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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Defining Us: Generation Y

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As college students, what happens to be the one thing we dread the most? No, not having our mothers see those incriminating Facebook photos we happen to be tagged in, though that is a bloodcurdlingly frightful scenario.

Many of us are plagued by the uncertainty of what lies ahead after our undergraduate bubble is popped and we are left to fend for ourselves in the real world.

A recent article in the New York Times titled “What is it About 20-Somethings?” attempts to address this issue by taking a rather critical and some might say one-sided look at what characterizes Generation Y.

The article states that our generation happens to be “growing up” much slower than our predecessors. Firstly, let us examine their criteria for being an adult.

Apparently to reach maturity means “completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child” all completed with aplomb by the time you are 25.

However, times have changed drastically and with it the goals and ideals of the population have also altered. The economy has been a defining factor in how our generation is perceived. Not knowing exactly what we want from life after university, then being jobless after university, still living with our parents, then moving from apartment to apartment and never quite settling down into some comfortable suburban niche are just some stereotypical traits that have stuck to us, the erratic Millennials.

Does this make us less mature? If you consider the situation in the terms set by the article’s definition of maturity then yes, but perhaps it is the definition that is flawed. It does not account for the twists and turns that society and the economy have taken as of late.

Apparently we are a generation that meanders through life on different paths rather than marching purposefully along with everybody else, and this indecisive yet individualistic approach is seen as inefficient.However, the somewhat deprecating view of our generation in the New York Times article fails to consider the social environment that our generation is living in.

We happen to have more options and more opportunities than our parents or our grandparents, so we are able to focus more on self-fulfillment rather than satisfying the standards of society.

For example, when my father berates me for considering career options other than those in the medical field, I realize that it is because he simply worries for my future, since in his time studying in preparation for high-paying careers was the only way to attain a comfortable living.

Careers relating to subjects that invoked interest in the student sometimes would not lead to a job that could eventually make the individual enough money to get married and feed any subsequent offspring.

A psychology professor interviewed for the New York Times article succinctly explains the major shift in the youth’s priorities that has led to a dwindling need for such customary stability: “Among the cultural changes he points to that have led to ’emerging adulthood’ are the need for more education to survive in an information-based economy; fewer entry-level jobs even after all that schooling.

Young people are feeling less rush to marry because of the general acceptance of premarital sex, cohabitation and birth control. Young women are feeling less rush to have babies given their wide range of career options and their access to assisted reproductive technology if they happen to delay pregnancy beyond their most fertile years.”

With the progression of the Information Age, women’s rights and a culture that celebrates individual independence comes…well, us. You step onto a university campus, such as Stony Brook itself, and you get a glimpse of the future, and the potential of the students cultivating their own interests to build this future is sometimes awe-inspiring.

Women who are taking on the male-dominated engineering field, men aspiring to be teachers, pre-med students who find time to hone their musical talents,  students who are willing to risk economic uncertainty to follow their passion in art or theater and other such individuals or groups that would have been anomalies merely twenty years ago are now defining our generation.

We are multi-facetted and multi-talented, and these traits open up so many more choices and opportunities for us, and allow us to slog through these times of fiscal hardship. Our generation may not be known for taking down the Berlin Wall, or staging Woodstock, but it will be known for cultivating a wellspring of talent, skill and determination through challenging times. We are going to grow up but we shall do so on our own terms.

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