A Millennial State of Mind
Every week I pass a house I toured while house shopping. It's on our route to buy bread at the bakery and in the older part of town where the streets were messy out of utility and focused on strolls to-and-fro throughout the neighborhood, not hawkishly designed for just cars.
We had given the instructions to the realtor that we were looking for a house with a detached mother-in-law unit, a quaint casita, preferably with a separate entrance. But, with the budget we had, it turns out that that arrangement is a novelty for the rich instead of a practical way to merge two households that benefit from the support of each other.
We toured the home, which was small and dark, but cool — a benefit in an area with dry, 100-plus degree summers. The adobe walls were two feet thick between the sitting area and the kitchen into the bedrooms. The casita outside was a room with a window. It might have been there I made the first jokes about buying a Tuff Shed for my mom instead.
When I drive by that house now, I debate how we might have decorated it, and if the porch would have allowed the same shade as the house we ended up buying. Who would the neighbors have been? Would they have spoken more Spanish with me? How much weight would I have already gained living down the street from a bakery?
Where you live matters. It intrinsically changes your state of mind, shifting the conclusions you make about things random — New Mexico green chile is superior to Colorado's — and things fundamental, like defining gun responsibility.
One of the stranger things about being a columnist is receiving emails that lure you into using specifically gathered data and specifically cajoled experts. A recent email was titled "2022's Best & Worst States for Millennials." I braced myself; I know that New Mexicans always have to thank Mississippi for taking the last spot on most of these lists, and this was no different. We came in 49th.
The study, determining the best livability for millennials, looked at a state's affordability, education and health, quality of life, economic health and civic engagement. Author Adam McCann also trotted out the millennial tropes. "These mid-20-to-early-40-somethings who are often depicted through negative stereotypes — entitled, parentally dependent, emotionally fragile," he said but continued, "are responsible for 21% of all consumer discretionary spending in the U.S."
Ah, but we may have some money tucked away that can enter the wheels of the economy. There's the worth of millennials that most are really after.
The documentation includes pre-drafted quotes from experts that reporters can copy and paste. An example of a slightly cringey quote — a call coming from inside my own house — came from the director of career services of the University of New Mexico, Jenna Crabb. She said, "Millennials want to know what they can do in your city/state in their free time as well as the organizations hiring. They like to play as hard as they work!"
That's always been a confusing phrase to me: playing as hard as you work. When our lives become defined in a place still by the job we have instead of the community we build, it doesn't seem that playing hard is any measure of success.
When attracting people to your state or city, a different conversation, about how that place will change you, should be part of the equation. In my town, idle talk with others at the bakery isn't a strange or unwelcome occurrence. You will learn to put green chile in everything, including frozen custard. And your children will grow up to see that the community outside their door is part of who they are and what they might hope to protect and share with the world — when it becomes theirs to inherit.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.