KNOW THE MILLENNIALS?

Passion, need to contribute drive them

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THE millennials have arrived. And by all accounts, it looks like they’re here to stay.

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Generally defined as the 73 million adults who in 2015 will be between the ages of 18 and 34, the millennial generation edged out Generation X this year to become the nation’s largest generation currently working, according to the Pew Research Center.

Pew analysis indicates the 53.5 million working millennials represent more than one third of the American workforce.

The development is in step with an October report from the U.S. President’s Council of Economic Advisers, which found millennials to be the most populous generation, making up about one third of the national population.

In Northeastern Pennsylvania, millennials are gradually becoming the people who, among other things, provide your healthcare and make your laws. And they refuse to be rivaled in their passion for what they do.

Soon-to-be obstetric nurse Taylor Wasilewski, 21, of Kingston, said passion is exactly what drove her into her chosen profession.

“It’s the kind of career that if you don’t have a passion for it, you should seriously not do it,” she said.

Wasilewski said nursing started calling her at a young age, when a nurse first taught her to help treat a family member’s wound. After toying with other options early on in college, she dropped out of Penn State University and applied to Luzerne County Community College the last possible day.

She’ll graduate this week with a nursing degree, and in June will start a job as a graduate nurse at the hospital where she’s worked for three years as a nurses’ aide.

Wasilewski said realizing the social contributions she was making as a nurses’ aide shuttered any uncertainties she had about her career choice.

“Sometimes people look at nursing as a trade,” she said. “Actually, it becomes your life.”

And Wasilewski isn’t alone in wanting to contribute. According to the economic advisers report, millennials are more likely than both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to cite contributing to society as a “very important” life goal.

State Rep. Aaron Kaufer might agree, as he describes his job, too, as not only a way to contribute, but a way of life.

The 26-year-old Kingston Republican represents more than a dozen municipalities in Harrisburg, and doing so, he said, often requires seven-day workweeks going door-to-door listening to and talking with constituents.

And while the work is necessary to serve his district, Kaufer said the endless grind is also part of bringing his generation — which he described as both socially conscious and rebellious — into the political arena, and engaging the youth with the system he feels doesn’t adequately represent them.

“Young people don’t have a political action committee. We don’t have money. We have social media and Google,” he said.

According to the economic advisers report, some 75 percent of millennials have accounts on social networking websites, and having grown up alongside a digital explosion, using this technology to communicate is second nature to them.

During an interview with the Times-Leader, Kaufer championed the millennial generation’s highly-connected nature as its greatest strength, but also warned of its potential pitfalls.

Using social media as a platform for sharing information, he said, news spreads quickly to wide audiences, keeping millennials abreast of the social issues.

But it can also become an echo chamber, Kaufer said, exaggerating one side of multifaceted stories and — using the recent violence and outrage over alleged abuses by police as an example — blowing out of proportion events that are often the exception rather than the rule.

“Hashtag activism will only go so far. You have to go out and engage with people you don’t know,” Kaufer said. “And unless our generation gets engaged, decisions are going to be made on our behalf.”

And it was by engaging with people he didn’t know, Kaufer added, that he, frustrated with the government’s handling of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, decided to take a chance and run for elected office.

Writer Aaron Bomba said that removed from idealistic college fantasies, saddled with debt and working jobs they never wanted, millennials often find themselves driven into such potentially-reckless pursuits of passion.

“I think you get to the point after being in the boat that most millennials are in,” said writer Aaron Bomba. “You come to a place where you’re either going to hate your life or make the best of it.”

Bomba, 28, of Wilkes-Barre, says he reached a similar point after failing to find the work in publishing he desired, so he instead founded the locally-based, sporadically-published magazine PAGITICA.

He now works an office-setting day job and moonlights as editor, writer and designer for the publication.

The magazine, he admits so far has not been a lucrative venture. But he said writing about what his generation, which he describes as open-minded and socially conscious, provides him a sense of fulfillment and peace of mind.

Despite his typically millennial grasp on technology, Bomba opts to eschew digital publishing in favor of physical, expressing skepticism with the plasticity of online media.

“A world without print materials is terrifying,” he said.

Bomba also said he thinks people over-emphasize the importance of social media, where one’s voice can get lost in “a void.”

Bombarded constantly with digital information, millennials lose out on valuable face-to-face interactions, he said.

Looking beyond new technology, he wonders if millennials are so much different from preceding generations.

“The things people say now, people were saying in the ’60s,” he said. “It’s the same thing on repeat.”

© 2015 THE TIMES LEADER (WILKES-BARRE, PA.) / DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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