Monday, October 24, 2016
Gen X - still not slacking
2016 has been a tumultuous year for all the obvious reasons, and that disruption is eerily appropriate during a pivotal anniversary for the group of people known as Generation X. This year is the twenty-fifth anniversary of what could really be called the birth of Gen X. For, it was in 1991 that Coupland published his novel, Linklater released Slacker, and a groundbreaking album from a little known band named Nirvana hit the airwaves. It was also a year of economic malaise and a continuing distrust of the 80s political and national ideology that started to fall apart with the crash of Challenger in '86 and the crash of Wall Street in '87. Through it all, Gen Xers carried on as they always have, ignoring the forces of a society that had largely ignored them. And, in 2016 they are still doing their own thing, quietly going about their goal of leading meaningful lives amidst the weirdness.
I've been trying to focus this year on on the "where-are-we-now" of Generation X, reading reflective pieces from writers like Jennifer James of JenX67 and Chloe of Lights from a Pixel, two Gen X bloggers to whom I've linked above. So, I'm thankful that they have discovered a cool 10-minute documentary from Viacom International's Gen X Today Project. The Gen X ethos has always been about choosing lifestyle over career and viewing traditions and institutions with a skeptical eye and cool indifference. It's that attitude that got the demographic of 1963-1981 pegged as the Slacker Generation before they ever had a chance to make a name for themselves. Yet, Xers were never really slackers in the traditional sense. They were just a little bit off of center, taking care of themselves the only way a generation of latch-key kids knew how to do.
Now, as Xers settle in to middle age - I'm turning 47 this year - they are having anything but a mid-life crisis. Sure, shit is hard at times, and Generation X has faced far more significant economic challenges than the Boomers ever did or the Millennials likely will. But that's par for the course with a group of people whose first memories of national politics and economics were probably lines at the gas station and the resignation of a president. Generation X today never really retreated from society, for they would have had to have embraced it first in order to retreat. So, as the media and the politicians and the Boomers and Millennials fret about the catastrophic moment that this election year represents, Gen X continues calmly along, not really surprised that in many ways "Reality Bites." But even if that is the case, that doesn't compromise our ability to love our kids, cherish our friends, appreciate our jobs but not be defined by them, and enjoy the simple pleasures like a nice cup of coffee in morning and nice glass of wine or bottle of craft beer in the evenings.
Carry on, Generation X. You're still cool.