Listen. We gave you His Airness, Michael Jordan. We gave you Janet Jackson. We gave you Kurt Cobain. We gave you the original X-Men and the original Rocky. For goodness sake! What more do you want from our lives? Why do ya'll keep comin' for my generation? And by y'all, I mean those on both opposing sides of the spectrum: the baby boomers and the millenials. The former seem to think we are useless, lost little unambitious lambs; and the latter look at us like ageing hipsters (which, let's be honest... some of us might be) who are trying desperately to hang on to our relevance and cool factor.
Two words for all of y'all: YO' MAMA!
No, but on a real tip - as a Gen Xer, I sometimes feel as though the walls are closing in on us. Our parents and elders see us as coddled, misguided hippies with no real direction in life; and our children, nieces and nephews look up to us while at the same time, looking down on us because we're not as digitally savvy (or "in the know") as they are. There are few things more soul-crushing than having your six year old nephew show you how to hook up the PlayStation and watching him navigate a virtual game of Pac-Man, while you wonder when and where you misplaced your cool points... You could've sworn you were still the 'cool auntie' just last week, and now all of a sudden, you're part of the dinosaur collection that remains housed in a dusty old museum. Like... what is life right now???
On the flip side of that, whenever we have check-ins, phone calls or visits with our parents or elders, we often receive an air of: "Back in my day, we worked hard. We knew about job loyalty." Or "Must be nice to sit at a screen all day and collect a cheque. You call that work?" Or "At your age, I was already married and had 2 kids by now..." The basic theme of these sorts of interactions is: What the hell have you been doing with your life? Don't you care about your future at all? Our elders often look at us in dismay, disappointment and general bewilderment. They don't understand our processes, our world views and are often quick to dismiss our life choices as "taking the easy road". And yet, at the same time, it seems that many of the baby boomers are threatened by Gen Xers. They want us to step to a challenge, but they don't want us to step on their toes. "Be great... just not soooo great that you outsmart and/or out-perform us. Mmmk?"
So, a few things about these points:
A) Shouldn't you as an elder want for the next generation to have it a bit easier than you did as an elder? Shouldn't you want for the next generation to be more informed and innovative? Or else, what was all of your hard work for? I mean, isn't the whole point of evolution and generations to build upon and learn from the past in order to improve upon certain ideas and processes? It's a weird space to be in when our elders see us as unambitious or uninspired, but also don't really want to acknowledge the fact that we are achieving more "success" (whatever that means to you) than perhaps they have. Many baby boomers in current professional positions have become jaded in their careers, while many Gen Xers are still excited, eager to learn and prove themselves in their respective fields. I've seen this first hand in both the medical and legal professions. Gen X doctors (generally speaking, of course), seem to ask more questions and be more thorough in their approach, whereas older, more experienced doctors are sometimes quick to dismiss a patient or deliver a prognosis based on very minimal testing/research. Sure, they've obviously seen more cases than most young doctors - but this does not mean that each case isn't unique. There is always something new to be learned, and Gen Xers are still up to the task of learning. The tools we use now may differ from those of the baby boomers, but it doesn't make our efforts any less notable than theirs.
B) As the saying goes: "Not all who wander are lost." Back in the baby boomer days, life paths were pretty linear. You'd go to school, graduate, find a job/trade, get married, have babies, raise kids and retire. Us Gen Xers are a little (scratch that... A LOT) all over the map when it comes to a life path. Some of us don't complete school or go back as adults. Some of us don't get married. Some of us opt out of having children. Some of us don't care to have a permanent career. But none of this means that we are flakes, or that we are incapable of committing to something. The life paths of those who preceded us were not built in a vacuum. They were the result of the times, the political climate, the economy, etc. And back then, times were hard. Believe me. We Gen Xers do not discount this fact. We get that our elders didn't exactly have the opportunities and flexibility we have now to 'customize' their lives. However, nowadays we have other hardships and financial pressures to deal with. Our debt to earnings ratio is enough to cause a flat line (especially when you consider the insane amount of debt we incur via mortgages and post-secondary education). And job competition is as fierce and more frustrating than ever! Back in the day, there were limited types of jobs and specific job criteria to fill them. Nowadays - the types of jobs have grown exponentially and so too have the criteria to land these jobs. You might have everything needed on paper, but then there's the added pressure of "fitting the company culture", "personality assessments", "judgment of your social media presence", and other non-descript elements that can make or break ones ability to land a decent job. It's a new world out here, and sometimes I think our elders don't realize how much the world has changed and that it has an effect on how we Gen Xers approach certain situations. We're not always taking the easy way out. Sometimes, we're literally forced to forge our own paths and create our own windows when all of the traditional doors have been locked.
C) Now, to the millenials (aka Generation Insta), I'll say this: We were you, once. There was a time when we Gen Xers thought we knew it all and looked to our parents as "out of touch" and "late to the party". We wanted change and we wanted it fast. We embraced new technologies and trends as quickly as they came, and we set idealistic and lofty goals for ourselves. What we generally failed to do though, is plan significantly for our future. We've gotten caught up in the "now" of our day without thinking about how are actions now will affect our standard of living later on in life (see crisis' such as global warming, Trump-gate and such). And if there's one piece of advice I can offer to you as a Gen Xer to a millenial, it would be that instant gratification is cool and all, but it wears thin very quickly. You cannot sustain a life built on immediate goals and plans alone. I used to laugh and cringe at that age old question "Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years from now?" I would think to myself... "Five years??? I don't even know what I'm having for dinner tonight!" But now, I'm not even thinking about five years from now. I often find myself thinking about what my life will look like 20 years from now and the kind of lifestyle that will make me happy at that point. I know it's easy to embrace the YOLO lifestyle and live for today; trust me... I'm still in that head space sometimes; but you have to be cognizant that your future matters and that there is more to life than what is presented to you. Many of us Gen Xers have been through some things: recessions, Y2K, terrorism attacks... and we're still dealing with the consequences of our poor financial planning. We see what can happen when greed and "instant" gratification and revenge come into play. We need for you to do better. Be better. Embrace the huge strides we made and improve upon them.
Oh. And, the next time you want to pop off and clown us Gen Xers because we'd rather WhatsApp than send Snap stories, or use debit instead of bitcoins (whatever the heck that is!) - just remember. We. Gave. You. The. Internet.