One of the first things I do each morning is flip on the radio to catch the news from NPR. Today, they started a new series on Milennials. They are calling it “The New Boom,” since there are more Millenials now (80 million) than there are GenX (40-50million) or Baby Boomers (70 million). It was mostly a puff piece, having one Milennial reporter defending her generation against some of the stereotypes about them. One of the interesting points in the articles was who she compared her generation to: Silents, and Baby Boomers. There was no mention of my generation: Gen X.
Gen X. Might as well just call us Gen $X: as far as the world of the media is concerned, we are an empty value, a spacer between Baby Boomers and the Milennials. We are the Prince Charles of generations: waiting for our parents to die off so we get out shot, only to realize that by the time we get it, the next generation already has the crown.
In the book The End of Absence, Michael Harris explores what it means to be in my generation: to be the last generation that will remember what the world was like before constant connection and the Internet. When speaking of Milennials, he says;
“No two generations in history have experienced such a highlighted cognitive dissonance, because never has change occurred at so rapid a pace. Look at the rate of penetration—the amount of time it takes for a new technology to be adopted by fifty million people. Radio took thirty-eight years to reach that mark; the telephone took twenty years; and television took thirteen. More recently, the World Wide Web took four years, Facebook took 3.6, Twitter took three, and the iPad took only two. Google Plus, which nobody even finds useful, took only eighty-eight days to be adopted by fifty million.”
I’ve got nothing against Milennials; if anything, I’m jealous. They gain much by following Gen X, the Transitional Generation. The world is broken, but they seem to like it that way. They’ll use the tools and the freedom that technology brings to either start to fix it or, at least, document it for the next generation. They seem to feel a freedom and a optimism that my generation doesn’t have: so busy were we trying to throw off the baggage our Boomer parents/leaders thrust upon us while coming to grips with the hopeless world they left in their wake.
I wish them luck. I don’t particularly want to hear about it anymore. I’m looking to get a little from this life before I leave it, carve out a little space where I can make a few things, feel some fulfillment. My parents’ generation’s dreams (get a job, stay there until you retire, build up a retirement account, save for college, buy all the things) didn’t survive their rule, we had to scramble and figure out how to build a life as the Greediest generation raped and pillaged the economy. Let’s face it, my people didn’t do very well either when they got the reins. Maybe early retirement is best, just pass the baton and recede into the background.
I see many in my generation attempting a mid-life course correction, realizing that that getting what they thought they wanted didn’t really make them happy. The midlife crisis is not unique to us, but I’m hoping we can do something positive with it: the Boomer stereotype of the affair and the new sporty car doesn’t really feel like us; I hope we can at least get the latter half of our lives right. It’s not about the things, guys. It’s not about the money. It’s not about the career. It’s about making a positive change in the world. Our parents will never approve of us, and the next generation will wonder what took us so long. Ignore it. Go be happy. Find something fulfilling.
You’ve earned that much.