Generation X – Where have we gone?


Generation X - have we stopped fighting?

I have studied Generational Theory for a long time, mainly as part of the work I do with young people, and it has always fascinated me. I’ve been the advocate of young people, helping others understand the generational theory aspect to life and answering the age-old question of how we bridge the generation gap. Now, having walked away from this field, I still find generational theory pulling at me, but in another way. I find myself wondering where the hell Generation X went.

We were the forbearers

Hanging out on Instagram, working with young vibrant publishers and my daughter I now find myself surrounded with millennials, a generation I always admired from afar and wished I was part of. But I’m not. I’m part of the long forgotten Gen X, the original rebels, the forbearers who came before the bright shiny and opinionated millennials. Everything they have in some way we fought for as young people, in fact most of us can’t remember a part of our youth where we weren’t fighting in some way. My three-year-long escapade to get a female rugby team at school that never came to anything, my insistence that having thigh-high socks was merely a personal choice and not in any way me trying to seduce the male teachers and my refusal to wear running knickers because the boys didn’t have to. None of these ended well for me but I carried on fighting anyway. The 80’s for most were brutal, oppressive and downright depressing. We had no time for self-expression; we were to busy trying to survive and just get through it. Times were tough or at least they were for me and most of my friends. Now nearly 50, and I’m wondering where that fight went, I’m wondering where all those opinionated go getters have gone; maybe we are all a bit tired or maybe nestled between two huge generations, our voices are just not heard, or maybe no one cares enough to listen.

But really what's the point anymore?

And that is how most of us feel, like what’s the point, who is going to listen; maybe we have missed our shot. Yes we are jaded, cynical, and individualistic. We had to be - life in our teens gave us a hard deal, there were no latte-sipping, on-line revolutions and you know what, I guess we do believe life owes us something because we fought hard.

Yet there seems no place for us, our wisdom, our knowledge, and our practical down to earth nature is shunned by the generations both side of us. While the Baby Boomers are still convinced that everything they believe about life is true, the Millennials think we have nothing to offer them and that makes me sad, really sad. I worry for my generation and what will become of us.

But I do think we have something to offer, an important way of looking at life that seems to be missing nowadays and there still is a valuable contribution to make to society.

We took action

As a generation we didn’t have the ability to change things with words alone - we took action. Action was the only thing that mattered; we didn’t make a fuss, make a big song and dance, we just did what needed to be done. Many a time I have sat in Starbucks listening to a group of Millennials talking about the state of the world, the planet, the country, drinking from their paper coffee cups as if talks makes it all better. I wonder if they just talk or do they actually do anything. Talk is cheap if you are really that moved take action. And yes, I know there are countless millennials who have done amazing things in the world as similarly there is Generation X who have done nothing. But what I do know is that if a Gen X is moved to have an opinion on something, if they have any fight left in them they will speak up and take action (and no, I’m not talking about those middle aged people who just complain, I know there are lots of them, no one needs to pay any attention to them). Take action, don’t announce it to the world, just take action because you want to and feel moved to.

Yes we may be a bit cynical

Generation X is a suspicious lot, some say cynical and yes perhaps we are. I know I am, but we really are individualists in general. We are slower thinkers, not jumping to conclusions as easily and tend to not go along with group-think as much. Now, I know this is not true for everyone and you can probably cite me countless times this wasn’t true, but most of the Gen X I know are not group-thinkers. Maybe I’m just lucky. I can’t count the amount of times I have looked upon something in surprise and bewilderment as the generations younger and older than me have gone along with something as true without even thinking if it is. The amount of times I have had to pull my millennial daughter back from a popularly-held opinion because it is untrue are countless. Now I am not saying any generation is gullible here, but I do think because as a generation we were lied to a lot we tend to not believe anything, we tend to ask a lot of questions. I’m sure some would look at our cautious behaviour as tedious and unnecessary but I believe in a society that seems to be run on bias and it’s important that we ask more questions. There is a real danger that we may all be going down the wrong path and we don’t even see it.

But we were humble with it

And another thing I believe you can learn from us is perhaps a little more humility sometimes. I am saying this through gritted teeth as I know it won’t go down well but I do feel the Millennial’s need to celebrate everything and tell the world everything’s good leaves me feeling a little odd. I just don’t get it and perhaps I never will, but I wonder if this need to celebrate and commiserate in public perhaps means that the feelings aren’t really felt. It’s good to talk; it’s good to share your wins but is it sometimes too much? I don’t know the answer to this but my sense is that not keeping anything private might be causing the insecurity and inadequacies, a lot feel. I’m still searching for the research on this and I guess only time will tell.

As I get to the end of this I find myself unclear with the message, unclear with my intention and I know that some may take this all the wrong way. I was and never will be one to call Millennials all the names they have been called. I believe these misunderstandings come from my inability to express how we feel rather than any misgivings this generation has or doesn’t have, I’m also one to generalise and I know that generational theory does exactly this.

So here is the battle cry

I guess my intention was a battle cry on one hand and a plea in the other. Generation X, we still have an important role to play, however unpopular our opinions may be and however dim we look in a bright shiny world we can’t give up the fight. And Millennials for however great you are please stop to think of those before you that didn’t end up so lucky and fortunate, we can still add value and we can still teach you a lot. But your voices are loud and ours are quiet maybe we all need a little bit more patience and understanding if we are to make it through this adventure called life.