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Millennials Growing Up - What's the Difference Between Gen X & Y Adults

Do you wear the same clothes as your 17-year-old niece? Listen to the same music (using the same technology)? Lust after the same movie stars and obsess over the same TV series?

Did we, the millennials just forget to grow up, or are we in the process of redefining adulthood?

Either way, it looks like the generation gap is narrowing to the point of non-existence. It used to be that a big part of growing up was rejecting the world of our parents and moving on, or at least out, in order to create our own. But now, in our 30s and 40s, we are often so similar in tastes and behaviour to kids in their teens and early 20s that there is little for them to reject.

Our parents listened to music we sneered at; wore clothes we wouldn’t be seen dead in and didn’t get our slang. They stayed in one job their whole lives, seldom travelled, and insured everything from the contents of their (only) household to their lives. They saw themselves as adult and settled. We saw them as trapped. They saw self-sacrifice as a virtue; we see it as an affliction. They measured their status by their stability and respectability; we measure ours by our flexibility and freedom.

We are what we are because we defined ourselves by what our parents were not.

What does it mean to be a grown-up? We’d probably all agree that it at least involves being economically self-sufficient; emotionally self-aware; capable of having and nurturing a long-term relationship and being able to take responsibility for another person and/or living creature. But does it also mean no longer studying; being of responsible and sober habits; and putting away childish things? Does it mean dressing differently to the younger generation, the pursuit of stability and the rejection of hedonism?

Well, maybe not.


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For various reasons including how the world of work has changed, and the fact that grown-up children no longer leave home as soon as we did many people now have real friendships with people much younger or older than they are. We define ourselves less by our age and more by our interests; more by what we have in common than what sets us apart. If that means that we go out to listen to live music or watch stand-up comedy twice a week because that’s what interests us, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we will be bad parents, or that we will underperform at work the next day.

Freelancing and working flexitime have had a significant impact on how we live our lives: it’s perfectly possible, for instance, to go out until the early hours, get the kids off to school the following morning, go back to bed and then fire up the laptop later that afternoon and work on into the evening until you’re done. And that’s exactly how many of us are choosing to live our lives.

It’s not just from the top down that the generation gap is disappearing, either it’s also from the bottom up. When our children leave school, they no longer leave home. It’s too expensive. And what would be the point? Their washing gets done, their beds are made, their food is put on the table and there’s wine or beer in the fridge…So why would they want to go anywhere?  We socialise with their friends, we listen to their music…And we all start to occupy the same blurred, ageless, undefined adulthood.

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