Kat Kelly – Between 1965 and 1980 about 65 million babies were born. On the heels of the Baby Boomers and just before the Millennials, these children were wedged in-between two much larger populations. The in-betweeners came to be known as Generation X.
While some people might claim that Centennials or Boomers were the greatest generation, in my biased opinion, as it stands today, GenX is the pivotal generation. We are the ones who transitioned humanity from analogue to digital.
When I think about it for a minute, it is a bit sad. GenX seems to have beared the weight of their parents trying to be more independent while still parenting. We had lower birth rates, TV dinners, the highest divorce rates, became the latchkey kids, and we watched the evolution of technology and media. After all, I did want my MTV. And I still do.
We’ll talk more about the TV and movies born out of GenX in another piece. But for today, I want to just share the weight of what it means to be a GenXer.
I think about the generational experience. A lot. But, rarely have I paused during the constant struggle on the hamster wheel to truly try to understand the impact of the things that shaped an entire, albeit smaller, generation.
So much attention has been paid to the generations that came before and after us, I just want to go ahead and say it publicly here, our parents really messed us up.
There, I said it.
I mean, we made it ok to go to therapy and talk about your feelings about your parents’ impact, but has anyone said it out loud in a collective way until now? No.
The Centennials and the Boomers really messed stuff up for us. And we became the ones trying to clean it up for the generations that come after us.
We were taught that if you go to school, try to find a good job either in a factory or an office, and then work hard for many years you could retire. In return for years of service to a great company, you would get retirement and insurance. However, what we have learned is that the generation that came before us was the last to really get a pension and retirement benefits – with the exception of government folks.
The political climate of the 1980’s shifted and with that, the concept of earning a pension mostly dried up. Business learned that employees were liabilities. Instead of employees, we became “headcount,” and when companies wanted to “increase shareholder value” that meant we were at risk. Mass layoffs became an ongoing cost cutting exercise.
Many of us became jaded, feeling like the rug could always be pulled out from under us. For many of us, it made it hard to trust situations and people on a broader scale.
We had to lean hard into the things that so many of us learned while our parents were at work and we were making our own lunches and watching music videos. Ultimately, we had to learn to care for ourselves. We learned that we really could only rely on ourselves and that often created a collective self-doubt.
With all of that in mind, we are powerful. We are a generation of folks who learned to be scrappy in new ways. We have bridged a divide that is wider than most people realize. And we have done it while still being ok with our 80’s jams and remixes. It’s ok for us to be tired and it’s ok to say it all out loud.
Kat Kelly is a proud GenXer who loved Culture Club, neon, lots of earrings, and slam dancing in faux combat boots.