It seems like not a week goes by without either hearing or reading about how the Millennial Generation is ruining the world or the cause of society’s problems. Millennials are stereotyped as entitled, not willing to work, disrupting economies, living in their parents’ basement — the list of negative characteristics goes on and on. As a millennial myself, I beg to differ. Stereotypes are broad and general, and often miss the mark. Sweeping characterizations can offer some important facts about a group of people but more often than not are gross generalizations. Like a song that my parents used to play when I was growing up: I’m talkin‘ ‘bout my generation.
Like many of my peers, we witnessed how our parents were subjected to corporate layoffs or company buyouts, causing major shifts and disruptions in our home life. During the Great Recession we saw the looks on our parents’ faces when they looked at their gutted 401K accounts. With our parents’ financial security and stability deeply threatened, houses under water, and no job prospects, we looked for alternative ways to enter the workforce. To try and make it, even saddled with burdensome student loan debts, thanks to the extreme rising costs of college. The millennials I know in the Flathead Valley are not averse to work, whatsoever. In fact, most of them are entrepreneurs. They know the certainties that their grandparents had in their careers are no longer viable options. So, they started graphic design companies, breweries, bakeries, clothing companies, photography businesses, just to name a few. These small businesses are located in downtowns, contributing significantly to the local economy and job creation. I have a former employee who has gone on to start his own farms — now that’s a risk and a challenge. Many of my employees are gainfully employed as teachers but need a second job to make ends meet.
Like myself, my peers are civic minded and rooted in community. We want to contribute in meaningful ways, like serving on nonprofit boards, and consider volunteerism a key part of life. We know the value of shopping locally, and look for creative ways to support ourselves. We’re faced with unprecedented challenges with the economy and a changing workforce. We’ve grown up with global terrorism and are grappling with climate change and how to live sustainably. We take part in conversations about our cities: from joining business improvement boards to organizing fundraisers to supporting local parks and trails. Many of us who are at the older end of the millennial scale, like myself, are young parents. We do not have many safety nets, like paid family leave, to help us navigate the challenges of raising families while working full-time. Yet, from my experience, despite these obstacles we are hopeful and optimistic.
I’m talkin’ ‘bout my generation and I am proud.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.