is trapped in a Catch-22 scenario: Employers often refuse to hire employees without previous experience, but many millennials are first-timers in the job market. In response, we take low-paying jobs and live with our parents to reduce the rent. We must conclude that society has failed us on this front. The upshot is that by investing ourselves in an education and financial stability before rushing into marriage, we will start improving the lives of ourselves, children and society.
We must finally ask whether postponing adulthood make millennials a generation of failures. By marrying and having children later, we are statistically more likely to create a higher standard of living for ourselves and our children. Only by cultivating a generation of conscientious leaders can America repave our cracked highways, continue repairing our flawed health care system and transform energy independence from a fantasy to a reality. Our advancements in technology also offer the vision of reduced world poverty and the ability to support a substantially increased world population in the future. The millennial generation has been granted much potential to improve the environment and people around us, and we have so far responded to that call with astonishing success. One way to capitalize on that potential is for us to make the most of our experiences at Wellesley and beyond.