It's In the Memories We Make: A Guide to Understanding Millennials

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  • by Stefon Towler

I can remember back when my older sister was trying to make a decision on which college she would attend. She always wanted to go to an HBCU, historically black college/university, so our family set forth from Maryland to the deep south. Two moments stood out to me as we traveled from one campus to the next. 

The first was at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. They let us stay in one of their campus houses, which coincidentally, was perfect in regards to the recent Halloween season. It was an old plantation home with what looked to still have its original wallpaper and the type of paintings whose eyes followed you around the room. I even went through a kitchen door, that was simply a wall on the other side. For the life of me I couldn’t find my way back— I freaked the F*$!k out! and at that moment...  I was ready to go home. 

The second, was at a hotel while having an intimate conversation with my mother about where I would attend school— anxiety washed over her face as she struggled to imagine when my time came to follow in my sister’s footsteps and set forth on my own journey outside of her reach. I was a straight shooter, I looked her in the eyes and said “I want to experience the world, there is so much to see, and I want to see it all, don’t wait up for me mom!” 

It was a hard pill for her to swallow, not just because I’m her son, but as a Gen-Xer, at her core, life meant getting a great job, settling down and starting a family around your family.

As I matured, it became clear I wasn’t the only one. I learned that I was a millennial and as a millennial, experiences reign supreme.  Actually, the importance placed on experiences is a defining characteristic of what it means to be a millennial. 

When put into context of how millennials are choosing to allocate their hard earned cash — 78 % of millennials are choosing to spend money on experiences rather than something desirable, according to a recent study conducted by Eventbrite.  

That is wild! In a society that feels so materialistic at times consuming twice as many material goods today as we did 50 years ago, it’s shocking that nearly 8 in 10 millennials would rather spend their money on something they wanted to experience rather than an item like a designer bag, or the latest piece of tech.

It is my opinion that these choices are due to the memories these experiences create and the feelings associated with them. Quite frankly, owning that new Supreme fanny pack, is not going to be remembered the same way as that bae-cation. You know, the one where you wake up to panoramic views of the Gili Island in Bali — mmmm, with the sweet sound of room service knocking at the door. 

Experiences evoke emotion, they shape us as a people, and we are at a time where the experiences we desire are more attainable than they’ve ever been. I’d much rather walk through the streets of Trenchtown, Jamaica and dance to Soca and Reggae all night or take a trip with my closest of friends to the Swizz Alps and talk about that double black we should have definitely waited to take, than look at a new Mercedes sitting in the driveway. 

Millennials are getting married later in life. The rate at which we’re buying cars and houses is lacking in comparison to previous generations, yet we are attending live events driven by “a strong desire to connect with people, the community and the world.” 

I’m not certain how this drive for experience will manifest as we get older. Maybe we’ll all own airbnb’s in different cities and move every few years, just for something different. 

Or live with our parents until our late 30’s just to be able to afford the experiences we so eagerly desire.

Who knows?

However, I don’t believe the drive for experiences will ever stop. 

If you want to better understand us: continue to provide millennials with something they’ve never seen before. A way to better connect with themselves and the people around them. It’s at least one way to get and hold our attention… for now. 

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