Meet the Downsized Generation: Millennials Who Are Rewriting the Rules for Success

They graduated as the economy tanked, forcing twentysomethings to rethink their (and the country's) future.

By Barbara Kantrowitz for Reader's Digest Magazine | July 2013
ElizabethBrian Finke

ELIZABETH: OPTIMISM

Today, Elizabeth is focusing on her work and the small pleasures that she can afford. Like dancing. “I love swing dancing,” she says. “If they are twirling me around, that’s fun. It doesn’t cost that much to dance.”

Elizabeth’s mother, Rev. Kelli Grace Kurtz, takes the long view when she thinks about her daughter’s generation. “I’ve been with many, many people at the end of their lives,” she says, “and I can tell you, whether they were materially well off or not has had nothing to do with their sense of peace and serenity. If Elizabeth and her cohort are learning that lesson now, early on in their adulthood, then they will find that peace and serenity sooner.”

Elizabeth’s car is a 2008 Ford Focus her parents bought for her last year. It has more than 62,000 miles on it now, and Elizabeth treasures the relief it offers. “It has great gas mileage,” she says. “It is my escape. I go for drives when I need to calm down. I don’t need to go anywhere; I just need to drive.” One weekend in late spring, the road beckoned. “I was mentally and emotionally worn out from a long workweek,” she says. “So I drove to Starbucks with my laptop, searched for directions to the closest beach, and two and a half hours later, I was in Pensacola, Florida.”

She spent the day sitting alone on the sand, just thinking about her life, without even her cell phone to tie her to the rest of the world. Later, writing in her blog, she described the sense of peace she’d felt and added, “I am perfectly comfortable being a traveler the rest of my life.”

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