I was born in the middle of 1999. When the world celebrated a new millennium, I was just 6 months old.
I always took for granted that this status of barely being older than the twenty-first century made me a part of the millennial generation. Who better qualified than someone born just prior to the turn of the millennium?
My certainty was only bolstered by the Internet commotion about millennials and their defiant habits. I, too, was frustrated by the rigid social expectations of older adults—and their self-satisfied presumptions of superiority. I identified with the feeling of being in a fishbowl, observed and critiqued by those on the outside looking in: graying writers and researchers and executives and politicians trying to dissect, predict, and explain my choices without ever asking me about them.
“Millennial,” it seemed, was shorthand for describing a young person who did not conform and did not apologize for it. It described a culture of resistance. Of rebellion. Of changing the world even while the world was trying to change you.
And I am young. I am not content with the boundaries dictated by my parents’ and grandparents’ generations.
But I am not a millennial.
When it comes to who qualifies as a millennial, the answer depends on who you ask. Some measurements extend the cutoff until the year 2000. Some put it in 1997.
And the lack of clarity means I don’t even know what my generation is.
But no matter how you quantify it, I am on the border between one generation and the next. Either I am one of the youngest millennials, or I am one of the oldest members of Generation Z.
Which means that, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I cannot really identify with thirty-something millennials redefining milestones, such as when to purchase a home or when to get married. I’m still too young to be criticized for my lack of a wedding ring and a house deed. But I also can’t necessarily identify with school-aged kids, the dominant group in Generation Z. I’m too old to share the worries—or relative lack thereof—of fifth graders.
I might as well be generation-less.
Of course, the technical definition of one generation versus another is an academic quibble, a question of numbers. Besides exact dates, the biggest distinction between millennials and Generation Z—since both have a reputation for being staunchly uncooperative with corporate and political agendas—is that millennials are more jaded and Generation Z is still immature.
So am I bitter, broken down by the cynicism of my predecessors even as my own cynicism fuels me? Am I naive, defeated by my own inexperience? Neither? Both?
I could simply pick one generation or the other, and it’s unlikely anyone would challenge me. If there is no right answer, no conclusive consensus about where a 1999 baby belongs, there is also no wrong answer. And even if there was, in the grand sweep of generations, a matter of two or three years is not significant.
Where do I feel I belong best?
Still, it bothers me, to defy easy categorization.
But then, I suppose that is the unifying characteristic of millennials and Generation Z.