At a staff meeting this morning, we were speaking about generations. I asked one of my staff members if she was a Gen Z. She hesitated. So, I asked her what generation she identified with. Her response: Zillennial. She went on to explain that she was born on the Millennial/Gen Z boundary year. She didn’t feel like she identified with either generation, and that this was the case with many in the few years either side of the border year between Millennials and Gen Z.
Zillennial. That was my new word for the day today. I learned it from one of my staff who was born on the Millennial/Gen Z boundary year.
So “Zillennial” is a “thing”. Urban Dictionary1 already has a definition for this term: A micro generation of those born from 1993-1998, graduated high school from 2012-2016.
An article2 by Alicia Lansom in Refiner29 relates that the determining factor defining a Zillennial from a Gen Z is a memory of 9/11. In her opinion, it solidifies Zillennial as a generation of their own.
Lansom talks about the pressure from the internet of finding and belonging to a generational tribe. Because of that, finding her collective identity, as associated with generations, was important to her.
Zillennials embrace many defining moments, like waiting in long lines for the release of the next Harry Potter book according to Urban Dictionary. Zillennial listened to music on their MP3 players, while Gen Zs were iPhone charged. They opened the door to the social first focus of Gen Zs.
We all like to know where we belong. Being a mid-generational person, I never had identity issues with my generation. My generation is the baby boomers. As boomers, our tech changes were a little less dramatic than they are now. Airplanes got faster, cars had muscle, and phone cords would stretch for a private conversation in the closet.
I would define my generational tribe very specifically as my high school class. I can understand the value of identifying with a tribe that now that I have become more engaged with my high school class. Our class is fortunate, we have classmate who make a huge effort to draw us all back to the mothership, to reconnect, relive our glories, revive relationships, and revisit the past. I don’t so much identify as a Boomer as I do with the events that defined my junior and high school years: the first day girls were allowed to wear slacks to school; the first earth day, reading the names of the dead and MIA from Vietnam in front of the flag in front of school; the senior prank that put a poor cow on the roof of the high school; the dog, Schlitz, that was loved by everyone; calling one of the neighborhood kids “Shifter Brains” because he drove a manual shift Camaro (first meaning) and then painted it with black Rustoleum (second meaning—swap the ‘f’ and ‘t’).
I understand the sense of belonging that comes from having a tribe thanks to these high school connections. I didn’t connect much until our 40th anniversary, but now I consider myself very lucky to know everyone of my classmates, even if I don’t remember them from back then. They were there during my formative years, and what formed me, formed them.
I recall a mini-local reunion with about 20 of us who live near St Petersburg. We met for ice cream one afternoon, and we got around to the topic of fitting in at high school. Not one of the others at the table felt that they ‘fit in’ at that age. We were all just our little orbiting selves, bumping into other little orbiting selves without much long-term effect. That discussion was an “AHA!” moment for me. All these years I thought I was the only one who felt isolated. Boy, was I wrong.
Things are different now. At this point, everyone is accepted. We are happy to see one another and know we made it through. We survived our teens and our early adulthood. And we are now transitioning from middle age to whatever comes after that. It’s wonderful. It’s my tribe.
So I embrace the term “Zillennial”, not as a separate generation, but because it provides a sense of identity to a micro-generation that needs to be part of a shared experience. I get it.