Opinion: In defense of millennials

Matt Chandler, Contributor

The most difficult part of returning to college in my 40s wasn’t the workload or trying to navigate the SUNY Buffalo State Campus – I have managed the latter well enough, and the former wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. No, for me, the most difficult part of the experience was walking into orientation in the Student Union in January 2017 and finding myself engulfed in a sea of 20-somethings, who somehow seemed even younger than I expected and thus made me feel even older.

It didn’t help when I approached the registration table and a well-intentioned student pointed across the way and said, “good morning sir, parents can check in over there.” In the year I had been plotting my return to college a mere 27 years after I graduated high school, people had warned me about millennials. They are an arrogant group, I was told. Lazy, entitled, and obsessed with social media were also phrases bandied about. How would I ever survive among this infectious swarm of Cretans? Those were the thoughts flooding my head as I scanned the room, looking for an empty table I could ease into. Much to my chagrin, there were assigned tables, and I found myself seated among seven of the youngest-looking people who, as of that moment, were now my colleagues.

Midway through the orientation, feeling lost and titanically old, I was sure all that I had heard about these millennials was true. As I made my way back to my car, the frigid afternoon air biting at my skin, I was warmed by just one thought: I already signed off on the financial aid, so it’s too late to back out now. And with that, I began my journey to earn, nearly three decades late, my bachelor’s degree.

As I wrap-up my final semester at Buffalo State, I can say unequivocally, three things are true; first, I have learned a tremendous amount during my time on this campus, second, returning to college was one of the best decisions of my life, and third, the fairytale of the demon millennials is greatly exaggerated.

Over the last two years, I have taken classes both on campus and online, with some of the nicest, most thoughtful and intelligent people I have ever met. As hard as I looked, I never did find the arrogance, the apathy and the self-absorption I was told repeatedly defines the millennial generation. Instead, I found creative minds in group activity, thoughtful, engaged thinkers in our class discussions and a generation that doesn’t get anywhere near the credit it deserves.

Since it is in vogue to bash the media these days, I wonder if they are collectively to blame for this anti-millennial narrative that is out there? My reality, on this campus, has been exactly the opposite. The joke among people my age has long been to look around at a room of young people and nervously say, “These are the people that are going to be taking care of me when I am old.” It is intended to be another in the long line of slight’s against millennials.

I’ll say this: after spending two years with my Buffalo State classmates, I am confident they will do just fine running everything when I am out of there way and out on a golf course somewhere.

Where my contemporaries see laziness, I see a group that has less desire to work themselves into an early grave—they want to work to live, not live to work. Where the naysayers see self-absorbed arrogance, I see a confidence and a self-worth many in my generation are severely lacking. And where Baby Boomers see a generation addicted to technology, I see a generation that has the world at their fingertips and is soaking up every ounce of it. Don’t let us oldies fool you—we’re just jealous because in our day, we had encyclopedias and Atari 2600, not Google and Xbox.

We would have traded both in a heartbeat.

It goes without saying that my degree will be the most important thing I take with me from this college experience. But close behind it will be my newfound respect and appreciation of this wonderfully talented, creative, engaging generation we call the millennials. You are the future, and naysayers be damned, the future looks bright.